Barefoot children: Bad manners or healthy feet?

A barefoot runner herself, Jennifer believes that unshod children have stronger and healthier feet. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks the same way.

Would you let your children play barefoot in a family-friendly park?

It should come as no surprise that my children run around barefoot. Long before I switched out my traditional running shoes for minimal or no running shoes at all, I rarely wore shoes at home or at work, and my kids have followed in my footsteps. Our toddler, Gillian, is especially shoe-averse. Quite often she will start an outing with shoes, then pitch them out of a shopping cart halfway through the day (twice she’s lost shoes completely) and now instead of forcing shoes on her feet, I tuck them in my bag and only put them on her when she asks (which is never). I encourage barefoot walking and running because I believe that it creates stronger, healthier feet and makes jumping in puddles more fun. Surprisingly, even my chiropodist approved of my barefoot running lifestyle because of how strong my feet are.
But going back to my barefoot kiddos: Last week at the park I got the stink eye from other families when Gillian and I took off our shoes before we climbed and played. One little girl tried to take off her shoes and her mother immediately warned her daughter to put them back on because walking around the park barefoot was too dangerous. This was a popular, family-friendly park that I felt confident being barefoot in so I had a hard time believing that it would be dangerous.
Naturally, I asked this question on Twitter and Facebook and my pals for the most part let their kids tromp around barefoot, but only in their own backyards. Wendy lives in Winnipeg with her three sons and shared a story about razor blades found on the ground in some city play structures. In our small town the worst I’ve found is goose poop and baby turtles, so hearing that those horrible razor blade stories are true was a big shock. Sadly, a couple of other parents shared similar stories of dangerous items found in playgrounds — and earlier this month the Ottawa Sun published a story about glass and razor blades found on a school playground.
But beyond razor blades and other sharp, scary pointy things that could maim my babies (more likely to be porcupine quills in my neighbourhood), I really believe that barefoot is best for everyone — healthier feet, a stronger connection to the planet and, for grown-ups, the chance to feel like a little kid again. Who can argue with that?

Have you let your kids run around outside barefoot?

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