Most of a child’s life is spent in school. Unless your children are home schooled, this is likely where children will have the most trouble going barefoot, at least in the United States. In countries like Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, it is normal for students to be barefoot in class. Japan is another country where students also regularly go barefoot. In some areas, bare feet are even required for some classes like physical education as it is better for proper foot development. Barefoot students were not uncommon in the US in the days of one-room schoolhouses. Unfortunately, American society changed and thought, incorrectly, that kids must wear shoes at school.
In order to allow children to again be barefoot in school, it will take a lot of work by parents and other organizations. One family may be able to get special accommodations for their child to be allowed to be barefoot at school. With this happens, you can then encourage others to do the same. Examples such as the “no rules school” show that education and barefoot students do work together. Some schools specifically allow students to be barefoot in the school uniform policy.
For parents confronting school administrators, remember that your child’s health and education are ultimately your responsibility. Show research that has demonstrated barefoot is best for growing feet and benefits brain development. Individual expression of clothing and seeking religious exemptions are also ways to allow free feet in the classroom. If a child has autism, it may also help them to concentrate better without wearing footwear and be allowed at school. In order for these children to not stand out, the entire class should also be allowed to shed shoes. However, if a school will not allow bare feet in class, minimalist shoes are an alternative that is close to natural.
For further research, see these resources:
Hallux valgus in pre-school-aged children: the effects of too-short shoes on the hallux angle and the effects of going barefoot on podiatric health
How Children Benefit from Barefoot Learning
One way to improve classroom performance? Remove kids’ shoes.
School children with no shoes on ‘do better and behave better in the classroom’, research shows