Wikler's Quest for Healthy Children's Feet
In a recent blog post about Barefoot Pioneers, we recognized some of the people who stood up against popular opinion to show the world the benefits of natural foot function and the dangers of restrictive, inhibiting shoes. One of the pioneers we mentioned, Dr. Simon J. Wikler, seems to be lesser known than the rest. We thought he deserved a little more attention, especially for the contribution he made to curing and preventing foot health problems in children.
In 1933, Wikler graduated from Temple University School of Chiropody (now known as podiatry) and became a foot specialist. At that time, the practice of treating foot injuries focused on paring corns and callouses, padding sore feet and prescribing arch supports. Wikler stood out from his fellow chiropodists when he sought the source of foot injuries with the hope of curing them rather than just treating the symptoms. The attitude of his peers was summed up by one of his colleagues, an older physician who told him "Foot troubles are chronic conditions people have had for a long time… You'll waste your time trying to find their cause and cure."
Wikler's illustrations of unhealthy feet vs. healthy feet.
Despite this attitude, Wikler persisted with his research into the 1940s and 1950s, which involved interviewing thousands of people and studying a variety of cultures to compare foot health and habits that affect it. He considered existing theories that static electricity, water and sleeping with toes facing north could lead to healthy feet. The answer finally came to him through one of his patients, a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. The boy's feet were so wide that even the widest commercially-available shoes his parents could find would not allow his toes to spread. The boy suffered from fallen arches, walked awkwardly, tired frequently and fell often.
On his journeys abroad, Wikler met many people with strong, healthy feet who routinely walked and worked barefoot. He began to wonder if there could be a connection and advised the boy's mother to let the child go without shoes for the next few months. She agreed, and Wikler kept the boy under close observation to see the effects. The results amazed him:
"Going barefoot had made this boy's toe area broader and stronger. When he stood, his stronger toes were now able to spread out, giving him a broad forward area on which to support his weight. Now he used his toes in standing and walking—he would even stand on his toes frequently while playing. His fallen arches were cured. With better foot balance, he rarely fell. He no longer begged to be carried, and he seemed tireless in his activities."
Wikler ran with this new theory and spent the next ten years examining thousands of feet and performing tests in accredited hospitals. The results of his labor led him to this conclusion: "THE MAJOR CAUSE OF FOOT TROUBLE IS THE TYPE OF SHOES WE WEAR."
In 1961, Wikler published his findings in Take Off Your Shoes and Walk. The book explained his research, documented the history of how unhealthy footwear became prevalent in our society and provided extensive advice on how foot pain can be prevented and treated with less constrictive footwear or bare feet. The book focused primarily on developing children's feet and gave hope to many parents who saw their kids walking in pain. Wikler's recommendations are modified for various age groups from infants and toddlers to older walkers. These early ages, he believed, are when children are most vulnerable to foot deformities from inappropriate footwear, and also the best time to correct and prevent injury.
Here is some of Wiklers advice for children:
- "Shoes that are flexible, roomy, and simply made are best. Remember, children's toes and feet must be allowed to grow naturally without restrictions and pressures."
- "For infants, shoes without raised heels are the most desirable."
- "Any shoes with arch support features are to be avoided."
- "Occasionally one finds the old-style cowboy-boot-type shoes with their pointed toes. Do not under any circumstances purchase these."
- "Going barefoot is a 'must' for young children"
All of these beliefs contradicted the views held by both doctors and the footwear industry of his day, and Wikler admitted often that finding healthy footwear for children in the 1960s was extremely challenging.
Fortunately for us, Wikler's beliefs are now commonplace. Although there are still many companies making rigid, constricting footwear for children, it is not difficult to find options for thin and flexible shoes. The idea that minimal shoes are best for kids has been popular for decades (Soft Star has been doing it since 1984), long before the barefoot running movement of the past few years, and this is largely the result of Wikler's work and his willingness to dissent against popular opinion.
Sadly, Take Off Your Shoes and Walk has long been out of print, but you can read very thorough fair-use excerpts of it at unshod.org.
This post was posted in Family, Foot Health and was tagged with barefoot, feet, foot, health, history, kids, children, arch, simon, wikler, take off your shoes and walk, fallen, support, podiatrist, chiropodist, foot doctor
- The Health Dangers of Restrictive Footwear: Three Tips for Taking Back Your Toes
- Need to Spice Up Your Shoes? Introducing a Rainbow of New Colors!
- Great Outdoors GIVEAWAY! Enter to Win a Camping Prize Package
- Biomechanist and Author Katy Bowman Visits Soft Star Shoes
- 8 Benefits of Walking and Running Barefoot on Sand
- Top 10 Balance Games for Kids... of All Ages!
- Time to Play! Elves Have Fun and Get Creative at Spring 2015 Playday
- Snazzy New Colors for Buttercups and Ballerines
- GIVEAWAY: Diapers, Blocks and Shoes... Oh My! Enter to Win Our New Baby Prize Package
- Soft Star Style Bulletin: Chukkas Are Coming!
- We're Staging a Flip-Flop Intervention!
- ►May 2015 (4)
- Work Hard, Play Harder…Run Hardest?
- Transitioning to Barefoot Health PLUS RunAmoc Giveaway!
- UFC Champion Carlos Condit Tries Soft Star Shoes
- Mom and Career Elf
- Earth Day Giveaway: Celebrate Your Favorite Planet with Sustainable Goodies!
- Every Day is Bike-to-Work Day
- Happy National Pet Day! Can You Guess Which Pets Belong to Our Elves?
- ►March 2015 (6)
- ►February 2015 (2)
- ►January 2015 (5)
- ►July 2015 (5)
- ►December 2014 (5)
- Introducing One of a Kind Shoes - Same Day Shipping with No Design-Your-Own Fees
- More Than Meets the Eye: Tim's Handmade Transformers Shoes
- Help Families in Need by Sharing What Makes you Thankful!
- Travel GIVEAWAY: Win a Free Pair of Rogue Shoes + a Travel Bag from RAGGEDedge Gear!
- Shopping Online? Finding Your Shoe Size Just Got Faster, Easier and More Accurate!
- 22-Year-Old Leather Moccasins Still Looking Good!
- Show Us Your BEST Soft Star Halloween Costume!
- Mindful Running Interview with Barefoot Guru Michael Sandler
- Show Your Team Colors! Tim's Special OSU Beaver Football Shoes
- Treatment and Removal of Plantar Warts - Kids' Foot Health
- Introducing SUPER SWATCHES for Local Soft Star Customers
- The History of Tassels—Fitting Tassels Now Available on the Soft Star Website
- Time for Our HALLOWEEN CONTEST: Win Handmade Shoes to Match Your Costume!
- BIG NEWS: Soft Star's New Website and New Shoe Visualizer
- "Boss of the Moss" Mick Dodge Wears Soft Star Shoes on National Geographic Series
- Need Spectacular Shoes for Fall? Introducing Autumn Moccasins!
- BATTLE FOR THE INTERNET: Help Small Businesses by Speaking Up for Net Neutrality
- ►August 2014 (3)
- ►July 2014 (4)
- ►June 2014 (3)
- ►May 2014 (5)
- ►April 2014 (3)
- ►March 2014 (3)
- ►February 2014 (3)
- ►January 2014 (2)
- ►December 2013 (6)
- Happy Thanksgiving! Holiday Shopping Tips and Ideas from the Elves
- GIVEAWAY! One-of-a-Kind Green Merry Mocs
- 2013 Holiday Shipping for Soft Star Shoes
- Tips for Choosing Minimalist Boots and Winter Shoes
- GIVEAWAY: Win a Free Pair of Very Unique Merry Mocs!
- We Have a Winner for Our Halloween Costume Contest!
- Help Us Pick a New Leather Color
- Shoe Artisans Share New Ideas at the Soft Star Workshop
- Heartfelt Obituary for Red Dash
- Monkeys and Elves Unite! Soft Star Teams Up with Luna Sandals
- Soft Star Halloween Costume Photo Contest… and a Secret from the Elves
- Knee Arthritis? Change Your Shoes for Prevention and Treatment
- We Have a Sweepstakes Winner! And More to Come...
- ►September 2013 (5)
- ►August 2013 (5)
- ►July 2013 (5)
- ►June 2013 (4)
- Should Trail Shoes Be Thicker Than Street Shoes? Maybe Not...
- Soft Star Survey: Receive a Free $5 Gift Card and a Chance to Win $100 Cash!
- Elves Getting Dirty! Soft Star Volunteers at SAGE Community Gardens
- First Sneak Peek at the New Soft Star Ballet Flat!
- Maker's Wild Documentary: Go Behind the Scenes at Soft Star Shoes
- Are High Heels Giving You Hammer Toes? Tips for Prevention and Treatment
- Intrigued by Barefoot Running? Start this Weekend with International Barefoot Running Day!
- Are Those Shoes Made of Wood?
- Wikler's Quest for Healthy Children's Feet
- Michael Sandler Visit and Workshop – Barefoot Walking Book Review and GIVEAWAY!
- Thinking of Boston
- How Fast Do Children's Feet Grow?
- Barefoot Pioneers: the People Who Taught Us "Barefoot is Best"
- Caballo Blanco's Legacy Lives On: Tom Norwood Returns from Copper Canyon
- Book Review: Overthinking the Marathon by Ray Charbonneau
- Reinventing the Hammer: OSU Students Bring Their Skills to Soft Star
- An Olympic Thank You! Help Missy Franklin Swim for MS
- The Mighty Arch, Part 2: Strengthen Your Arches to Treat and Prevent Foot Pain
- Running Green: Soft Star Shoes at the Portland Shamrock Run
- Winter Playday at the Soft Star Workshop
- The Mighty Arch, Part 1: A Natural Cure for Plantar Fasciitis?
- ►February 2013 (4)
- ►January 2013 (1)
- ►December 2012 (5)
- A Barefoot Running Book for Kids (Includes Free Lesson in Consumerism) + GIVEAWAY!
- Happy Thanksgiving! Turkey Shoes and Small Business
- Infographic: How to Choose Barefoot Shoes
- Rally 4 Jillie!
- Gifts for Her this Holiday Season - Fitting Tassels
- Sneak Peek at New Shoes for Women and Men - Vote for a Name!
- ►October 2012 (6)
- ►September 2012 (3)
- ►August 2012 (3)
- ►June 2012 (3)
- ►May 2012 (2)
- ►April 2012 (2)
- ►March 2012 (1)
- ►February 2012 (3)
- ►January 2012 (2)
- ►December 2011 (4)
- ►November 2011 (3)
- ►October 2011 (3)
- ►September 2011 (4)
- ►August 2011 (4)
- ►July 2011 (5)
- ►June 2011 (3)
- ►May 2011 (5)
- ►April 2011 (3)
- ►March 2011 (2)
- ►February 2011 (4)
- ►January 2011 (3)
- ►November 2010 (4)
- ►October 2010 (2)
- ►August 2010 (2)
- ►July 2010 (1)
- ►May 2010 (3)
- ►April 2010 (4)
- ►March 2010 (3)
- ►February 2010 (9)
- ►January 2010 (1)
- ►December 2009 (3)
- ►November 2009 (2)
- ►October 2009 (5)
- ►September 2009 (3)
- ►August 2009 (3)
- ►July 2009 (2)
- ►June 2009 (3)
- ►May 2009 (3)
- ►April 2009 (2)
- ►March 2009 (6)
- ►February 2009 (2)
- ►January 2009 (4)
- ►December 2008 (3)
- ►November 2008 (4)
- ►October 2008 (4)
- ►August 2008 (4)
- ►July 2008 (2)
- ►June 2008 (4)
- ►May 2008 (4)
- ►April 2008 (7)
- ►March 2008 (2)
- ►February 2008 (2)
- ►January 2008 (4)
- ►November 2007 (2)
- ►October 2007 (5)
- ►September 2007 (2)
- ►August 2007 (2)
- ►July 2007 (3)
- ►June 2007 (2)
- ►May 2007 (2)
- ►April 2007 (2)
- ►March 2007 (4)
- ►February 2007 (2)
- ►January 2007 (2)
- ►December 2006 (1)
- ►November 2006 (4)
- ►October 2006 (3)
- ►September 2006 (4)
- ►August 2006 (5)
- ►July 2006 (4)
- ►June 2006 (5)