Barefoot in Japan

Author: Tracy Byrne   Date Posted:9 July 2018 

A normal way of life for most children

It is a Japanese tradition that children attend school barefoot. Throughout Japan it is customary to remove shoes in all homes and most other buildings. Even in gyms you are required to remove your shoes and put on a different pair that is only worn inside.

In an effort to keep up with modern ideas it was proposed that in Japanese schools children would begin to wear shoes inside. The idea of this move to wearing shoes in school led to uproar. The majority of Japanese parents felt that barefoot kids were healthier kids. A comparision study was done between schools that used inside shoes versus schools where the children attended school and played barefoot.

The playgrounds in both schools had a soft, sandy soil that was created to stimulate the soles of the children’s feet. The idea was that if the feet were strong the ankles were strong, then the knees were strong all the way up to the head. The school’s playground toys (Jungle Gyms) had toe and finger holds to help strengthen the body. Schools have a hands free foot washing station for when they returned to classroom. Since the feet were open to air there was little to no occurrence of foot fungus. Something thought of as a foreign disease. To grow fungus you need a moist dark warm place such as a shoe. It should also be noted that in the bathrooms separate sandals used only in the bathroom were placed. Japanese are famous for being a clean people.

The result of the study was the barefoot kids had higher grades, much lower absenteeism, less frequency of colds, and enjoyed school more. Also vandalism was much lower. It seems barefoot kids don’t break things (woohoo). Japanese kids are required to clean their own schools. They learn team work, discipline, cleanliness, personal space responsibility and it reduces janitorial fees.

Japan is not the only culture to realize the benefits of going barefoot it would seem, studies of cultures that never wear and have never worn shoes have found no foot problems outside congenital and injuries. It seems there is less jarring of the back and less back problems with those raised barefoot.

More and more studies are alluding that natural and unshod is better. Allowing your children’s feet (and your own) the freedom to move freely and develop as they should is clearly the best option.

Tracy Byrne

Research Podiatrist for SKEANIE

The Foot Health Foundation

twitter @tracyabyrne

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