PUCRS laboratory assesses the influence of children’s shoes on their gait

Tests with children aged three to nine evaluated sneakers that offer the experience of walking barefoot

06/02/2020 - 17h09

Photo: Marjorie Bertrand/ Unsplash.com

The healthy growth of children is one of the main concerns of children’s parents and families. One’s stride influences, for example, aspects involving posture and body balance. Tests performed at PUCRS Laboratory for Evaluation and Research in Physical Activity (LAPAFI) analyzed the external forces acting on the feet of children while they walk, using Biomechanics research techniques. Boys and girls aged three to nine participated in the study that was developed over two years, with the aim of understanding the impact of wearing shoes on children’s stride. The project was commissioned by  Bibi Calçados.

The tests performed measure the reaction forces of the ground, analyzing the external forces that act on the feet while walking barefoot and, later, with Bibi shoes. This is one of the several existing evaluation parameters, but it was chosen to fit the purpose of the project, which was to develop a product that would not interfere with children’s gait. The results showed that, from a biomechanical point of view, Bibi shoes nearly do not alter the gait and, in some cases, there is practically no interference.

“My suggestion as a father is that other parents concerned with their children’s growth, beyond the quality of products, will make sure they seek scientifically validated information”, explains Rafael Baptista, professor and coordinator of Lapafi. He points out that, in such cases, the family pediatrician or other specialists should be consulted. “We cannot just believe in any information on social networks,” he adds.

The age-old habit of walking barefoot

The use of footwear can influence feet morphology, interfering with the size, height and angle of the arch, as well as flexibility, for example. The development of these characteristics depends on several factors, such as weight, frequency of physical activity, ethnicity and age. This is what explains the  research conducted by the Scientific Reports of Nature, the British scientific journal.

Although walking barefoot has been part of human evolution for millions of years, the advantages and disadvantages of wearing shoes for health, especially foot health, have rarely been evaluated. However, motor development is increasingly discussed in science, as well as the long-term effects of being habitually barefoot.

The Laboratory for Evaluation and Research in Physical Activity

With force plates, electromyography, inertial sensor and other equipment, PUCRS Laboratory for Evaluation and Research in Physical Activity (LAPAFI) supports practical classes of different courses. Scientific research is carried out through the shared use of resources in the facility, which is located in room 109 of the PUCRS’ Sports Park.