“Our results show that motor skill competencies of shoe-wearing and barefoot children may develop differently during childhood and adolescence. Whereas barefoot children between ages six and 10 years scored higher in the backward-balance test compared to shoe-wearing children‚ no differences were found in adolescents.
“The early childhood years are fundamental for the development of balance and rapid improvements can be observed until the age of nine to 10 years. A likely explanation is that footwear habits influence the musculoskeletal architecture of the foot‚ which in turn may be associated with motor performance.”
The research also revealed that the type of shoe a child wears has a great influence on how their feet develop.
In an earlier study‚ Venter found that the feet of South African children walking barefoot were in many ways different to European shoe wearers.
“The problem is that the growing feet of our barefoot children are forced into European sizes – the shoes are particularly narrow. It also does not help if parents decide to buy bigger shoes. It changes the natural operation of the foot and the shoe’s designed ‘bend’ does not match the foot’s natural bend‚” said Venter.
Her research found that shoes worn by South African schoolchildren‚ especially school shoes‚ were not suitable and appropriate for their feet.
She encouraged children to walk barefoot. “Society cherishes the perception that barefoot should necessarily be equal to poverty or lower status in society. We should rather embrace and cherish our barefoot culture‚” she said.
“The results of our research must motivate local and South African shoe providers to get involved and to really care for the health and good development of children’s feet.”