Shoe Recommendations for Children

shoe recommendations for childrenExcited 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 new 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.

shoe recommendations for children

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:

  1. Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement with a stable base of support.
  2. Shoes should be made of leather or mesh to allow your baby’s feet to breathe comfortably.
  3. Shoes should have rubber soles for traction to prevent slipping or sliding.
  4. Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
  5. Base your shoe selection for children on the barefoot model.
  6. Shoes should have good shock absorption with durable soles as children participate in more high impact activities.

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.

Our Favorite Shoes Brands 

Pediped: Provides shoes that assist with healthy foot development.

Stride Rite: Offers shoes for growing children that are adjustable, durable and flexible.  

 KEEN: Makes well constructed shoe and sandal options with cushioning and support.

ASICSOffers great supportive sneaker with stable heel cup and arch support. 

New Balance: Makes stylish & supportive sneakers with excellent shock absorption.

Saucony: Provides great options for durability & shock absorption.

Billy: Offers inclusive styles that accommodate inserts and orthotics.

For more information about Shoe Recommendations for children with common Pediatric gait presentations, check out What a Difference a Shoe Makes!best shoes for childrenLearn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!

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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.

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  • Thanks for providing this list of shoes for both adults and children, there are so many choices on the market that it can be very difficult to choose one appropriate pair. Choosing the right shoe will now be much easier.

  • Choosing the right shoes for young children is surprisingly important. The AAP’s recommendations sound spot on, I will have to pay more attention to what shoes I buy for my kids. When children’s bodies are still developing, it’s extra important to get them the right equipment.

  • We loved keens for summer water play but had to hold them out the windows on the way home from school because they smelled SOOOOOO bad. Even after washing & sunshine air drying. Several parents in our school had the same complaint. This brand was common because delicate toes were covered but could still get wet. Any fixes, suggestions? Would love to go back to this brand.

    • We have not had that experience with the KEENs and my little guy gets them quite wet and dirty! Every few days I put them in the washing machine and then let them air dry. PediPed also makes a similar style sandal if you want to try: Best of luck in your sandal adventures!

      • I have a toddler with bilateral club feet. He is 2.5 years old still in the ponsetti bar at night. Any suggestions on shoes. Everything we try seems to not work after 6 months.

      • Hello, thanks a lot for a very useful article. May I bounce back on the plae brand subject please? I am a bit confused and annoyed:
        -confused because I am reading above that the barefoot model is best. Plae seems to fit to this… While some of the shoes pictured seems more rigid and so obviously more supportive…
        -annoyed because my 4 yo son has to get shoes for PE and he seems to only like those shoes.. for the style at least.
        May I ask ask for a deeper dive please? Shall I go for more rigid than that if I want to preserve my child health? What about the barefoot recommendation?
        Many thanks

        • Thank you so much for clarifying!
          I wish I could come and consult. But we are miles apart… My son’s feet are on the wide side but mostly he seems to have a high top of feet near the ankle.
          He is starting school in September but has been all his life in a nursery with no shoe policy. So, of course, he had shoes when playing in the garden but he has spent a lot of time barefoot. He is barefoot at home as well.
          At school, he will wear shoes all the time. So I was trying to build on his habits (and probably strong feet??) and gets the best shoes for him for every day and PE…
          May I ask for a recommendation please?
          Any help is welcome really.

  • I am a pediatric physical therapist and encounter many students with physical disabilities whose shoes do not FIT properly. In addition to the recommendations you have given for the type of shoe, could you offer suggestions and the need for proper fitting shoes? For example, I have had several children who toe-walk and they are wearing shoes that are simply too big for their feet. The shoes then tend to ‘slip’ off and I have found that they will often stay up on their toes as a way to help keep the shoe on their foot. I really feel that a proper fit is just as important (if not more importantt) than the material the shoes are made of. Thank you for this post.

  • Am I reading it incorrectly or did the author state that arches form by puberty in the 2nd paragraph, but later in the article under the “parts of the shoe” section, state by 6-8 years?

  • Nice Post! This is very helpful information for choosing the right shoe for kids provided by the dinopt. Thanks for sharing this list of Shoe Recommendations for both adults and children.

  • Is there anyway you could up date your shoe recommendations? It’s Aug 15, 2017 and a lot of the shoes you have posted aren’t sold anymore. I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thank you,

  • Admiring the time and energy you put into your website
    and detailed information you provide. It’s nice to
    come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same
    out of date rehashed material. Fantastic read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  • This is fantastic information – thank you! As any good parent, we are always trying to do and give our kids what is best to help their development (physically, emotionally and intellectually) and this is very helpful in giving them a leg, err foot/shoe, up. I am curious how you feel about brands such as Nike, Adidas and Reebok. Many thanks – much appreciated!!