Choosing the Best Shoes for Kids

Children | | June 8, 2010 at 7:26 am
Kids spend so much time on their feet, walking, running and playing. An active child takes an average of 20,000 steps per day! Parents often ask me what shoes are best for their kids. So, here are my tips:
  1. Choose footwear that is completely flat and widest at the ends of the toes (not just at the ball)
  2. Choose footwear that is flexible and lightweight.
  3. Avoid built-in “arch support” and other footwear “special features”
  4. Allow your kid to run around barefoot!
  • Flexibility: Almost everyone in the western world spends a majority of their waking hours in shoes, putting our children in cute little shoes before they’re even able to walk. Years of weight-bearing activity in footwear causes the shape of our feet to change. The feet of children are softer and more malleable than those of adults, and as such, they’re particularly susceptible to the pressures of shoes. Their young feet deform to fit the shoe!
  • Flat and wide: It is said that by the time our children are teenagers, only about one third of them will have normal feet. The good news is that these deformities and abnormalities can be prevented. Parents are in a wonderful position to help their children’s feet and bodies develop optimally. It’s simply a matter of allowing the feet to function in the way that nature intended. This means selecting footwear that does not, in any way, alter the foot. Such footwear should not elevate the heel or scrunch the toes together. It should not spring the toes upward.
  • Special features: The foot’s principle arch (the medical longitudinal arch) is an inherently strong and stable structure if the heel and forefoot are level with each other and the toes are spread. But careful with footwear features like arch support and pronation control can actually hinder the natural development of the foot, leading to future pain and other musculoskeletal problems.

Thumbs up on the shape of this pair of shoes.

Thumbs up!

  • Bare feet: The foot is naturally and brilliantly designed for optimal standing and locomotion if it is allowed to function in the way that nature intended. Conventional footwear actually hinders our natural foot structure and function, and over time, this can cause many problems with the feet and the rest of the body’s structure. Believe it or not, there is no scientific evidence that shoes are good for children and it’s okay to allow your child to spend some time barefoot. Feet are very strong and adaptable, and if given the opportunity, they can acclimate to a wide variety of surfaces and activities. This being said, always avoid surfaces that might be littered with broken glass, rusty nails or anything dangerous.

Shoes that fulfill all these criteria are surprisingly difficult to find for all but the very youngest members of our society. But your persistence in seeking these shoes for your kids will pay dividends in the appropriate and healthy development of your child’s feet. Happy shoe hunting!

Dr. Robyn Hughes.
Dr. Robyn R. Hughes is a naturopathic physician in Durham, North Carolina. She is a co-founder of Durham Natural Health, a clinic that provides natural primary healthcare for women, men, and children. Dr. Hughes’ specialties include natural foot care, sports medicine, women’s and men’s health, cardiology, and liver disease.
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