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Your little one’s tootsies’ direct contact with the earth and the sensory experiences bare feet provide as babies grow and explore their world are actually encouraging a strong foundation for optimal brain and nervous system development. 

Dr. Kacie Flegal, a vitalistic chiropractor, member of the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association (ICPA) and specialist serving those with sensory integration challenges, writes in her blog about the two important sensory systems that aren’t commonly recognized: the proprioceptive and the vestibular.

Sure, we’re all familiar with the five basic senses of touch, taste, vision, hearing and smell, and how this primary system sets the foundation for higher brain centers to grow upon. And we aren’t surprised to learn that through these senses babies create neurological connections and their perception of life.

However, according to Dr. Flegal’s research, it’s the proprioceptive and vestibular systems that take on an increasingly important role as babies begin to coordinate movements and interact more with their world.

Proprioception is the ability to perceive the motion and position of our bodies in space and is generated by receptors located within our joints, connective tissue and muscles,” Dr. Flegal explains. “When activated by pressure and movement, proprioceptors send direct signaling to the brain telling it how the body is oriented.

“The vestibular system is the creation of balance and coordination as changes in center of gravity, posture and head position shift. As babies gain awareness through the five primary senses, they begin generating deliberate movements and gradually learn to hold up their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl and eventually start walking.”

One of the most sensory-rich parts of the human body, the feet hold large concentrations of proprioceptors in their joints and muscles—as many proprioceptors as the entire spinal column!

Direct contact with the surfaces of your child’s world as she learns to walk also encourages vestibular input as her little muscles and joints in the feet accommodate the changing terrain beneath her.

“When a child is allowed to be barefoot, his tactile pathways feel the surface of the ground, proprioceptors respond to pressure and the terrain creates slight imbalances that create neuromuscular strength, spatial orientation, balance and coordination.”

So postpone the shoe shopping as long as possible and have your child go barefoot whenever it is safe and practical.

To read Dr. Flegal’s original blog post, click here