Remember those carefree, barefoot days as a child? The soft grass beneath your feet? The warm sand between your toes? And, yes, even the occasional stone or twig pricking the underside of your feet uncomfortably! Recent research suggests going barefoot isn’t just an essential childhood memory to be made, but a potentially health-changing practice we should all be implementing regularly – children and adults alike. It even has a name: Earthing!

Children wear wellies/outdoor footwear whilst in our provision however, we do provide opportunities for children to make a connection with the Earth, grounding themselves by going barefoot when deemed appropriate by our Early Years Practitioners.

Our nursery provision is a multi-sensory learning environment with unlimited access to mud, sand, water, rocks, bark, grass, sticks and clay.  This offer is extended when we visit the coast and rural spaces.

Of course, there are some risk factors to consider when barefoot such as bumps, scrapes, cuts and grazes but, research tells us that the benefits of being barefoot far outweighs the risks:

  • Children make sense of the world through their bodies, their hands and feet and therefore can enjoy richer learning experiences.  Children will gain a deeper sensory experience engaging in experiences that they can explore with both their hands and feet.
  • Medical research suggests barefoot walking contributes to a reduction in white blood cells and an increase in red blood cells, which hints to better immunity, increasing antioxidants, reducing inflammation and improving sleep. Many paediatricians and podiatrists recommend walking barefoot to improve the health of the feet. 
  • It’s comfortable and it enables children to feel free, feeling the freedom of their movements allows them to feel more liberated. 
  • It helps children develop spatial awareness, it gives them a sense of different textures under their feet and helps their feet develop naturally. Research tells us that children thrive in the outdoors and natural environments, so not having shoes as a barrier between feet and the natural world increases the health-promoting effects of spending time in nature for social and emotional well-being.
  • Children are safer – they have more control when climbing, running, playing etc. They will have more control because their feet are in direct contact with whatever surface they are on.
  • Stimulating Pressure Points and The Nervous System – Going barefoot stimulates thousands of nerve endings in the feet and activates the vestibular and proprioceptive systems in children’s brains. This helps children orient their bodies in space and develop motor skills such as balance and coordination.
  • Strengthening Joints and Muscles – Children gain better movement, flexor strength, muscle density and overall posture, promoting agility in a child’s growing feet, ankles, knees, legs, and hips.
  • Strengthens Feet and Body – When barefoot, we grip the ground more easily using the muscles of our feet and toes, strengthening them and reducing the risk of trips and falls. Walking barefoot allows us to maintain the full function of our feet.
  • Fosters a Connection With Nature – Children become more aware of their surroundings – how the ground feels, is there a sharp rock ahead? – their senses are heightened, they feel the papery leaves crunching underfoot, the softness of the grass, the sharpness of prickles. When all the senses are fully engaged, they completely connect with nature and children develop an appreciation of the natural world they are walking through. Human beings have an instinct for self-preservation which links to assessing risk – over time children will develop the understanding of where is/isn’t suitable to be barefoot.
  • Research also suggests that without the restriction of shoes, children are much more relaxed, careful and much more aware of themselves and of one another resulting in fewer collisions, a calmer environment and improved mood.

Safety Considerations

  • Children will need to wear sunscreen on their feet in warmer weather. Feet can get sunburned just like any other part of the body.
  • Keep the temperature in mind. On a warm/hot day, sand or asphalt may burn.
  • Where possible, ensure walking surfaces are free of hazards.

It is important to remember that our skin is designed as a barrier to keep out pathogens, with a higher probability of becoming ill from touching something with our hands than our feet. Being barefoot toughens the soles of the feet, so the likelihood of an injury is slim.