Excited to welcome back Dr. Sneha Gosalia, Pediatric Physical Therapist and co-Founder of Big Leaps Pediatric Therapy in Stanford, CT. In her latest post she offers some great information for families and therapists alike on the important topic of Shoe Recommendations for Children:
Once your baby starts cruising along furniture to taking their first few steps, it is important to think about what shoes to buy for your little walker. The foot is a complex structure comprised of 26 bones. These bones are designed to support the entire body, adapt to uneven surfaces and absorb shock with each step. A baby’s foot contains more cartilage than bone. Although the structure of the foot develops fully by 2 years of age, the bones themselves do not fully develop and harden until around 18 years of age.
In young children the arch will usually not be visible or developed for the first 2 years and even then it is not fully developed. In the early years of childhood, there is a “fat” pad in the arch area of the foot, which gives the appearance of a flat foot, but this is not the case as it offers a natural arch support.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed shoe recommendations for children to help you find shoes that are helpful and not harmful as your little one continues learning to walk. Flexible, non-skid or skid-resistant soles are one of the most important features to look for in a baby shoe. Children should be wearing shoes that are flexible and allow the foot to bend and move as though the child is barefoot. You also want to make sure your baby’s shoes fit correctly and are not too small.
Children learn to walk by gripping their toes on the ground, as they build intrinsic strength of their foot and arch. So at home, it is advised to leave your child barefoot to promote natural foot development. However, when surfaces are uneven, shoes should be worn to protect their feet.
The AAP recommends the following when considering shoe recommendations for children:
- Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement with a stable base of support.
- Shoes should be made of leather or mesh to allow your baby’s feet to breathe comfortably.
- Shoes should have rubber soles for traction to prevent slipping or sliding.
- Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
- Base your shoe selection for children on the barefoot model.
- Shoes should have good shock absorption with durable soles as children participate in more high impact activities.
The Make of a Shoe
The shoe is constructed of four parts: the upper part, the insole, the outer sole, and the heel.
- The Upper Part: should be made of leather, canvas, or the newer mesh materials. Children’s feet perspire a lot and the upper part of their shoes should be made of breathable materials. Leather or canvas allows the foot to breathe.
- The Insole: should be made of absorbent material. Padded insoles are fine but most children do not need a special arch support. All toddlers younger than 16 months have flat feet and fully develop an arch by the age of 6–8 years.
- The Outer Sole: provides traction, cushioning, and flexibility to the shoe. Flat outer soles make it easier to begin walking.
- The Heel: are not necessary for toddlers. Older children can wear shoes with heels but they should not be bigger than one inch as this can cause the foot to slide forward, cramping the toes against the shoe.
Shoe Recommendations for Children
- Pre-Walking Shoe: Certain types of shoes are appropriate for your child’s age. Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They need booties or pre-walking shoes that do not bind their feet. The shoe should be flexible rather than providing a rigid support, and it’s very important that the shoe be shaped like the child’s foot. The function of a shoe at this age is warmth and protection.
- Toddler Shoes: Choose a lightweight shoe as children at this age, tend to use a lot of energy walking. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit little feet better. Toddlers can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors.
- School-Age Children’s Shoes: Style and shoe fit is important for school-age children. Their main function is shock absorption and protection. At this age, they can choose from a variety of options including athletic shoes, sandals, hiking shoes, etc. It is very important to wear the right shoes for the right activity to prevent injury. Look for reasonably priced, flexible, well-ventilated shoes that allow plenty of room for growth.
Let’s explore which shoe brands are best for your children!
Robeez: The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommends Robeez because the company’s shoes promote natural foot function. These shoes are made of high-quality leather, are flexible and support healthy foot development for infants and toddlers.
Momobaby: These shoes offers a wide variety of rubber-soled shoes made of genuine leather. The APMA also recommends Momobaby for infants and toddlers as they are lightweight, breathable, comfortable and flexible.
Pediped: APMA recognized Pediped shoes as beneficial for a child’s growing feet. Our top PediPed picks are: PediPed Mars Flex is a great athletic shoe option. The PediPed Flex Boulder is a supportive boot option for the colder weather, and the PediPed Flex Dakota is a cute and supportive Mary Jane option!
Stride Rite: Stride Rite offers shoes for baby’s first steps that are adjustable, durable and flexible. They are built to encourage natural movement. Our top Stride Rite picks are: Stride Rite Propel 2, Made 2 Play Ian, Artin Sneaker and the Made 2 Play Sandal!
New Balance: Our favorite New Balance options include: New Balance 455, New Balance KV890 and New Balance KV790V6 are great options for toddlers, New Balance KV690P offers nice support for pre-school/school age kids as well as the New Balance KV881!
For more information about shoe recommendations for children with common Pediatric gait presentations (such as Flat Feet, Idiopathic Toe Walking, and In-Toeing) check out What a Difference a Shoe Makes!
Learn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!
1. Hoekelman RA, Chianese, MJ. Presenting Signs and Symptoms. In: McInerny TK, Adam HM, Campbell DE (eds.) American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care, 5th edition, American Academy of Pediatrics, Elk Grove Village, IL, 2009, p. 4. Walther M, Herold D, Sinderhauf A, Morrison R.
2. Children sport shoes–a systematic review of current literature. Foot Ankle Surg. 2008; 14(4):180-9.
3. Wegener C, Hunt AE, Vanwanseele B, Burns J, Smith RM. Effect of children’s shoes on gait: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Foot Ankle Res. 2011 Jan; 4:3.