Aside from bare feet getting sweaty and stinky, is there any harm in letting children run around without any shoes?

Certainly, you don’t want your kids scampering around without shoes on a surface that can puncture their skin, such as a parking lot, what with all the miscellaneous (but not very visible) debris on the asphalt.

And running around in a street barefoot is also a setup for skin injuries, since a street can have broken glass, discarded nails and screws, and sharp pebbles.

But ground surface aside, how safe is it to let the kids have at it in their bare feet?

“It is safe for children to run in bare feet,” says Joel Gator Warsh, MD, of Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine, Studio City, CA, and part of the pediatric staff of Cedars-Sinai Hospital.

“A thorough investigation of the area they are playing should be completed to ensure there is nothing dangerous such as glass or wires, but otherwise, children should have the chance to run around in bare feet.

“As a species, shoes are a relatively new invention. In many countries around the world, children still run around in bare feet all day.

“Our skin is strong and will adapt to the demands of our surrounding environment. It is healthy and natural to let you toddlers run around and get dirty.”

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Just be sure to wash their feet (if they’re too young to do it themselves) once playtime is over.

Older children should be instructed to wash thoroughly. Kids’ feet, indeed, can stink if not washed.

Dr. Warsh and his Studio City, Los Angeles clinic treat a wide array of common pediatric issues using holistic and conventional treatments. He works with nutritionists, naturopaths, Ayurvedic practitioners, acupuncturists and more.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.