Shoes for little ones: Tips from a PT

Let's talk about those cute little feet and what shoes are recommended from a physical therapist standpoint.

Our feet hold our whole body up...think of them as the foundation of our body, like the foundation of a house! If your foundation is strong then most likely your house/body will carry you through movements without a lot of limitations! If your house foundation has a crack then your house might start to lean, crumble or fall! So, for the body, if your feet over pronate, or if you have issues with weak ankles or toe walking, then your body tries to compensate for that (use muscles you normally wouldn't use to do a skill) or it might have a hard time standing up or walking!

Here are a few fun facts about foot development and things to watch for once your little one starts taking steps!

  1. A baby has more cartilage than bone.
  2. Foot develops more around 2 years old.
  3. Once baby/toddler starts standing, that weight bearing starts forming more bone tissue.
  4. Arch gradually develops and may be more prominent around 5 years old.
  5. Watch for toe walking, in/out toeing, over pronation, low/high muscle tone- these might require additional support during standing and walking activities to provide support at ankles (foundation) so that trunk and leg muscles can become stronger.

There are many opinions and thoughts on standing or walking barefoot as a baby (typically start standing with support/weight bearing through legs over 7-8 months, pull to stand 8-10 months). If your little one is showing signs of walking, then barefoot is best (inside house, shoes to protect feet outside) to allow for muscles to develop, strengthen and develop arch support. Sometimes little ones need extra support (high top shoe with rigid sole and/or custom fit orthotic) to help them reach those milestones...and there is nothing wrong with that. They may only need them for a little while to help strengthen those muscles in a newly strong foundation!

Once your little one starts taking steps and walking, here are some tips on picking out shoes.

  1. Stiff heel cup
  2. Rigid in the middle (front and back of shoe can't touch when you try to bend the shoe)
  3. Good arch support (especially for older kids)

Please reach out for a physical therapist evaluation if you are concerned about your little one's feet or walking skills!

Whitney Castle, PT, DPT