Choosing Kids Shoes: Healthy, Minimalist Footwear for Children

Hey Guys. So we have a lot of parents bringing their
children into SoleFit, and one of their primary concerns is often ‘how do they find shoes
for their kids feet?’. And, we thought we’d put this little video
together just to hopefully give some of the parents out there a brief guideline of things
to look for when they’re buying shoes for their children. So unfortunately, as you can see from that
quote, shoe selection for children is predominantly based on old dogma and also, not surprisingly,
marketing. Now, it’s not to say that the current footwear
landscape doesn’t have it’s place, but it’s probably not where we should be starting our
children off. Now we’re humans, and how humans learn to
adapt to hard ground is by bending their knees, by leaning forward, by putting their foot
more below them. So if we put our children in these really,
really stiff, overly constructed shoes, we lose all of those cues and the ability to
walk properly. So let’s just take a simple analogy, and say
we wanted to take a young child and protect them from a very hot stove, or very sharp
glass. And so we put a big, thick glove on their
hand. Now the problem is (a) they’re never going
to learn to not touch that hot stove but (b) if you took that glove off in five to ten
years, you’ve lost a lot of dexterity and muscle control with the fingers and it’s the
same thing with our feet. So let’s look at a few things that we look
at when we’re recommending footwear for children. Okay, so the first one may seem pretty obvious
but it’s really important to just find a shoe that matches the shape of your child’s foot. Now if you look at any young child’s foot
they’re generally going to be the widest at the end of the toes. But if you look at most footwear for children,
it’s usually widest at the base of the toes which can cause a real pinching of the toes
and lead to misalignment down the road. So, if you take the insole out of the shoe
when you’re going to buy the shoe, have your child stand on the insole. If their toes are splaying over the sides,
try to find something that may be a little bit more square and stays wider up towards
the end of the shoe. Buying shoes that are too long, this is a
problem that we see a lot. Now especially if you’re buying something
that is overly constructed, these shoes have these little ridge lines which make the shoes
bend at a certain spot and if the child’s toes are too far back, the shoe won’t bend
in the right spot. So really just trying to mimic the child’s
barefoot when you’re buying shoes. So our feet are pretty miraculous in that
they bend, they stretch, and they move in all kinds of different ways to be able to
distribute forces properly when we’re walking or running. So if a shoe is very, very stiff we take away
the foot’s natural ability to be able to do that. So again, looking for footwear that’s minimalist,
flexible is what we want. Okay, the next one is a toe spring and toe
spring is really just the elevation from the toe to the ground at the front of the shoe. Now ironically, why this is important is that
if you have a shoe that’s very, very stiff, they need to put that rocker sole at the front
to help the foot move properly. But we don’t want our child’s toes up in the
air all day. We want our child’s feet to develop properly
and want their toes to be engaged. So again, we want to keep those shoes fairly
flat and we want to eliminate the shoe being really curved up at the front along with the
stiffness. And the last one that’s really important is
the heel height. Now if we look at most children’s shoes, they’re
elevated about an inch from the heel to the toe. Now this is for a 9 year old kid, similar
to an adult wearing a two inch heel relative to height. Now, with the obvious issues of having to
walk a little bit differently to accomodate that higher heel, that’s a potential problem. But also, more importantly the calves and
the achilles on the back of the leg get very shortened which can also lead to long term
issues. So same thing as before, common theme here,
shoes flat, not a big elevation at the back, and fairly flexible. So let’s look at a few quick reasons why we
maybe would want a little bit more support/structure in a shoe. And the first one would be pain. Now, we never want our kids to be in pain
so if there’s discomfort take your child to a qualified professional to find out where
it’s coming from and in often cases a more structured shoe will be recommended in the
short term. However, once we’ve fixed the source of the
problem we usually want to get the child back into that more flexible, barefoot style shoe
again. The second case would be congenital issues. If there’s an actual deformity of the foot
which is usually caught fairly early in development, we may need to have a more structured shoe
for a longer period of time. Thirdly, different sports, as humans we’re
designed to walk and run so that’s why we want to keep those shoes as minimal as possible
for those activities at an early age. But we look at soccer, we look at basketball,
we look at tennis, any of those sports that require side to side support, again a more
structured shoe might be necessary. And finally, there’s the ‘coolness’ factor. And as children get older, it becomes more
and more difficult to necessarily get them in the shoes that they should be wearing. Cause let’s face it, you know, this shoe here
it lights up and it’s ‘Frozen’. I mean, I think of my niece and it would be
hard to talk her out of this kind of a shoe, even though it’s too stiff and too high in
the heel. So I think it’s often times important with
children to look at compromise. So if they’re wearing a shoe that you know
is less than ideal for the reasons we mentioned before, try to make sure they spend more time
barefoot around the house, try to make sure you’re loosening up their calves to prevent
those muscles getting shortened on the back of their leg. So compromise is key here. So we know it can be really difficult to find
shoes that are doing the proper job for our child’s foot so we’ve listed in the text below
just a few brands that you might want to look for that do mimic a child’s barefoot foot
a little bit better. Thanks for listening guys and if you have
any questions we’d love to hear from you in the comments down below.


  • Valuable information for everyday footwear and super relevant for sports gear!

  • Fantastic and makes so much sense. I think back to my kids almost 40 years ago now and they were in those terrible confining boots!!!

  • Totally agree! My three, now teen aged sons have benefited from having more minimalist shoes. Hard to keep up with them on the trails, especially on the downhills!!!

  • Good Job !!
    we will share!

  • thumbs down…do you have any suggestions on brand? why did you even bother to make this video?

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