I get a lot of questions about the boys soft sole shoes. The post has moved far to far down Facebook to scroll and find it so I thought I’d write this for the website, to share what they are and why we love them, and share some interesting things I’ve learnt along the way.

Shoes like this are terrible too. But oh so sexy (me, pre-kids)

Before Ziggy was born, I bought him shoes. Shoes are my thing. Pre-kids my heel collection would make any ankle cry. One day, scouring the opshop I found the coolest cutest pair of Adidas sneakers. I was stoked. My baby was going to have the coolest feet ever.

He never wore them.

Because as I found out, bare feet are the best thing for little feet as they grow. Little feet need to be able to feel the ground. Little toes need to be able to grasp and hold as they learn to walk, to splay and bend and move with the contours of the ground.

And heavy, hard shoes like these cute as fuck, little Adidas sneakers don’t allow little feet to do any of those things.

The middle pair of shoes were the first I bought, and the only ones he never wore.

But with bees,  a lawn covered in daisys and chook shit everywhere, and as lovely as letting him roam barefoot all day long sounded, daily bee-stings and shit cakes toes are not on my list of free-range parenting goals. I wanted a show that was as close to barefoot as possible, that wasn’t going to bankrupt me in the process.  But I had no idea if they existed.

Until one day, when a mum who followed us on Facebook, sent Ziggy his first ever pair of handmade Soft Sole Shoes.

Purple jumper knitted by my nana and purple shoes to match by Meshell

What what shoes? Soft Sole shoes. They’re exactly what they say they are.  A shoe with a soft sole. They are light, they have flexibility and give, they protect from stones and bees. They are often handmade, and there are some very talented sewers out there who custom make them with fabric of your choice.

Fabric shoes? But, don’t they get dirty? Why yes they do, and they’re easy to throw in the wash and hang out to dry.

But, don’t they get wet? Why yes they do. There’s no way around that, but any show (except a gumboot) gets wet in puddles.

Do they provide much protection? Well, provided our babies aren’t running high-speed down gravel roads, or climbing razor sharp rocks at the beach, yeah, from your day to day ‘walking on all sorts of stuff’ excursions, they work perfectly.

And they’re beautiful.

But more importantly,  they allow the foot to move and bend and spread in a natural way.

Look how heavy a conventional shoe is compared to a soft sole.

Have you heard of the Chinese custom of Foot-binding? Back in the 19th century, small feet were a symbol of beauty and high status, and as babies, female feet were bound tightly to alter their shape as they grew. Google it.

The photos are pretty hard to look at aye, many people will go ‘oh that’s so gross! Who would do that to a baby’s foot?”

We do. We do it every day. Yeah sure it’s not as severe as the Chinese custom, but every day that we stuff our kids feet into hard sole, narrow toed shoes, we’re essentially modifying the natural forming of their foot.

You will never look at the toe end of a shoe the same again.

Have a look at a babies foot. See how rectangular it is. See how wide it is from toe to toe. Now look at your foot. Chances are, your foot is much narrower than your baby’s foot, your toes taper on an angle. Now look at your shoes. #lightbulbmoment

Ideally, to allow our feet to grow the way they should, to provide the optimal support and base for, oh, you know – the rest of our body – we should leave them alone until our 20’s. No narrow shoes, no hard soles. Barefeet if you can, or soft soles.

Out and about in his soft sole shoes.

Of course, no one does that, and if you saw a photo of a naturally formed foot, with its wide sole, and spread toes, you’d think it was ugly compared to the slim tapered feet we’re used to. But, the slim tapered feet we have, are not actually the best feet for our body. And given our feet are quite literally the foundations of our body, I think it’s important to give them the best possible start to life.

Look at these delicious pudgy baby feet!

Looking at my babies feet, looking at how wide and plump they were, and how hard and angled the toes of many shoes were, I decided to keep Ziggy (and now Jagger) in soft soled shoes as much as I can. They’re better for their feet, and they are really bloody cute. And maybe also cause I can get them custom made to match our carriers.

Or to match each other.

It’s getting harder now Ziggy is older. He’s nearly 4, and wants ‘cool shoes’ like the kids at kindy. Also, being wet and winter, he wants to wear his gumboots all the time, and do it all himself, so he often has them on the wrong feet. As a result, his feet have started to deform. See the rubbing on his small toes, and the bump at the knuckle of his big toe?

What my childs feet look like after a few days in ‘normal’ shoes.

We do have 2 pairs of soft soles that still fit him, and he wears them a lot. Kindy calls them ‘slippers’, he’s the only child there with shoes like that. I’ve been looking at alternative options for him, but most brands are stupidly expensive, and I can’t drop $80+ on shoes he’s going to outgrow in a few months. So we’ve compromised with the lightest, mesh weave sneakers we can find in normal shoe shops for now.

And of course, whatever Ziggy has his younger brother wants – so it’s not uncommon to see Jagger prancing about in shoes three sizes too big.

So we make sure we’re mindful of it. And if he puts them on the wrong feet we correct them, and encourage bare feet or socks only as much as we can.

Because their feet still have so much growing to so, and we want them to develop as naturally as possible while they do so.

Soft soles come in a range of sole options, like suede and leather.

If you’re interested to read more about feet and ruining them with conventional shoes, this is an interesting article. It’s where I first saw what a foot ‘should’ grow to look like if it’s left alone, and I can say I have never seen a foot like that in my life because I live in a culture where ‘slim’ shoes are normal, and we torture our poor feet every day.

We get our soft sole shoes from Meshell, and Soul. (With Soul the code raisingziggy gets a discount but considering postage to NZ you’re better off buying locally). Lilypie Bags has also started making them.

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