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Could Your Child’s Shoes Potentially Be Affecting Their Motor Skills?


A lot of parents love to dress their children up from head to toe. And, of course, parents want to protect their children’s feet from the rough ground or items on the floor in other homes.  But, how many of them know that shoes could possibly be impacting their kids’ motor skills development?

Looking At Motor Skills

A new study was recently conducted to see if kids should wear shoes or if they are ultimately better off barefoot. Led by Professor Astrid Zech from the University of Jena, Germany, two research teams looked at various age groups (6-10, 11-14 and 15-18 years) in Germany and South Africa, focusing especially on 6-10-year-old children.

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In Germany, the kids wear shoes most of the time, while children in South Africa are typically barefoot. The research teams tested 810 kids and teens from both areas on three motor skills— balance, standing long jump, and a 20m sprint. So which is better: wearing shoes or going barefoot?

Intriguing Results

This interesting study found that the South African children were ultimately better at jumping and balancing than those who wear shoes most of the time. “Most of the primary school children in our study (South Africa) go to school and perform sport and leisure activities barefoot,” said Professor Ranel Venter from Stellenbosch University, who led the South African research team. So then it’s no wonder that they were able to do well in these activities.

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Surprisingly though, the German children did better in the sprint test. In fact, both the German and South African kids did well with shoes on. The researchers believed that these results might have to do with the environment.  “In South Africa, the sprint test took place outdoors—with different weather conditions and surfaces. In contrast, the German children took the sprint test indoors, mostly in a sports hall with a sprung floor,” Professor Zech shared. “The type of shoe may also have influenced the results. South African students run in school shoes, while German students use sneakers or athletic shoes in their physical education classes

Barefoot All The Way?

From the results, Professor Zech and her teams have found that children can benefit from going barefoot more often! Obviously, it can’t be all of the time, but it looks like they would be a little better off when it comes to basic motor skills.

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In fact, Professor Zech believes that kids should be offered more physical activities that they can do barefoot. “Physical education classes, exercise and sports programs, and reactional activities that aim to improve basic motor skills could benefit from including barefoot activities,” she stated. “Parents could also encourage regular barefoot time at home.”

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