The Natur Advantage
The Foot's Journey
A child's foot goes through a journey of development as they grow, with the bones slowly ossifying and arranging themselves into the proper architecture for load bearing. By the age of 13, a child's foot has fully formed, but it is still malleable along the way. Restrictive shoes can rob developing feet of critical strength and flexibility necessary for proper foot development, which can lead to structural abnormalities like bunions. Studies show that many shoes on the market are too narrow for children's feet, so it's important for parents to choose footwear with wide toe boxes and natural flexibility to promote natural foot development. Parents can also encourage their children to spend time barefoot or in minimalist shoes to help strengthen their foot muscles and develop their arches.
Ankle sprains are common among young athletes, with chronic instability and reinjury being common complications. Traditional external support, such as ankle braces and orthotics, can lead to decreased muscle activity and coordination in the ankle and foot complex, increasing the risk of future injury. Researchers have recently begun investigating the role of intrinsic foot muscles in preventing ankle sprains, finding that strengthening these muscles can improve postural stability and balance control. Children raised and instructed in natural movement while barefoot or in minimalist shoes have better coordination and balance than those in supportive footwear.
Knee injuries, particularly ACL tears, are becoming increasingly common in young athletes, particularly females. The main risk factors for ACL tears are decreased hip control, decreased dynamic trunk stability, preferential quadriceps activation, and lowered activation of the hamstrings. Knee valgus, which occurs when the knees dive inwards towards the center of the body, also places high strain on the knee and can lead to injury. The modern shoe industry, with its tight toe-boxes, stiff midsoles, cushioned soles, arch supports, and huge heels, contributes to knee valgus and internal tibial rotation, putting athletes at greater risk of ACL tears. Minimalist shoes and foot strengthening exercises can help athletes gain the ability to control knee valgus and internal tibial rotation, allowing them to engage external rotation of the knee for stability and improving single leg balance by improving glute strength. Neuromuscular training of this type has the greatest effect on young female athletes, who have the greatest risk of ACL tears.