Once upon a time, grown-ups believed that shoes affected the way a child’s foot grew. Children wore stiff shoes, and various wedges and cups and what-not were recommended to “provide support” and “develop the arch.” The children were very sad as these shoes were none too attractive and hard to play in. Then came Dr. Lynn Staheli, a pediatric orthopedist who studied foot development and published his findings:
- Barefooted subjects have stronger, healthier feet with fewer deformities.
- Flatfeet are normal in infants and young children. The arch develops over time, however 1 in 7 children never develop an arch.
- Shoes will not correct intoeing or knock knees, most of these correct over time.
So instead of wearing shoes that made running and playing difficult, children began to wear fun, flexible shoes that let them run and jump and dance and play. And they all lived happily ever after.
To pick a great shoe for your baby or child, keep these tips in mind:
- Barefoot is perfectly fine. Shoes are there to keep the feet warm and dry and protect them from injury.
- Good shoes are soft and flexible enough to provide freedom of movement.
- The toe box (the front of the shoe) must be generous enough to accommodate the toes without pinching or cramping.
- You should be able to put a small child’s shoe between your thumb and fingers and flex the sole.
- Select a flat-soled shoe made from material that is not too slippery or too sticky.
- Shoes should be made of breathable, absorbent materials.
- A good shoe doesn’t have to be expensive—they may need to be replaced every 2-3 months!
Read Dr. Staheli’s report, Shoes for Children: A Review, in the Pediatrics here.
Read his textbook chapter, Footwear for Children, here.