Gait pattern in Children

I found this interesting article the other day regarding the development of gait pattern in children. We did a post on this a long time ago but having young children of my own it is something that i paid very close attention to as they grew up. I have always felt that shoes were a detriment to the development of a natural gait pattern in toddlers. The feet, just like every other part of our body has a significant amount of muscle in it. The muscles of the feet, just like any other need to have stimulus they must respond to in order to do the job they were created for, in this case proper movement and alignment of the bones in the foot.

When you wear a shoe, the shoe actually replaces the need for stimulus to certain muscles in the feet since the shoe is now responsible for certain aspect of movement like stabilization for example. If the shoe is worn often enough the body will become dependent on the shoe to replace what should be the muscles job.

I have never seen much research on this topic until I came across this article. It is a short read so I encourage you to read it but the basic summary is that they found that in the study the young children who wore shoes showed a much more “adult like stride”. They took longer steps with a higher knee lift. In theory this sounds like wearing shoes is actually better than not but I still disagree.

At the end of the article they also recognize the danger in this as they conclude with, ” However, influencing in this way children’s gait pattern during acquisition could restrain children’s natural development affecting musculoskeletal structures strengthening or even sensorimotor maturation.”

They say it could affect it and I am going to give my opinion and say it has to affect it. How could wearing a shoe not impact the natural development of the muscles in the foot.

I try to encourage both my kids, and my clients to spend some time going barefoot. We even do it sometimes for conditioning with our various sports teams. Our track and Cross Country teams in particular spend time doing stride work and other drills in the grass barefoot to help with their natural stride development. If you currently do not go barefoot much at all, I encourage you to do so. Many of you will be surprised how tired your feet become when they have to actually do the work instead of your shoes.

2 Comments on this post

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  1. JC said:

    I see how nike has started to design a number of shoes to mimic the benefits of going bare feet. What is your opinion on those shoes, do you think they actually acomplish what their goal is stated to be. Also do you recomend any brand or type of shoe to were for your clients.

    July 28th, 2009 at 3:01 pm
  2. Scott said:

    I really like what Nike is doing with their whole line of “Free” Shoes. The Nike free enables there to still be quite a bit of stimulus to the muscles of the foot and even makes the foot partially responsible for stabilizing. For my clients I try to always recommend something neutral. The more bells and whistles the shoe has (shocks, air pockets, etc) the less demand is placed on the foot. Those types of shoes are like a cast on the muscles of the foot in my opinion.

    July 28th, 2009 at 4:28 pm

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