Supportive Shoes for Kids

Over the years, it has become a misconception that buying supportive shoes is the way forward. Many brands promote supportive shoes for sport with shock absorption and cushioned soles with the belief that these will have a positive impact in protecting the joints from injury, however it could actually be the supportive shoes that are causing these issues. Medical experts worldwide agree that barefoot walking is not only the best thing for healthy foot development but also for general health. In fact, in countries where barefoot walking is normal, there are hardly any problems with knee, hip or back joints later in life.

As babies, your feet are made up entirely of cartilage and it is over several years that the bones develop and create the shape of the foot. Going barefoot allows children’s feet to develop and strengthen naturally. This is where rigid shoes can have a negative impact on the development of their feet as they conform to the shape of the shoes rather than the shape that nature intended. We understand that children cannot go barefoot all of time and they need some protection when outdoors, but the barefoot concept should not be compromised when wearing.

A child goes through so many developmental changes in the first ten years of their life and children grow at different rates so they are not all the same size and shape. This also applies to their feet and as with clothes, not all shoes will fit all children. When feet are fully grown, they have 26 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, plus an array of delicate blood vessels, nerves and tissue fibres all working together to control the movement of each foot. We may feel that they are such a small part of our body, but in actual fact, the feet contain a quarter of all of the bones in the human body. This is one reason to ensure we take extra care of them!

As children grow, their activity levels will change therefore influencing the needs required from their shoes. Bones start out as cartilage and it isn’t until the child reaches about 18 years old that all of the constituent parts of the foot are fully developed. So it is vital, especially in the first few years of walking, but ideally until 18, that the child’s foot is not subjected to ill fitting, rigid, ill-fitting or inappropriate shoes.

The healthiest way to walk is through a rocking motion. If supportive shoes are worn, this can take away the ability to forefoot strike which results in heel striking and the abortion of the shock being taken by the knees and hips, resulting in injury. 52% of the shock created by walking and running should be absorbed by the ankle and arches. Your body is designed in this way and adding supportive shoes alters this. Why change something that works?

Wearing a supportive shoe or rigid shoe can change the natural shape of the foot as well as having a negative effect on the muscles in and surrounding the feet. When support is added to the foot, it becomes reliant on this support and becomes weaker, therefore requiring support for the future. The weaker the foot, the more likely it is to obtain injury. Going barefoot, or a barefoot as possible, allows the feet to natural strengthen themselves. The earlier this is started in life, the more positive the effect on posture, joints and foot strength.

The best way for shoes to be supportive for the feet, is to be minimalist and support the natural growth and movement. Feet are made to support the body and medical experts believe that they do not require support or the need for cushioning in shoes.

The Barefoot Concept is rapidly growing due to the understanding of proprioception. Proprioception is like a ‘sixth sense’ and provides us with body awareness. Simple movements are performed everyday involuntarily and without loss of balance because of this. Removing this by adding supportive shoes can cause posture and balance issues resulting in injury and pain later down the line. The receptors in our feet allow sensory feedback and send messages to the brain about the terrain below and around us, allowing us to move more freely and be aware of the surroundings. We understand that it is near impossible to go through an entire day without wearing shoes due to the terrain and the elements we face, but this does not mean that the barefoot concept should be compromised with supportive shoes, it just means that the choice in shoes needs to differ.

Here at Happy Little Soles, we stock a variety of brands that are either most barefoot or barefoot friendly. Ranging from pre-walkers to Adults, it is never to early or late to partake in the barefoot concept and once you get started you can reap the benefits. There is something for every foot shape. Whether it be narrow or wide, with a high instep or skinny ankles you will find a style to suit.

For your first walker, take a look at the Livie and Luca First Walker, Pediped Grip n Go or Bobux Step Up ranges. Or if you are looking for some school shoes, Vivobarefoot or Scholl are the best brands. For a wider width foot, Shooshoos and Feelmax are a great option or maybe Tikki for a soft sandal. These barefoot brands and more can be found at Happy Little Soles. Supporting the natural development of feet rather than adding support to shoes.