When young children first learn how to walk, it is important for them to receive sensory information from their feet when the feet are touching the ground. Walking barefoot can also allow the child to develop their foot muscle strength and sense of balance. Hence why it’s good to be barefoot indoors. However, in outdoor environments, shoe wear can protect their feet from injuries and the heat from the ground, especially in the Australian summer.
Parents sometimes ask us what kind of shoes are good for toddlers. We would suggest you have your child’s shoes professionally fitted, i.e. each foot will be carefully measured for its length and width, if possible. Young children will grow out of their shoes very quickly as when they put weight on their feet, the bones and muscles of their feet will grow fast. Therefore, they may have to change their shoes every few months.
Here are some general tips for you when you choose shoes for your toddler:
- There should be a comfortable fit in the shoe length and width.
- There should be plenty of toe room.
- The shoe should be flexible specially near the toes. You can pick up a shoe and try to bend it near where the toes should be. A good shoe should bend near the ball of the foot to allow the child to push off on their foot when they walk.
- On the other hand, if the shoe is too flexible and you can bend it all over or even twist it easily, that means the shoe cannot provide adequate support to the foot.
- The front of the shoe should be wider than the heel as this is the nature shape of our feet. This helps to ensure the foot and heel are in a more neutral position.
- The heel cup (the part going around the back of the heel) should be firm to provide good support to the foot and keep the foot and heel in a neutral position.
- Shoelaces, buckles and Velcro are all good to stop too much movements of the foot inside the shoe. Slip-on shoes on the other hand do not allow for many adjustments.
- Natural materials allow your child’s feet to breath. Leather sometimes lasts longer than other synthetic materials.
- If you choose sandals for your child, we would suggest those with a heel cup, not just a strap around their heel as the heel cup can provide more support to their feet. Straps over the forefoot and toes also provides more support.
What about shoes for flat feet?
At present, there is no strong research evidence to support an arch support of the insole came with a shoe is beneficial for children who have flat feet or assist the development of their foot arch.
First of all, it is normal for young children to not have an arch on the inside of their foot like adults. In fact, in the first 2 years of age, their feet look flatter than adults or older children. It is when they continue to do more walking, the ligaments and muscles in their foot develop, the foot arch will gradually become more obvious and the fats pad around the arch area will be reduced making the foot arch more noticeable.
In general, around 6 years of age, children should have foot arches in both feet. Of course, if your child complains pain or discomfort when they are walking, it is better to ask your GP, paediatrician, Physiotherapist or podiatrist to have a good look at your child’s walking and their feet.
Please remember that more expensive shoes are not better than cheaper shoes. It’s important to feel the shoe, get your child’s foot measured and try the shoes prior to purchasing. Happy shoe shopping, let us know if you find any good shoe shops or brands!