Foot School

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Schoolhouse Series Snacks: Your Toes and Calves.

Do you homeschool your kids? Are there a lot of children in your house as well as days left of summer vacation? Well, this post is for you. I had a lot of fun creating and doing these games with “the cousins,”  but even more interesting (or is it surprising?) was how into their feet they became! Try this Foot Unit to get your kids out of their shoes and into their feet!

Project 1:  Foot Signatures
Fold a piece of paper to mark the top half (for handwriting) from the bottom half (for footwriting.)

Have everyone handwrite their name on the top

and see how it compares to their foot writing below. And, no fair-sies only doing it once! We found that the third or fourth attempt (better than my regular handwriting!)

was MUCH better than the first.

And for tons of fun, try it with the OTHER foot. And in cursive. And then writing backwards. And in reverse. You know, for fun.

Even the littles will want to get involved.

Although at this point, foot and hand writing are equally good.

Project 2: Tracing Your Foot
Have each kiddo trace their foot on a piece of paper. (See where I came up with that catchy project title?)

Then, have them run, shrieking through the house to unearth their favorite pair of shoes from the closet to see how their shoes measure up to their foot tracing.

Some discussion questions:
1. How does your foot-shape compare to your shoe shape?
2. How do you think this affects your feet?

This is the BEST time of year to do this game because one of the biggest issues kids have with their shoes is outgrowing them before a parent realizes it. This is where many adults first developed the habit of scrunching their toes, just a little, to keep them from touching the end of their shoes. This often develops into adult-purchases of too-small shoes, to recreate that early sensation of “what shoes should feel like on my feet.”

Back-to-(Home)-School Shopping Tip: Always make sure you purchase shoes during the middle or end of the day or after your workout (or the kids have been running around a lot). This will ensure that your foot is at its largest size of the day. Also, kids feet grow at an approximate rate of 1/2-inch a year. Kids shoes should also be at least 1/2″ longer than their foot at all times.  Which means shoes will fit a child for about four to six months. Which is why buying a kid $275 Air Jordans might not be a great financial decision, depending how many extra $275’s you have lying around.

Question: Do they even make Air Jordans any more? Does this say a lot about how old I am when AJs represent the height of expensive shoe purchases? You know, someone was mugged and beat up and killed for their Air Jordans. At least, that was the story on my playground. Whereas, I was busy not getting mugged for my purple Kangaroos from KMART. With a velcro pocket on the side. Because I was cool, remember?

Project 3: Nerves

There are two types of nerves in the feet: motor (those that tell the toes and feet to move) and sensory (those that the toes and feet feel the environment with).

Test your motor nerves: Starting in standing position, see if your kids can

Lift their big toe by itself.

Lift each other toe by itself.

Spread the toes away from each other.

Spread the toes away from each other without lifting them off the ground at the same time.

Shopping tip: Kids should only wear shoes that have enough space for their toes to spread out and away from each other.

Test your sensory nerves: Sensory nerves measure environmental factors like temperature and surface textures. Collect items from around the house with various texture, like a washcloth, sandpaper (you got that around the house, right?), a toothbrush (of some unlucky person), some pebbles of various sizes, a set of silverware (to be washed before putting back, especially if you have me over for dinner), an ice cube and something warmed. You’ll also need a blindfold.

See how many items your kids can identify by touching items with only their feet! This simple game opens a child’s mind to the fact that their feet are constantly taking in data in the same way their eyes take it in. Can they tell temperature with their feet? Can they tell the difference between a patch of dirt, or grass, or bricks — just with their feet? YES, they can!

To discuss: To keep the sensory nerves healthy and “alert” exposing your feet to various surfaces and items (more like rocks and dirt and grass and less like forks and knives and shards of glass). Most people expose their feet ONLY to the sensation of socks and the same pair of shoes and the flat surfaces inside their home.

Project: Barefoot Playground

Can you create a safe “foot path” in your backyard that stays debris free, but includes 3-4 different natural surfaces for “exercising the feet?” Just gathering rocks in an area and having everyone “tidy it up” can be a fun project. Then, you can ask your kids “did you take your feet out for a bit of sensory exercise?” and they know what you mean!
Here’s ours:

Too much work? Too cold and snowy where you live? A cobblestone mat works too!


Class Dismissed!

Get the full text on feet, footwear and how to exercise to strengthen your feet and build a healthier shoe closet for your family here: It’s invaluable information, really. You’ll never look at feet the same again!

Are you still interested in learning more on this?

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34 thoughts on “Foot School

  1. This is great. My daughter is homeschooling this coming year and I’ve been asked to participate. I’ll teach Katy’s Body Alignment 101! You’ve started with the feet…keep ’em coming!

  2. I am forwarding this on to my daughter’s school: It’s montessori and small enough to get into this, I think. If not, I’ll be doing it here! Slightly freaked at how little I can move my toes…

  3. Yes!!! I just signed up for the Healthy Foot Certification this morning. While I am interested on so many levels, I’ve definitely been wanting to build resources and expertise to help my 4 yo daughter who has some serious alignment exploring to do already (very marked bilateral in-toeing…reverberating all the way up through her body). I’ve been trying to build her barefoot world, including barefoot dance class (as opposed to wearing those tap shoes…). Last week, a classmate wore high heels to preschool. I consoled my girl with the following, “Baby, you are so lucky that I love you too much to let you wear high heels! You are so lucky that I love every piece of you all the way down to each little toe.” She’s buying it for now, but I’m waiting for this will get back to the other girl’s mother as, “My mommy says your mommy doesn’t love you because she let’s you where those shoes!” I can’t wait to start this work this weekend!

  4. though my husband laughs, i am always stopping at random times whenever i walk over the textured parts of our home (nubbly bathmat, fibrous woven rug, etc) to dig in and wiggle my feet on them — need that stimulation! a pebble mat sounds like a fabulous idea as well…

    also, about feet (and hands)…they just look weird. i am constantly counting fingers and toes — my own, friends’, strangers’ — just to make sure that everybody has five of each, because sometimes at first glance there is something really crazy going on there.

  5. Is is just me, or does stimulating those sensory nerves on your feet make you happier? Like, endorphin happy or serotonin happy.

  6. Katy, do you have an opinion on whether hand-me-down shoes are bad for kids’ feet/gait? The footwear “experts” say you shouldn’t wear used shoes because the original owner’s wear pattern develops on the shoe. Of course the “experts” never said anything about how you shouldn’t wear shoes with heels…so I’m not sure how far to trust their advice!

    1. I think that that advice sounds right, but it’s based on wearing thick-soled shoes that compress in response to the child’s load. I wouldn’t recommend footwear like that in the first place — a minimal sole is one of the essential component to footwear that would interfere less in natural development. So, if you’re talking about finding a second-hand pair of soft-star-shoes or a pair of all-leather shoes or any minimal footwear, then that wouldn’t be an issue.

  7. A. I love that pic of you and it puts a big smile on my face every time I see it

    2. I loved this blog and all the info geared towards engaging the kiddos. And……

    C. I love that you are a down to earth brainiac who makes learning fun.

    That is all! 🙂

  8. Love the homeschool lesson–we’ll use it!

    Although I have a question: Yes, you want lots of room at front for growing feet, but if the shoe is too large doesn’t it cause the wearer to adjust the gait? I tend to be barefoot at home and notice that if I wear a conventional sneaker I sometimes stub the sneaker’s toe on the ground, as if I’m not used to lifting my foot that high off the ground. I notice my children, when wearing a larger shoe, will seem to walk in a kind of floppy-footed way and exaggerate their step to create extra clearance.

    1. Absolutely — which is why the recommendation is 1/2″ and not “buy a shoe 1-2″ longer — we don’t want parents, in anticipation of growth to purchase a too-large shoe. The 1/2” allows for the foot to move through it’s natural length changes through gait — it’s not “room to grow into” or anything like that! Also, the phenomenon you are speaking of probably has more to do with the difference between your shod and unshod gait, as opposed to wearing a too-big sneaker. If you read more of the blog posts, you’ll find that foot clearance is created by the strength of the hip. Search (and work on) Pelvic List…

      Thanks for reading and doing the class with your kiddos!

  9. Great Post,

    You have COMPLETELY changed the way my children wear shoes! Before I found you, I was always worried about them having “support” YIKES and gave my daughter stiff, supported shoes! Now I have a 4 year old and an 18 month old and the litte guy is rarely in shoes! It is awesome, he just runs outside with nothing on and it is SO much easier than trying to get shoes in a toddler! My daughter knows aobut “flexible” shoes now and when I order 10 different pairs of shoes of Zappons, she knows we are trying to find the ones that are the most”flexible”. We also play a game called ,”find the heels” where we look for people outside/in malls wearing heals and then laugh at how silly they are walking. I already told her that she will be wearing vibrams to prom and will actully be the cool kid when she does;) Keep up the good work Kathy, I have loved learning from you!

  10. This is a great post for grown-ups too! But here is my problem- I keep trying to create strength and movement in my toes, but the two in the middle- If big toe is one and pinky is 5, these would be toes 2 and 3- WON’T move. It is really like they are paralyzed. I have Morton’s neuromas in both feet- which haven’t bothered me since I have been increasing my foot strength and wearing minimal shoes- could the neuromas (neuromae?) inhibit the motion of my toes?
    If I just keep trying to lift my toes, will they eventually lift up? So far only the big toes go up, the other ones will spread side to side- except toes 2 and 3, of course.

    1. The neuroma is likely there BECAUSE of the way you’ve used the toes, but it can become a limiting factor. Just keep working on it. The neuroma won’t Paralyze your toes or anything, but small, steady changes might be hard for you to see! There’s also dragging out the ductape and taping one down to the floor while you lift the other one. Sounds harsh, but it would give them the experience of moving independently!

  11. I Have 2 teenage boys that prefer to wear the tennis shoes with hardly an arch support. They do have a bit of flat feet & they play sports. My concern of course is the long term effect on their knees & hips. I have purchased inserts in the past & have them stretch etc. Would appreciate your input as to helping them change habits & correct thier alignment before they get any older.
    Thank you

    1. Shoes don’t support the arches in the foot — the muscles in the foot do! If your boys love their shoes, doubt you’ll do much about it at this point, but the corrective program — that is, how to teach (help? expose?) them to the material — is in the book! All my thoughts are listed in friendly user-fashion there. For anyone, including teenage boys!

  12. Tried this with my 6 year old. He loved the idea of drawing with his feet! But it was hard & he got frustrated with it. Darn. However, he created a mini-book about it-so cute! Also, he was unable to spread his toes. Is this cause for concern or is it a developmental thing that will happen on it’s own?

    I am working on us going barefoot more often now that I’ve read this!

  13. I don’t homeschool (don’t have my own kiddos yet, but totally plan to and support those that do), but I teach in a one room school and these will be great for my students to do. Thanks for all you do, Katy. I appreciate you.

  14. So doing this with the family! And btw Waldorf education includes this and other types of foot “work”. But maybe you already knew that. 😉

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