In the running world, we tend to focus on ourselves as adults. The vast majority of literature about transitioning to minimalist and barefoot style is geared towards adults. We, as grown-ups, have to relearn what we have forgotten about since childhood, namely how to recapture that ability to run around in bare feet. How many of us, as kids, ran around unshod in the backyard, at the beach, at the park? A comment I come across frequently in literature geared towards learning to hoof it bare is that as children we have these strong, supple feet, adapted without thought to running without the support of modern running shoes. Granted, kids aren’t often going out for long training runs, but it remains that we appear to un-learn how to run barefoot as we grow older.
Running Times maintains a section on minimalist running, and something that caught my eye is an article called Growing Up Shod. A line in particular jumped out at me, “…putting kids in motion-control shoes before they demonstrate the need for them feels like prescribing corrective eyeglasses to all children as soon as they start to read. Is it possible that overbuilt shoes contradict the medical mandate to ‘first, do no harm?’”
There are, of course, a variety of other factors that come into play. Kids still need to learn proper form, how to run efficiently and so on. Despite the fact that Kenyan children may be running swiftly and efficiently on their way to school, they are running over dirt paths that are a lot more forgiving than the vast majority of the America’s concrete and asphalt sidewalks.
So there are a lot of conflicting views on how to help the next generation pursue the minimalist lifestyle, but the article does offer some recommendations (below). Hop on over to Running Times to read the whole article.
Recommendations for Parents:
1) Encourage kids to go barefoot whenever possible: in the house, yard, parks, on the beach.
2) Buy the most minimal shoes appropriate for your child. Look for low heel height, low-profile cushioning, flexibility (in the right place, at the ball of the foot), light weight, ample toe room. Often the minimal choice will be general-use shoes rather than running specific shoes, which tend to be designed as mini-adult, cushioned stability trainers.
3) Ensure all of your kids’ shoes are running-friendly. Kids don’t change into running shoes to run, they do it naturally throughout the day.
4) Add support only if necessary. Get an evaluation from a physical therapist or podiatrist if your child shows signs of needing structured support.
5) Allow and encourage kids to run more like they do when they are very little: short bursts that end when fatigued, with a relaxed stride, at a variety of paces.
6) Encourage kids to participate in a wide variety of physical activities that build strength and flexibility.
7) Help kids stay at an appropriate weight through diet and activity.
8) Model good running technique and expose kids to excellent, efficient runners. For reference on running technique, a good starting point is Run Tall, Run Easy by GP Pearlberg.