Being barefoot improves motor skills in children

Barefoot Children

German researchers have just shown that physical activities performed without shoes improve the balance and jumping abilities of children.

What if sports classes at school were practiced without shoes? A new study, published in Frontiers One Pediatrics, shows that the motor skills of children and adolescents in jumping and balancing improved when they engaged in barefoot physical activity. “Barefoot is widely regarded as more natural and the use of footwear has long been considered a factor influencing the health of the feet and the development of movements,” said in a statement Professor Astrid Zech of the University of Jena in Germany and author of the study.

A total of 385 children from South Africa and 425 children from Northern Germany participated in the study. They were grouped under 3 age groups: 6-10 years old; 11-14 years old and 15-18 years old. The two groups were chosen to represent both lifestyles: South African children are usually barefoot, while in Germany they mostly wear shoes. Scientists assessed their balance, jumping ability, and performance in a 20-meter sprint.

As a result, children who are used to being barefoot had a significantly higher score in the balance and jump tests compared to the second group, regardless of whether they were wearing shoes or not. These differences were observed in all groups, but especially in the 6-10 age group.

For the sprint test, these results were reversed. Children used to shoes had better scores, especially the 11-14 age group. According to the researchers, this could be explained by the different environments. “In South Africa, the sprint test took place outside, with different climatic conditions and surfaces, while German children took the sprint test indoors, mainly in a gym” says the researcher. The type of shoes may also have influenced the results:  the South African students wore school shoes, while German students used sneakers. For the research team, this study could encourage schools to develop barefoot activities in sports programs.

Carl Frantz

Polyglot, humanitarian, Carl was born in Germany but raised in the USA. He writes mostly on tech, science and culture.