Healthy Shoes for Healthy Kids

Healthy Foot Development with Softstar Shoes

Caring for a child's feet will benefit their 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 your little ones:

  • 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 supportsand 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. Growing scientific evidence shows that children's shoes should be designed on this model. Research on children walking barefoot or in minimal shoes shows:

  • Improved foot muscle strength / flexibility
  • Improved ankle function and strength
  • Improved balance
  • Improved strength recovery and muscle tone (particularly in the children who had previously worn rigid soled shoes)

Sources:

"An elevated heel of any height on a child's shoe shortens the Achilles tendon and is the beginning of permanent tendon shortening. Soles that are over 6mm thick prevent 80 to 90 percent of children's foot flexibility, thus denying the foot its normal step sequence."
–Dr William A Rossi, (2002) Children's Footwear: Launching Site for Adult Foot Ills, Podiatry Management, pages 83-100

"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."
–Sebastian Wolf et al, (2008) Foot motion in children shoes, A comparison of barefoot walking with shod walking in conventional and flexible shoes, Gait & Posture Vol. 27 pages 51-59

Take Off Your Shoes and Walk, by SimonJ. Wikler, D.S.C.

Your Child Might Be Wearing High Heels Right Now, by Katy Bowman

For additional research, the unshod organization compiles a list of relevant articles supporting barefoot or minimal shoes for healthy development in children: