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Could going barefoot help develop a healthier bone structure?

Friday 3rd August 2018
Going barefoot in childhood and adolescence may help people to develop a stronger bone structure in their feet, new research suggests. Image credit: Ulianna via iStock
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Children who spend a lot of time barefoot in their early years are more likely to have a healthy bone structure in their feet in later life, according to new research.

A study recently published in the Journal of Foot and Ankle Research involved 714 adolescent males living in Auckland, New Zealand, who had the structure of their feet monitored to see how going without shoes affected their development.

Of the participants, almost half (45 per cent) spent the majority of their time barefoot, at home, when out and about, and even when taking part in sporting activities.

However, they were still willing to run track distances of between 100 and 3,000 metres despite not wearing shoes.

This in itself suggests that going barefoot regularly can build up greater strength and tolerance of pain in the feet, making it easier over time to walk or run across hard or rough surfaces without discomfort.

The study authors also found that the young people involved in the research typically reported less leg pain than the average level reported by teenagers globally. Often, this is put down to 'growing pains', so this may indicate that going barefoot could potentially help to combat this.

Indeed, it is only in relatively recent times that humans have begun wearing shoes. And with this, has come the need for podiatrists. So could suggesting that patients go barefoot help to tackle common foot problems?

Going barefoot on a regular basis may be more socially acceptable in New Zealand than in other parts of the world, but taking socks and shoes off at home and even going without slippers could possibly help some patients to see a difference in their foot health, the research findings suggest.

Perhaps the most tangible results would be seen if barefoot activity was more encouraged in childhood and adolescence, giving the bone structure of the feet the space and time to develop.

Written by Angela Newbury

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