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Barefoot Kids: December 17, 2011

Father of two Jason Schwartz enjoys his minimal shoes.

“I love them they’ve really strengthened my feet its much easier to walk around barefoot around the house.”

He’s part of the growing number of Americans who are jumping on the barefoot bandwagon. Minimal or barefoot-style running shoes are flying off the shelves.

“You just feel like you’re hitting all the muscles in your feet that never get worked in a regular pair of shoes,” says Jason.

Experts have been asked to weigh in on the barefoot trend. Kath Kinross is a physical therapy and runner.

“The thing about barefoot running is it’s good in theory because the foot should normally be kind of arched in shape. We’ve got all these little bones that are designed to be in an arched shape and when you run barefoot technically you’re strengthening the muscles that hold those arches, so that’s a good thing,” says Kath Kinross, a physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.

Jason believes what’s good for him is good for his children.

“My son runs, he runs a couple miles in them and he’s done that - and Elle’s run,  she runs in them also.”

Experts are split on whether children are better off shod. Many think the cushion that running shoes provide protect the foot from harm, but that could do more damage down the road.

“You could be running with like this terrible long stride, landing on your heels and you wouldn’t realize that that was a problem until you’d already created a problem a long time down the road. And it might be harder to fix,” says Kath.

Podiatrists believe that children walk better as toddlers when they’re barefoot because they develop natural strides. Jason believes these shoes give his kids the freedom to move.

“We weren’t born with shoes on so, must have been intended to run without shoes and I think that their feet have gotten stronger since they put them on.”

Most agree, watching your child’s progress and keeping their feet at least covered and protected is the bare minimum.