Staying barefoot may improve children’s motor skills

London: Staying barefoot might improve children’s motor skills like jumping and balancing compared to those who wear shoes all the time, according to a study.

However, children, particularly those in the 11-14 year age group, who wore shoes habitually were found to perform better during the sprint test. The researchers explain that environment factor may have influenced this result.

“Our finding that these children performed better in balancing and jumping supports the hypothesis that the development of basic motor skills during childhood and adolescence at least partly depends on regular barefoot activities,” said Ranel Venter from Stellenbosch University, South Africa.

“Walking barefoot is widely thought to be more natural, and the use of footwear has long been discussed as an influencing factor on foot health and movement pattern development,” added Astrid Zech from the University of Jena, Germany.

For the study published in the journal Frontiers in Paediatrics, the team assessed three motor skills — balance, long jump and a 20-metre sprint — in 810 participants aged between six and 18 from rural South Africa and urban areas of northern Germany.

The two groups were selected to represent different footwear lifestyles as the children from South Africa are habitually barefoot, while children from Germany wear shoes most of the time.

The habitually barefoot participants scored significantly higher in the balance and jumping tests compared to the habitually shoed participants.

“Physical education classes, exercise and sport programmes and recreational activities that aim to improve basic motor skills could benefit from including barefoot activities. Parents could also encourage regular barefoot time at home,” Zech suggested.

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