Barefoot isles

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The Story of How Artistic Beetles Improve Children's Feet

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“Natural gait is biomechanically impossible for any shoe-wearing person,” wrote Dr. William A. Rossi in a 1999 article in Podiatry Management. “It took 4 million years to develop our unique human foot and our consequent distinctive form of gait, a remarkable feat of bioengineering. Yet, in only a few thousand years, and with one carelessly designed instrument, our shoes, we have warped the pure anatomical form of human gait, obstructing its engineering efficiency, afflicting it with strains and stresses and denying it its natural grace of form and ease of movement head to foot.”

How it works

 

The bones in a child’s foot are not fully formed until the teenage years: shoes deform and weaken growing feet, compromising foot health and natural movement ability. Beyond that padding takes away the sensory feedback from feet to brain and hampers brain development. We try to ‘protect’ growing feet by putting them in ‘normal’ shoes, without realising that most shoes deform the natural shape of a child’s foot reducing stability. When toes are pressed together from footwear that doesn’t allow toes spread, feet begin to turn outwards to try and get stability. Children then learn to walk uncomfortably using their arches to push off with, instead of their toes.   Shoes also weaken the hundreds of muscles and tendons in the foot. A child needs to exercise their feet through the natural acts of twisting, turning, gripping, flexing and rolling.

More than 70% of our brains information comes from the 200,000 nerve endings in the soles of the feet. Cushioned soles, that supposedly keep kids’ feet safe, actually result in removing the important sensory link between the feet and the brain and therefore, less skilful movement. A strong healthy foot is the foundation of natural movement. Your big toe, muscles and nerves work together to help you move in a healthy way. Children greatly benefit from walking barefoot on a relief surface to foster strong and capable feet.   

So, what can be done at home? We can at least give our feet the smallest share of their true function, such as variety of surfaces, to make up for the deficit of roughness.   But in the city, especially in wintertime, you won't go far. What's more, for the most part, there is no time to look for safe rough surface without broken glass or even disposed syringes around. From a practical point of view, it is hardly possible to create an area for regular natural barefooting on rough surfaces anywhere but home. The raised area for regular walking in one's house shall be a standard of healthy surfaces for all of the family. It shall be part of the culture of healthy lifestyles, the same as brushing your teeth every day.   

A new standard of a walking surface at my home

There is plenty of massaging and acupressure yoga mats. I was puzzled at their densely seated bulges of different height, often too sharp even for an adult, and their wooden rolls or plastic pebble immitators. The floor mats my daughter and I managed to test offered few opportunities to change the position of feet as to horizontal surface, as it usually happens in the orthopedic treatment and preventive physical exercises recommended by experts. Because of the many toeholds of little height difference between the bulges and the base, the body turned out to be weak. That is why many leg muscles did not get as active on such mats as needed. The ligaments hardly moved. The points on the foot were getting massaged. That's it! In most cases, massage is useful, but you should not expect that muscles and ligaments are going to work out. It is exactly what is needed to develop the arch of the foot. I thought hard. Then, I decided to make mats for my daughter myself. I shifted focus from acupressure to a more expressed orthopaedic effect combined with fun.

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All miniatures and the rugs are made by hand

 

Another experience I got is that daily 15 min routine physical exercise did not make a kid enthusiastic. Also, I got tired of playing up every time. It takes years for feet to develop, though. In this case, the use of the mat should naturally and non-intrusively help train the feet and save time and effort of parents.

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Dance break :)

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Please, note that according to modern approach of international orthopedic schools, insoles are not a panacea for mobile flat foot condition. We wear them where non-flat surfaces cannot be accessed. The mat is supposed to always be "on the way" for a child, to make up for the lack of natural roughness difficult to find in the city all year round.


The psychological effect

Some massage mats are unsteady when pulled, the base would wrinkle. I decided to make the mats heavier and more steady on the floor. The commercial mats look rather poor in reality, as compared to the interior pictures. A child has a natural need to be found around interesting things. In our case, these are the mats with pictures, beetles, funny faces. Some of them are even getting more popular than others. They have a different psychologic effect and feel positive. The use of the mat looks like play time, rather than boring mandatory exercising session. By the way, as much as the child, I also need cozy reassuring things around that make me feel good and inspired.First floor mats were tested by my family. Later it tried them with friends and the people I knew. Then, there was time for other people. The kids were just excited. They gladly stepped on the mats, you could not send them away. But it was not only about kids, adults turned out to like the kind of things, too. They just have not seen them before. Tired at work in the end of the day, with loads of psychological negative to add to physical fatigue, they were not merely working out their feet but also boosting their mood. It feels like when you look at positive and friendly images and smile back, the same as you react to lovely toys in the store.

 

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“Why do you use the striped potato beetles? Why not the ladybird beetles?”  - you could ask. “Because the ladybird beetles are the children's favorites,” – I would answer. And it always flew up into the sky from your small finger. You can't trample it with your foot, can you? And a striped potato beetle is a pest, no matter how you put it. However, among my beetles there are no pure antagonists. They all resemble much of a comic trio: a “Coward”, a “Dummy”, and a “Loser”. And each beetle has its unique face. If you look steady and long enough on the mat from above, you can merely see the beetles illusively “move”)). And they all are heading towards one center – bright and ripe potato! Trample the striped! Save the harvest!

 

Environment-friendly  

A modern day person who is tired of rubber, plastic and other artificial surrogates longs for natural and safe materials whenever possible. That is why the mats are made of jute or flax fabric, gypsum, safe paint, and eco-finish.

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The benefits for adults

 1. Greater balance.The role of the developed vestibular apparatus and fit muscles is very important in advanced age. For seniors this is critical, because one fall or hip fracture can lead to a gradual decline in health. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of Americans aged 65 + fall down each year. Falling down is the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults. Falls result in more than 2.3 million fall injuries treated in emergency departments, including over 650,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 deaths. Balance disorders and weakness are common causes of falls in the elderly. Walking on a cobblestone surface resulted in improvements in balance and physical performance among adults over 60, as well as a significant reduction in blood pressure. 

 2. Healthier feet.​The body works on the use it or lose it principle. Use something, you get to keep it. Don’t use it, and it atrophies. When people start going barefoot on uneven surface their feet reawaken and begin to strengthen again. 

 3. The corollary to this is less foot conditions.​As the feet strengthen, plantar fasciitis diminishes, foot neuromas go away, bunions begin to dissipate and other conditions such as hammertoes go away. Even the arthritic foot begins to slowly heal itself as it develops greater strength, flexibility, and blood flow. Victoria Beckham did not know about these rugs and "has lost her FEET!". 

4. ​We’ve all learned an unhealthy habit, or pronounced pelvic-tilt from a lifetime spent in a traditional shoe. The typical running or walking shoe isn’t just a shoe, it’s a high-heel, sporting a heel of 1-2 inches (if not more) in height. To keep from falling over we’re forced to get our butts back and bend forward at the waist, straining our hamstrings, lower back, upper back, shoulders, and neck. It also puts a lot of force on our hips, knees and feet when we run. Once we’re out of a shoe we can begin to reverse this. By feeling the ground the nerve endings on the bottom of our feet begin to tell us that we’re leaning or tilting forward, or that we’re bending forward at the waist. With practice we run, walk, and even stand with better posture, more like a dancer or a model. Not only do we look better and get taller, but we greatly reduce all of the stress and strain on our bodies.

To sum up:

Rough surface walking helps duly develop muscular-ligamentous system and the skeleton of children. For adults, it helps to keep fit and prevent problems in the musculoskeletal system. It can help reduce blood pressure and train the vestibular apparatus.

Bas-relief mats have unique features:

 (a) they have blunt pebbles, with expressed level difference to better train foot muscles, toe muscles and legs in general.

 (b) they are equipped with cushion base that can sufficiently absorb some pressure on the joints and makes your walking feel like stepping on the ground; 

(c) they ensure regular impact that works in all seasons, in all weathers, and in busy schedules; 

(d) they improve your coordination due to three-dimensional perception. In addition to visual and vestibular information, bulges help the brain get more diverse signals from proprioceptive sensors, rather than in shoes, or barefoot on flat surface. 

(e) they are more natural and accessible in use as compared to special training devices. They are an integral part of exercises. It saves time and parents' temper. 

(f) they contain important elements of art therapy - play of imagination, captivation, and color therapy. 

(g) eco-friendly, base cover is made of natural jute or flax, artisic pebbles are made of gypsum painted with water based paint and varnish 

(h) they are handmade - sewing, molding, painting, etc.

The mats are not a magic pill for all diseases. But they can surely help prevent problems.

 

One does not have to wait for a sound of thunder to believe in wonder. An integrated approach, regularity and systematic application can give much bigger results – health of the system in general. For example, an elegant posture, gracious gait, healthy brain blood circulation, etc.I'm sure that my floor mats can be useful and enjoyable not olny for my family but also could help other people and be a true decoration of their homes.