Saturday, December 3, 2022

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For these families, reuniting with the world around them was a journey that started from the feet up

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When Jennifer Chilton and Graeme Thirde were looking at nurseries for their eldest daughter, Imogen, they quickly realised that the traditional approach to early education wasn’t for them. “We didn’t want her to be stuck indoors all the time,” says Chilton, an IT consultant from London.

We wanted her to be able to run around outside and climb and develop confidence in her body and the way it interacts with her surroundings.

Come Back To Nature

Finding a nursery called Little Forest Folk, which encourages children to learn by immersing themselves in the outdoors, was the first step on a path to the family reconnecting with the natural world on a more meaningful level.

Imogen, now seven, and her sister Florence, six, have continued their outdoor education at an independent primary school set in three acres of beautiful National Trust grounds. “We wanted to go back to basics with the way we raise the girls,” says Chilton. “When we were growing up we were always outdoors, but most children today no longer have that opportunity.”

For all four family members, this desire to live closer to nature is reflected in their choice of footwear. “We all wear Vivobarefoot shoes and absolutely love them,” says Thirde, who spent nine years in the army before retraining as a garden designer. “When you’re wearing them, you’re experiencing a connection with the ground the way we were intended to.”

“Vivos feel like she’s slipping her foot into a sock; there’s no pressure on her toes, or seams inside. She absolutely loves them.”

Beyond that, knowing their daughters’ feet aren’t being constrained by their shoes as they run, climb and play amid trees, fields and wildlife at the school they attend fits in with Chilton and Thirde’s philosophy of how they want their daughters to grow up.

Find Happiness on Your Own with The Ones You Love

“We want the girls to have the stress-relieving benefits of being in nature, and Vivos fit perfectly with that,” says Chilton.

When they wear their shoes, I know they’re using their feet properly. And they can barely feel the shoes, which helps them really lose themselves in their environment.

Giles Hutchins, his wife Star and daughters Lilly-Belle and Hazel are another family dedicated to living in harmony with the natural world. For the past two years, they have lived in 60 acres of ancient woodland in West Sussex, with chickens and a vegetable plot.

The woodland is where Hutchins, an author, strategist and coach, runs his business, The Future Fit Leadership Academy, taking leaders through transformative experiences in nature to help them transform their companies into “regenerative, life-affirming” organisations.

“We go off into the woods and I encourage them to notice the details of nature – the trees, the birdsong, the smell,” he says. “By the time we reach the main area, where they sit and talk and listen, they’re in a different space mentally, which they usually find means they have a clearer awareness of their fears, and personal and organisational challenges.”

Before he tried his first pair of Vivobarefoot shoes, Hutchins says he’d never considered the impact of traditional shoes on our feet. But once he did, the revelation was instant. “I realised that we’ve been lessening our connection with nature all this time, as well as deforming our feet and those of our children,” he says.

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