In an age said to be over-protective of children, it is refreshing to read that this country still has youngsters going barefoot.

Researchers have found a high proportion of our children and teenagers spend a lot of their time in bare feet. A survey at Westlake Boys High School on North Shore found almost half the students could be described as "habitually barefoot".

Their findings challenge the notion that bare feet is a sign of poverty. Though internationally that might be the case — in Germany all children are invariably in shoes, in South Africa 90 per cent are usually barefoot — in New Zealand it appears to be a cultural preference.

This did not surprise one of the researchers, Dr Lisa MacKay of AUT, who says, "As a mother of two I'm often reminding my kids to put their shoes on before heading out of the house." Most parents do that. Perhaps they should not.


The research points to stronger feet and a healthier running style in those who preferred to do their physical education and athletics in bare feet.

It would be interesting to know how these findings relate to that familiar Kiwi footwear icon, the jandal. Nobody would be surprised to learn a high proportion of us spend much of our summer with those flapping on our feet, but they impose a certain rigidity on the feet when walking.

In jandals we can go down the street, in bare feet we do not feel dressed. But bare is probably better.