My personal belief is that Children’s feet should remain free of shoes for as long as possible.The development of movement and walking is different for all children and needs to occur at the pace of the individual child. The old mantra of “maybe they need support” is just plain wrong, and dangerous. By putting shoes that interfere with the sensory feedback of the ground and serve to help a child stand before he is ready, is cheating the process of normal learning. There shouldn’t be any shortcuts with learning how to walk! Granted, if there is ever concern about developmental delays and specific foot deformities or problems, never hesitate to raise this concern with your Pediatrician or Podiatrist. If you would like to learn more about this, please click on the following link to read my article on movement.
That said, shoes are a necessity in the modern world. Stride Rite has been a leading children’s shoe designer for decades and dedicates themselves on research and development, as well as how to properly fit shoes to children’s feet. I am particularly fond of Stride Rite’s SRT shoe line. SRT stands for Sensory Response Technology and keeps in mind the basic principles that children need and want to be barefoot as long as they possibly can!
Keep in mind that feet should be allowed to grow unencumbered. Feet can adapt as they grow, and if you force the shape of the shoe on a growing foot, then the foot will adopt that shape. So find a shoe that has the shape and appearance of the foot! Use the sock liners that come out of the shoe to gauge the shape and size as compared to the foot. Remember, your child isn’t going to be able to give you reliable feedback on how a shoe fits. Try also to avoid elevating the heels, and keep with flat bottom shoes. By keeping the feet flat on the ground, it helps children balance as though they are barefoot, and will make the transition easier.
Most importantly, children’s feet grow at different rates at different times in their lives. The growth of the foot often precedes the increase in height, so as parents, we aren’t always cued in to the foot size. Check often by using the “sock liner trick” in which you measure the foot on top of the removable sock liner.
For children approaching 4th and 5th grade, they can usually start to fit more adult style shoes. If they’ve been raised in a minimalist way (using shoes that are similar to Stride Rite’s SRT shoes, or encouraged to be barefoot as much as possible or just love being barefoot), then shoes such as Lems are a great choice for school and every day use, and is a major reason why Central Massachusetts Podiatry carries this line. Vivobarefoot also has a full selection of children’s minimalist shoes and can be viewed online. When fitting for Sporting shoes and cleats, keep the principles of shoe fitting in mind; fit foot to sock liner of shoe, get a shoe that is shaped like the foot.
You can also refer to an article on The Perception of Shoe Fit written to help better understand how we adapt to shoes.