This article from 2016 was lightly edited/updated in 2020. For more on kid-movement, read through our favorite resources on More Movement for Kids and Babies. For more on feet and walking, including kid-feet, read through Our Favorite Feet, Footwear, and Walking Resources.
Below is an excerpt from Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief.
Before I had children, I assumed that the love of shoes came from the environment, but after raising some kids in a barefoot/ALL minimal-footwear household, there it was: one of my kids loved to stomp around in heels. We don’t have these shoes in our house, as you can imagine, but it turns out access to “dessert” shoes is as rampant as access to sugary treats. Which is seemingly all. the. time.
It’d be a hard sell to say that a child has a natural affinity (natural meaning “as found in nature”) for dressy shoes, but I’d totally buy that children and adults alike have a natural tendency to adorn their bodies, perhaps some more than others.
Comparing my two children (which is the most immediate sample I have) I have observed that my youngest prioritizes adornment more than my oldest. But in her habitat—of children’s books and dress-up boxes at friend’s houses—the only example of foot adornment seems to be smaller (plastic, pink, and sparkly) versions of high heels.
A few years ago I read this blog post on "Princess Feet". This was before I had kids wearing shoes. But once I had a child who seemed to have “adorn” in her constitution, I recalled the author of Princess Feet had given me a tool. She made the distinction between footwear and foot adornment. Boom. Once we, the parents, recalled this distinction we went into full-scale "decorate your feet" mode—providing paint, pens, stickers, and even mud to quench her desire for adornment.
These were bits of holiday wrapping made into "flip flops" proving the old adage that one person's trash is another person's flip flops made out of trash.
These are everyone's mud Vibrams, as in "Everyone, put on your mud Vibrams" –my 3 year old.
These were the crocheted foot jewelry that I ordered from Etsy as a holiday gift only to realize, on December 23rd, that I'd ordered them from Poland (oops), and that it was too late to learn how to crochet foot jewelry.
This is all to say, it’s helpful to identify the biological tendency/need as separate from than the cultural expression of meeting said need. Once we realized she had a love of adornment it was easy to meet both of her needs—her need for dressing up her body and the need for a body with a full range of motion.