Going Barefoot

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Barefoot babies

Oct 2006

I notice lots of moms in public carry their babies barefoot with their infant's bare feet dangling out of snugglies, regardless if it's really chilly outside. I cringe when I see the baby's feet red due to the cold weather but can't help noticing the moms do dress appropriately for the weather. Why don't they cover the babies feet? I hesitate to say anything because I don't want to offend, but I can't help hoping the infant's feet will be covered with something warm. Is it a cultural thing? I'm from a different culture and hope someone can provide me with better understanding. Thank you curious

I will use my most recent favorite reply: Live and let live. (Thanks to the person who wrote that with regards to overweight family members, this will be my new BPN mantra.) -anon.

Yes it is a cultural thing. You should just let it go. Telling parents they're doing things wrong, unless it's a truly dangerous situation, is rude. As far as I know, no baby has ever been seriously injured by having cold feet for a few minutes. Personally, I cringe when I see babies wearing bunting and hats and blankets when it's 60 degrees outside -- it's overkill, we live in Berkeley, not the North Pole (or New England for that matter), but I don't say anything because it wouldn't do anything positive. hot mama

You must be referring to my daughter! My daughter is often barefoot - it's been warm enough until recently and other times I put them on and they fall off or she takes them off and other times I just forget. It's not cultural unless you consider being a new mom with plenty of more important things to keep track of it's own culture But I want to answer your question with this question (and the reason I felt I HAD to respond to this): Why are you worried about the comfort of my child? As a new mom I get so much unwanted advice from people like you (i.e., complete strangers!): ''Why isn't your child wearing a hat?'' ''Your child looks uncomfortable in her stroller.'' ''Why are you using a Bjorn - it's so bad for you.'' I think high-healed shoes look uncomfortable and unhealthy but I don't tell women that. So why do people want to tell me about the comfort of my baby? Doesn't a mother know best? Don't people like you have other things to worry themselves with? There truly are children in the Bay Area being abused - my barefoot child is not one of them. Barefoot and Proud

I think new moms get enough unsolicited (and often unwanted) ''advice'' that this is something you should just keep to yourself about. If you REALLY feel the need to say something, you could approach it from the ''oh, did you know your baby's feet are sticking out of the blankt?'' sort of thing. That way they can say ''yes, thank you'' if they want them sticking out or ''no, thanks for letting me know!'' and stick them back in the blankie. You never know if the mom is so frazzled that the feet thing on the baby gets overlooked, or... not. :) -Even I'd forget my head if it wasn't attached some times.

Maybe the baby's socks fell off. Mind your own business? I think that's the M.O. around here... People do their own thing. Barefoot a lot, the whole family

My son, when he was a baby, was nearly always barefoot -- mostly because he would remove his socks in very short order if he had any access at all to his feet. If he was in his stroller or carseat, the socks would last max 5 minutes. So I gave up. He seemed to be entirely comfortable without them; his feet may have looked red but he felt warm and he's always been healthy. On the flip side, I got scolded a lot for his bare feet. I always wanted to say (but never did), that if the person doing the scolding could figure out a way to keep the socks on, then they'd have the right to say something about it. Now he's a 5-year-old who sheds his jacket the minute he gets out of the car. I guess he's like me: I don't get cold easily, and am actually very comfortable at 50-60 degrees. I always tell people my definition of cold doesn't kick in until water freezes Karen

Those babies are probably barefoot because their parents haven't yet discovered Robeez! As a baby, my kid would always be pulling off a sock or dropping a shoe...it was easier to let him go barefoot and as long as he was comfortable in my Baby-Bjorn, I let it be. Better to assume that the baby's parent knows best how to take care of his/her baby, than for you to make some well-meaning remark about how the baby's feet should be covered. I'm sure that more often than not, your remarks will be met with annoyance rather than appreciation. If you don't see any signs of gross neglect, let it be Fan of Robeez

I don't have an answer for you; only that you are not alone in your observation. I've always noticed this too! I truly think it's that mothers just don't think about their babies feet being cold. Personally I don't ever let my baby have bare feet outside unless it's very warm out. Also, many mothers feel it's difficult keeping socks on the babies feet as they get pulled off. Maybe that is the reason.

Maybe the child likes to be barefoot and refuses socks. Or maybe the socks fell off somewhere in transit. Parents know their babies and do the absolute best they can. Try to remember that parents can't attend to every detail all the time. A barefoot baby seems minor in the scheme of things. - anon

A cultural thing??? Maybe. There certainly weren't a whole lotta barefeet babies way north where I used to work - with winter (*cold* winter...) most of the year. I'm a Nanny, with babies/toddlers who are barefeet most of the year, and both them and myself loooove it! Being able to have the li'l ones running around, and learning to walk, without uncomfortable and/or slippery footwear (yaya, Robeez are great, hehe) is *such* a blessing, you have no idea... California babies have the chance to be barefeet, and I'm happy to see how many Moms & Dads are taking advantage of this. I know ''my'' kids's Mom has gotten questions about her barefeet babies as well. How rude! You know, even new Moms & Dads have a pretty good idea how their kids are doing, and implying they don't... Wow, that takes some nerve, or terribly bad manners, in my opinion. Or is that a cultural thing? And for the record, ''my'' babies are the healthiest kids you've ever seen. Not ONE day sick, knock on wood. M. Poppins

I can't speak for others, but both of our kids *hated* wearing shoes and would often pull off the shoes and socks (if they were easily removable) or cry and cry and cry until we took them off. The right thing to do? I dunno, but for us, their frustration with the shoes seemed to outweigh the cold. We had barefoot babies...

Hi, I didn't see the original post but I am guessing it was about babes in arms? The only reason I ask is because with regard to the safety of going barefoot outdoors, my highschool biology teacher told me people can contract worms through their feet by going barefoot outdoors. Aside from other obvious risks like broken glass, I just wanted to mention this with regard to kids going barefoot in parks and areas where animals may defecate. A cheap pair of water sandals from Target seems like a safer alternative Montclair Mommy

Parasites from going barefoot?


I am asking this question as a favor to my mother, who is obsessed with the fact that I let my 5 yr.old daughter go barefoot as much as she wants. Unless there clearly is glass, nails, dog poop, etc., on the ground (or a good possibility), I let her walk from a parking lot to a curb if she doesn't want to put on her shoes, and things like that. My mom is sure that she's going to pick up some strange parasite and remembers reading an article in the New York Times. Does anyone have any comments? Stephanie

Given the choice between my mother's opinions and my daughter's stubborn desire to go barefoot - I also let my daughter win. She is 6 and often refuses to put her shoes on for the trip from afterschool to the car or from my parent's house to the car - and I truly believe that she is not being exposed to any dangerous diseases. The biggest threat is stepping on something sharp and as I am with her when she takes these barefoot walks, I try to keep my eyes open for the proverbial rusty nail. To my mother I say - you try to get her to put her shoes on - and that usually ends the conversation. Helen

There is a the chance that children can pick up hookworms from walking barefoot - hookworms are a very small intestinal parasite that can actually penetrate the skin. They are fairly common in cats and dogs, and can be picked up in places pets frequent. My mother used to give us gross red worm medicine every summer because she was worried about hookworms, but maybe they are more common in warmer climates like Alabama, where I grew up. There is an interesting article about children, pets, and parasitic worms here: http://family.disney.com/Features/family_1997_06/maho/maho67doc/maho67doc.html

Also, there is the danger of glass. I never minded my children going barefoot anywhere except on sidewalks. But I had a child who insisted on running barefoot down the sidewalk despite my warnings to walk, and to look. He stepped on a big piece of glass and after that he never ran down the sidewalk barefooted! Ginger

Ginger, I think you are right about hookworm being a problem in the South. I recall learning about it in my college microbiology class. I don't think there are problem parasites around here. I grew up in L.A. and my mother is a nurse who still keeps up on public health issues. I'm sure I would have heard about such things by now if they existed along the California coast. Fran

I habitually wear very light sandals, a habit I picked up when I lived on a boat in the tropics. In sandals, I stay out of tall grass and muddy areas. Hookworm (needs moist soil) and one type of roundworm can still be picked up from infected US soils, and of course fleas and ticks (OK, ticks usually DROP onto you!) can carry parasites that infect humans. The sandals have made pregnancy a lot more comfortable than it otherwise would have been, and by allowing the feet to breathe and dry out, they eliminate most of the

Here is some additional information from the web:

Dr. Afzal A. Siddiqui, a parasitologist at ETSU, is studying a roundworm indigenous to US soils. The roundworm, Strongyloides stercoralis, lives within the soil and can enter the human body through a person'sbare feet. Strongyloides can live inside a human body for 30-40 years and that person might never even know, Siddiqui said. [...]

Strongyloidiasis, a disease caused by the parasite that bears its name, is very easy to treat, he added. It also is one of the most difficult parasitic diseases to diagnose.

Treating it is not the problem, Siddiqui said. Finding out if the Strongyloides are actually in the body is our greatest challenge.

From a UCSB Parasitology lecture:

Although still common in some parts of Appalachia (and the southern US), hookworm is uncommon in the US. However, it is a problem in approximately 2 billion people in many parts of the world, particularly in India. A related nematode is the dog hookworm, Ancyclostoma caninum. This is present world wide and in Santa Barbara. It is easy for your dog to get because all dogs walk around barefoot and don't use toilets. If a larval dog hookworm encounters a bare human foot, the larvae penetrate but don't successfully get into the circulatory system. Instead, they wander around in the skin for weeks or months, leaving a track of inflamed, itching skin. This symptom is called cutaneous larval migrans. Toxocara canis is not a hookworm but it is a parasite of dogs and cats that causes a related pathology. In this case, larval worms are able to get past the skin and wander around in the human's tissues causing substantial pathology. This is known as Visceral larval migrans. It is highly prevalent in children but also in epileptics, the mentally retarded and institutionalized, suggesting that the behavior of these people contribute to their risk of infection but also suggesting the possibility that Toxocara can lead to these types of serious mental conditions. If you own a dog, it is irresponsible to let it defectae in areas where people like to go barefoot such as in parks or at the beach.

Sporotrichosis -- requires a skin break

This disease is a well known and cosmopolitan disease caused by Sporothrix schenckii (Deuteromycetes). Infection, again, occurs through a break in the skin of the foot, inoculated by a thorn or other sharp object. The fungus [...] has been successfully treated with potassium iodide (KI) since 1903.
Now, some people with a serious SLANT on their website are the Barefooters (www.barefooters.org), who don't mention the above roundworm at all in their disease section (which follows): Q13: What about catching diseases? Athlete's Foot (fungus): The following is an excerpt from a pamphlet on Athlete's Foot by the American Academy of Dermatology, April 1994: Athlete's foot does not occur among people who traditionally go barefoot. It's moisture, sweating and lack of proper ventilation of the feet that present the perfect setting for the fungus of athlete's foot to grow. [ Full text: http://www.aad.org/aadpamphrework/AthletFoot.html ] Therefore, by going barefoot, the perspiration from your feet evaporates just like it does from the rest of your body; your feet then remain cool and dry in the open air. The fungus can not survive under these conditions. As a result, going barefoot will most likely cure athlete's foot. Hookworm (parasite): This is almost entirely confined to tropical, third-world countries where people habitually walk in soil contaminated by the excrement of infected humans and domestic animals. In the 1940s, hookworm occurred in some regions of the southern USA but has largely disappeared even there thanks to improved sanitation. The chance of getting hookworm from barefoot hiking on trails in a temperate region such as North America or Europe is very small. Hookworm is easily treatable with vermifuges such as tetrachloroethylene: its prevalence in tropical regions is largely a matter of public health, due to poor sanitation and lack of access to medical facilities. Ringworm (fungus: this has nothing to do with worms -- it's a misnomer): The same text about Athlete's Foot applies for ringworm. (Additionally, one can get it anywhere on one's body.)

Flipflops, the very cheap kind from any drugstore, are seldom resented by kids, allow all the drying benefits of going barefoot, and are ideal for short trips between car, store, and so forth. On long car trips, we keep pairs in the car for easy in and outs. They protect from thorns, glass, poop to some degree. I constantly went barefoot as a child, and have magnificently healthy feet. ( Of course I probably have undiagnosed visceral worms creeping about in me.) In the more urban environment of the bay area, however, I worry about glass in particular.