You know that old saying 'there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing'? Well we know that it also applies to footwear! Keeping feet warm and dry is not as easy as popping a hat on, so we have brought you some ideas to help, making it possible to keep feet warm while playing for hours outside, especially on those wet, cold days.
On those really cold days, you know its time to head in when your toes start going numb. We have two top tips for you, on how to keep toes warm when you are spending hours playing outside.
- Wool against the skin: Wool is a natural, non-toxic material, and unlike cotton and many synthetic materials it keeps the body warm when it’s wet. Wool retains up to 80% of its insulating value even when saturated, next to your skin, it can wick away and absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp.
- Room to move: Just like a bird that traps air under its feathers to insulate, having enough room in your boot to wiggle your toes means they keep warmer than if they were packed in not being able to move.
Making sure there is enough room in footwear to wiggle toes is not only important in terms of keeping them warm, but happens to be very important for growing feet.
Shoes that don't fit properly are the leading factor for unhealthy feet. For infants with fast growing feet, having room around the toes in all shoes (and for that matter, socks and stockings too) couldn't be more important for a number of reasons.
- The foot is at its most softest and malleable for the first 4 years.
- The bones in their feet are still forming and are actually pliable bone, similar to cartilage and firm up into solid bone at about 18/19 years old for girls and 20/21 years old for boys.
- Babies and small children are often unable to communicate that shoes are not the correct fit, so you need to check regularly that there is enough room around the toes for them to wriggle, spread out and grow into.
- If you observe a barefoot babe doing their thing, their toes spread out and are constantly moving when the rest of their body is moving. Making sure they can still spread their toes when they have footwear on is important for their body movement as a whole.
Have a thin and flexible sole is important for young players learning to navigate uneven surfaces, finding their balance, and needing to move freely.
According to the feet and shoe specialists at Vivo Barefoot “70% of your brain’s information for movement comes from the nerves on the soles of your feet; the more you can feel the ground, the greater your body’s understanding of its surrounding environment.”
We suggest that crawlers have footwear made from material, this enables them to move freely and use their feet in a way that they simply can't with shoes on. For toddlers and older children, having footwear with a flexible sole means they can navigate uneven surfaces safely.
Here are some top tips for choosing a sole that supports play -
- To test the flexibility of a shoe, hold the shoe in one hand with the heel in your palm and toes at your fingers and grasp.
- Soles that are over 6mm thick prevent 80 to 90 percent of children’s foot flexibility.
- If you cannot bend the shoe easily or at all, a small foot would not find this shoe fully flexible.
- If the shoe bends at the ball (directly under the toe area) and not the center of the shoe then that shoe may have an ‘arch support’, a small foot would not find this shoe fully flexible.
- Avoid any sign of an elevated heel of any height on a child’s shoe, this shortens the Achilles tendon.
Many parents find that their children want to be barefoot.
Your children along with the orthopedic specialists, know that barefoot is best. By going barefoot they are not only developing their feet, sensory system and balance, but they will also be connecting to the earth, something widely know as Earthing.
Going barefoot on a mild or warm or wet day is good for the sole! We need to provide barefoot time both inside and outside. It’s always good to remember that feet are waterproof and washable.
If it is too cold then, then try warm socks which you can wash, or footwear that is like being barefoot – with room to move and a flexible soul, then we can have the best of both worlds.
When the temperature really drops, we really recommend layering – both with clothing and your feet. With wool next to your skin, and another pair of socks on top, then your footwear its possible to keep feet warm for hours when there is ice on the ground.
For the more experienced walker, an insulated pair of snow boots can make for warm feet when it’s below zero.
There are plenty of good reasons to look for used footwear for our children.
- For one its better for the environment to keep using what is usable, instead of keeping on producing what will all end up in the landfill at some point. The less that we shift through the consumer-happy system the better.
- Little feet grow fast and often footwear that has been outgrown is left looking like new. It is important to know that it is not good for anyone to wear shoes which have worn down soles, one persons worn tread should not be worn by another.
- Buying good quality used goods makes getting outside much more affordable. Scouting on on-line auction sites, second-hand shopping and sharing with friends and family is a great way to keep the cost down.
- Getting good quality used goods for free is even better, you will be delighted when you receive things - and like wise when there is still life left in those little rain booties it might make someone’s day to gift them on.
Some Practical Suggestions
Here are a few ideas, to give you an idea of what is possible -
For the wee baby, the commando crawler, the crawling cruiser and for the one still getting to grips with being on two feet.
You can't move freely with a shoe or boot, you need to be able to move and bend your feet, to grip with your toes, you need a material bootie.
- Kozi Kidz
- Keen Rover
- Togz Waterproof Overbooties
- Waterproof Rain Footies
- Puddle Booties
Do It Yourself
A thick pair of woolen socks and a pair of plastic bags tied on around the ankle. Sometimes we need to make do with what we have around us.
Whether you are making your own, or have a pair of booties that don't quite fit, then try securing on with 'velcro strips', cheap and easy to pick up.
For those now really into walking a long way, no longer dropping down to crawl, need some more protection now, its time to get some sole.
Greenpeace are running a campaign to get people using and buying outdoor gear free from PFC’s, which stands for per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals.
PFC's are polluting the Earth, and some PFC's can cause harm to the human body - they also happen to be used by many manufactures of waterproof and dirt-repellent products.
While we fully appreciate that it can be hard to find what some products are made from, if you are looking for a pair of wellies that is non-toxic then natural rubber is a good start.
Here are a couple of companies making 100% rubber boots - not toxic chemicals.
- EcoOrtholite Tretorn
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