Let’s talk shoes! I will admit, I’m a shoe girl, even the ones I know aren’t good for me. BUT when it comes to my daughter’s footwear, I’m pretty strict with what I put her in. Why? Because her foot is still developing, the foot that will support her for the rest of her life.
When we are born, our bones are soft and malleable, and over the first two years of life the bones harden, until we have a firm foot. But wait! My kiddo is older than 2 and I’m still fussy about what shoes she wears…why? Our foot, and gait (walking pattern) continues to develop up until 7 years of age when we have our adult gait pattern. So, she has a few years yet before I will stop being picky about her shoes.
So, what do I put her in?
First let me say that the recommendations that will follow are for typical children (no neurological, sensory or developmental diagnosis) with NO foot or gait abnormalities. *Look for future blog posts talking about atypical kiddos and abnormal gait patterns such as toe walking.
When we think that about our foot changing and maturing through until 7 years old, obviously our development and what we are doing is quite different throughout those years. Therefore, our shoe recommendations change depending on what stage we are in.
Pre-walkers, ie 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
Toddlers, who tend to use a lot of energy walking, should have a lightweight flexible shoe. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit fat little feet better. I think this is a bit of change from what kiddos have worn in the past. I know my first shoes were very stiff, firm leather high tops and I have had lots of comments from the older generations about not putting my child in “supportive” aka stiff shoes. When we are learning to walk, we learn a lot from feeling the floor under our feet, so flexible is key! Toddlers should have flat heels on any shoes and they ideally should go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors. I know this isn’t always possible – my daughter goes to a daycare where they are required to wear indoor “shoes”. So she is that kiddo who is still wearing leather Robeez inside all day.
For school aged kiddos, style and shoe fit is important with the main function being 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.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has some overarching recommendations on what to look for when buying shoes. Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement with a stable base; they should be made of leather or mesh to allow the foot to breathe and they should have good shock absorption with durable soles as children get into higher impact activities. They shouldn’t be stiff or compressive, as this may cause deformity, weakness and loss of mobility. In general, base your shoe selection for children (*typical children) on the barefoot model.
I do get questions on what specific brands I recommend. I honestly think it depends on the stage of development and what fits your child. Robeez and Momobaby are great for infants and toddlers. Pediped; Stride Rite; Keen; ASICS; New Balance and Saucony all have some great options for children.
If you have any concerns about your childs foot or walking pattern I urge you to speak to your paediatric physiotherapist as soon as possible. We want to ensure your child has the best foundation (their feet!) to support the rest of their development.