Should kids wear sneakers that imitate being barefoot or wear sneakers that provide support? The type of shoes that children should wear has been debated for many years. Both sides have valuable arguments and have evidence to support their claims.
One claim that minimalist shoe supporters stand by is that our ancestors didn’t wear supportive shoes. What they fail to address is that all of our barefoot ancestors did not walk, run, or jump on smooth flat concrete or slippery tile.
It’s important for parents to understand that the feet are the foundation for the entire body. The bones of the foot take around 18 years to fully develop and harden; hence it is imperative to get good shoes early on to allow the foot to develop properly. This article will focus on supportive shoes and its advantages while also stating the key misconceptions about minimalist shoes for kids.
I have been working at a children’s shoe store for the last 10 years, and I currently handle approximately two hundred shoe fittings and try-ons per week. I work for one of the most popular children’s shoe stores in the country, where we specialize in children with foot and leg issues, but we provide regular shoe fittings as well.
Families with children with foot issues often get referred by physical/occupational therapists and pediatricians who normally recommend fitting those kids in more substantial shoes.
Many people believe that the main purpose of shoes is to protect the foot from injury and infection.
Shoes do so much more than that!
Most of them are engineered to provide the support, motion control, and cushioning that minimize foot injuries associated with a particular activity.
Let’s take a look at some of the features that a good supportive shoes provide:
- Help relieve the stress and impact that children impose on their feet and legs when running, jumping and playing.
- Prevent injuries by supporting and protecting the feet.
- Realign your kids body posture by helping them walk and run straighter.
- Improve the child’s stability.
I believe that kids should wear good supportive shoes since they live active lives that exert an enormous amount of stress on their feet and legs. Minimalist shoes don’t provide any support, they imitate being barefoot, and provide NO cushioning every time your child’s feet strike the ground.
Why would someone put their child in a shoe that provides minimal support and structure?
Let’s find out!
Minimalist Supporters 4 Main Claims – Why They are Wrong!
1- Individuals who support wearing minimalist shoes are right about ONE thing and ONE thing only: Kids should wear shoes that imitate being barefoot. What they fail to address is that this ONLY applies to a child that is learning how to walk.
As soon as children begin to walk and start putting pressure on their feet, it’s time for these children to wear a more substantial shoe, since they will be putting more pressure in their feet. Remember that your kids’ feet are the foundation for their entire bodies!
2- Minimalist shoe supporters always emphasize how the only reason why there are good supportive shoes is so that the multi-billion shoe companies can continue making money out of them. They fail to address that several shoe companies have tried minimalist shoes for kids and it did not make a huge profit for them.
3- The statement that companies promoting minimalist shoes are growing by the minute is false, at least when it comes to kids footwear. I also find it ironic how they complain about how much money these shoe companies make when minimalist shoes are not the cheaper option, since they tend to cost even more than your regular shoes.
4- Minimalist shoe supporters believe that without a good selection of minimalist shoes, “children will be forced to wear large, overly cushioned, supportive shoes that weaken their feet, and that those children will grow into adults with weak, injury-prone feet.” Again folks, there is no evidence for this claim.
When children are experiencing foot pain, the pediatrician or physical therapist will normally recommend more of a shoe (supportive), not less (minimalist). This will help the child walk straighter, and it has been proven that it will reduce or fully eliminate the pain away (I have helped hundred’s of children whose feet and leg pain are relieved after fitting them in a good supportive shoe)
Could you please then explain to me how good supportive shoes weaken the feet and make the foot more prone to injuries?
Good supportive shoes will actually strengthen your kids’ feet and legs,. Why do you think that a child who is flat footed and is experiencing foot or leg pain needs a more supportive shoe? Because wearing a good, supportive shoe will allow the child to walk straighter and relieve muscle pain by redistributing body balance.
The minimalist shoe supporters always claim how they are not influenced by marketing claims or trends when it comes to good supportive footwear. These are not claims or trends folks, good supportive shoes are the BEST type of footwear for your children’s feet!
Please take care of your kids’ feet, if your child is not wearing the correct shoe size it can lead to several foot problems. Do you know how to make sure your child is wearing the correct shoe size? I wrote a post where I describe the most effective and simple way to check whether your child is wearing the correct shoe size. The post is called:
How to Choose the Correct Pair of Shoes for your Child? – Get It Right!
There are certain guidelines that must be followed when choosing shoes for your kids to ensure proper and healthy foot development. Following these guidelines will help to ensure that your child’s feet and legs stay healthy through the coming years:
1- Price is not indicative of quality. All good athletic shoes need to offer plenty of support and cushioning. Shoes should be stiff and supportive across the middle, but they should always bend at the ball of the foot. Athletic sneakers should be comfortable before your child walks out of the store, there shouldn’t be any “breaking-in” time required for comfort.
2- According to APMA’s survey, sports are the main cause of foot pain in teenagers. Seventy-five percent of high school students play a school or a recreational sport, and nearly 40 percent of that group has injured their feet while playing, according to the survey.
Parents should always purchase sport specific shoes if they are required by their coach or if the child is playing at a competitive level. Different sports require different shoes, and choosing one made specifically for that sport will prevent injury and help your kids perform at their best. It is important to research for a store that specializes in athletic footwear and have the shoe fitted professionally.
Do you want to know what are the best shoe brands for children? I wrote a post where I describe the best shoes for children:
What Medical Professionals and Organizations are Saying…
1- The president of the American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) David Davidson was asked about children’s footwear by Running Times Magazine, and said, “kids should not be running in minimalist footwear at all and they should be wearing brand name running shoes with good motion control, cushioning, etc…”
2- Dr. Lierberman demonstrated very well in his paper, Nature (Jan, 2010) that footwear can have a large influence on natural gait. Hence, parents should be careful to choose good supportive shoes that allow proper foot development for their kids.
3- This APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association) parent flyer states that parents should select a shoe that is rigid in the middle. This will support the arch of the child’s foot to ensure proper foot development. A challenger of this APMA declaration simply conceded, claiming that there were no good studies to refute this.
What then is this buzz amidst minimalist shoes supporters, when the majority of what they claim is baseless?
APMA was founded in 1912 and, with a network of podiatrists across the United States, has become a leading resource on foot and ankle health information. Did you know that APMA put each kids shoe through a rigorous evaluation process, analyzing function, flexibility, and the quality of the materials?
I came across one blog from an individual who is an avid supporter of minimalist shoes and states: “As a parent and physician I believe that the APMA statements could cause harm in a developing child’s foot. An example of deformation we see now in many high school runners is hallux valgus (big toes pointed in).
Hallux valgus, or a bunion, is generally caused by ill-fitting shoes with a pointed toe box”. Though he is correct in saying that hallux valgus is caused by shoes that do not fit properly, there is a big difference between shoes that do not fit properly and supportive shoes.
I want to clarify that the medical establishment has NEVER recognized that a child’s foot is best off when it is provided with a less supportive shoe.
Minimalist Shoes Will Lead To More Frequent Visits To Your Doctor!
I have talked with several parents who are avid supporters of minimalist shoes. Like I said before, it all depends on your foot anatomy. However, when it comes to kids, I would advise you to stick with good supportive footwear for these three main reasons:
1- A shoe that provides support to the arch and heel of the foot will prevent your kids’ feet and legs from easily getting tired and it will relieve foot or leg pain.
2- A supportive shoe also serves as the armor to protect kid’s feet from injuries.
3- Your feet are the foundation for your entire body. They must be able to properly support your child’s body; allow him/her to stand, walk, run, and jump; and absorb damaging shocks that enter their body every time their heels hit the ground.
Any kind of foot pain is abnormal. If your kids are complaining about foot or leg pain, START by checking the shoes that they are wearing.
I am on my feet all day when I am at work at the children’s shoe store, and I must wear good supportive shoes or I begin feeling pain on my feet and knees. Of course this will not be the case for everyone since it will depend on each individual foot anatomy, but I am a firm believer of good supportive shoes since I have seen and experienced the positive impact that supportive shoes can provide.
The Best Shoes for Kids – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Below you can find a selection of the best kids’ shoes that I have fitted before:
The shoes below will fit a child that has narrow, medium, or wide feet (choose the width accordingly).
This first selection of shoes fit “short”, which means that you need to go a whole size longer of the size that your child measured in the standard foot measuring scale (Brannock device) in order to allow for growing room.
The shoes below will fit a child with medium, wide, or extra wide feet.
This selection of shoes fit “true to size”, which means that you need to go a half a size longer of the size that your child measures in the shoe measuring scale in order to allow for growing room.
The Importance Of Socks – Prevent Smelly Feet and Blisters!
Socks play a key role in keeping your kids’ feet healthy since they act as a barrier between your kids’ feet and the shoes that they are wearing.
I always emphasize to parents that wearing the correct sock size is just as important as wearing the correct shoe size.
Socks can help reduce your child’s sweaty feet, prevent their toes from overlapping each other, and prevent blisters and calluses by avoiding friction between the feet and the shoes.
If you want to learn how to make sure your child is wearing the correct sock size and what are the best socks for kids, go to the link below:
PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM MINIMALIST SHOES FOR YOUR CHILD! THEY WILL END UP HURTING YOUR CHILD’S FEET AND LEGS IN THE LONG RUN!
Supportive sneakers will NEVER be a cause of injury AS LONG as they are properly fitted. If the shoe does not fit, it doesn’t matter how supportive or unsupported it is, it will have a negative impact on your child’s feet.
What do you think of minimalist shoes? Do you prefer them over supportive shoes? Please share your thoughts and experiences below so we can all benefit from them.