Healthy Shoes for Healthy Kids

Healthy Foot Development with Softstar Shoes

Paying attention to children's foot health will benefit your child's health, mobility and well-being throughout their entire lives. According to the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, the 26 bones in our feet are not fully hardened (or ossified) until ages 12–18. In fact, children's feet are composed of relatively soft and flexible cartilage that gradually converts to bone with age. While children's feet are developing, the soft cartilage centers are fusing together. As such, the foot is at risk from injury and deformity due to ill-fitting footwear. Any postural foot abnormality can have an effect further up the body and permanently altering posture and walking style.

All Softstar shoes are designed specifically for natural movement with soles that are flexible, wide and soft and materials that are natural and breathable. For more information about the benefits of minimalist shoes for all ages, and the standards we use when designing Softstar Shoes, visit our Minimal Footwear 101 page:

Healthy Footwear Tips for Kids

We believe barefoot is best when it comes to healthy foot development. Obviously it is not always practical to be barefoot, which is why good shoe design is important for warmth and protection while allowing barefoot-like movement. Here are some tips for finding healthy minimalist shoes for kids:

  • Allow plenty of room for toes to wiggle and spread. This means not only your shoes, but care should also be taken to make sure that socks are loose and sleep suits do not cram the toes.
  • When buying for children, find soft toddler shoes from reputable companies designed specifically for their age group. A young child's foot is a different shape from that of an adult or teenager, requiring a correspondingly much bigger toe area than the shape of an adult shoe. Many shoe manufacturers simply scale-down adult shoes to make shoes for children, but this is not recommended. Specify wide baby shoes or extra wide toddler shoes, if needed.
  • Soling material for outdoor shoes on hard surfaces, such as sidewalks, should be slip resistant and flexible. Avoid shoes with elevated heels, arch supports and toe springs (toes forced in upward position).
  • Upper portion of shoes should be made of breathable materials.

Kids Barefoot Research

Orthopedic specialists have long known babies learn to walk best barefoot. While most scientific research focuses on adults, there are a number of recent studies specific to children. Softstar is proud to have collaborated with recent 2023 scientific research study which shows increases in flexor digitorum brevis (FDB) muscle size in children wearing our shoes.

Research on children walking barefoot or in minimal shoes shows:

  • Increased muscle size1
  • Improved foot muscle strength / flexibility2,3,4
  • Improved balance4,5
  • Improved strength recovery and muscle tone (particularly in the children who had previously worn rigid soled shoes)2,4


1 Roy T.H. Cheung, Shayan Quinlan, Alycia Fong-Yan and Irene S. Davis. Softstar, Western Sydney University (Australia), The University of Sydney (Australia), University of South Florida (USA) research collaboration report. (2 February 2023)

2 Sebastian Wolf et al, Foot Motion in Children’s shoes, a comparison of barefoot walking with shod walking in convention and flexible shoes, Gait & Posture (2008, Vol. 27 pages 51-59) Slimmer and more flexible children’s shoes do not change foot motion as much as conventional shoes and therefore should generally be recommended for healthy children.

3 D.S.C. Simon J. Wikler. Take of your Shoes and Walk: Steps to Better Foot Health (1961) Children who had the opportunity of going barefoot a great deal, had less deformed toes, greater flexor strength, and more ability to spread the toes. They also had denser muscles on the bottom of the feet, greater agility...

4 Astrid Zech et al. Motor Skills of Children and Adolescents are Influenced by Growing up Barefoot or Shod. Frontiers in Pediatrics. (April 25, 2018. V6, Sec. Children and Health) Regular physical activities without footwear may be beneficial for the development of jumping and balance skills.

5 Katy Bowman. Whole Body Barefooot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear (March 17, 2015) The shorter the foot (child) wearing a heeled shoe, the greater the angle upon which the foot is set. Barring medical conditions or the occasional dress up, heeled shoes have no place in a child’s wardrobe.