Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth. Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years.
Children with cerebral palsy usually face loss of balance, reflexes, and coordination, impaired muscle tone, irregular posture and gait disturbance.
The good news is that the correct type of shoes and orthotics will help improve your children’s stability and coordination, and improve their overall posture, by helping them stand and walk straighter. AFOs (Ankle-Foot Orthotics) may be one of the solutions to help with mobility challenges.
Please keep in mind that no cerebral palsy case is the same. While a child with CP might be able to walk unassisted, another child might not be able to walk at all.
When children with cerebral palsy start their quest towards mobility, they tend to be fitted with AFO braces. Most children with cerebral palsy require orthotics and specifically designed shoes to support their needs and to alleviate their quality of life.
I am here to help you find the perfect pair of shoes to complement the specific needs of your child.
I have been fitting children’s shoes and orthotics for the last 10 years at a premier children’s shoe store specializing in children with foot and leg problems, but our store provides regular shoe fittings as well.
We carry some of the most supportive children’s shoes and orthotics. I will share with you my perspective on the best shoe brands for kids, and the best shoe styles among those brands, based on my experience.
The most common mistake parents make when trying to find shoes to accommodate their child’s orthotics is getting shoes that are too long in order to be able to accommodate the orthotic inside the shoes. Another common mistake parents make is to assume that a shoe that is labeled as extra wide will automatically fit the shape of the orthotics.
When parents finally find shoes that are wide to accommodate an orthotic, they find that the shoes can’t be fastened because the braces stretched the shoe’s opening so much that the Velcro straps for fastening the shoes can’t meet.
Finding a pair of shoes that will fit their kids’ foot shape and the orthotic device is a special challenge for many parents.
Before I provide you with a selection of the best shoes for kids with cerebral palsy, let me show you what features these shoe styles will provide.
Shoes for Kids with Cerebral Palsy – The 5 Most Important Features!
I have spoken with several parents who have tried countless of different athletic brand-name shoes on their kids, only to find that most were not deep or wide enough to fit over the braces. These parents end up leaving the shoe store feeling frustrated and defeated.
There are 5 key features that your kids’ shoes must provide in order to accommodate the orthotics:
✅ Extra Depth: This feature will allow your child’s orthotics to fit deeply inside the shoes and prevent the top part of your child’s feet from rubbing against the top part of the shoes. Shoes with extra depth will also prevent giving your children the impression that their feet are coming out of the shoes, as well as prevent you from shoving your child’s foot in the shoes every time you have to put your kids’ shoes on.
✅ Round Toe-Box: This feature will prevent your child’s toes from overlapping one another or rubbing against the side of the shoes. Shoes that come with a round toe-box will also prevent the orthotic device from poking a hole in the front of your kids’ shoes.
✅ Wider Opening: This feature will prevent you from having to shove your child’s foot in the shoes every time you have to put your kids’ shoes on.
✅ Substantial Sole: This feature will hold the orthotic in place and also attenuate the impact that your kids’ feet and legs take every time they come in contact with the ground.
✅ Firm Heel Counter: This is the part of the shoe that provides ankle support. The heel counter of your kids’ shoes must be firm for the orthotic or AFO to work in your kids’ shoes. Here is where the heel counter of the shoe is located:
Another important factor to take in consideration when shopping for shoes for your child with cerebral palsy is your child’s safety and comfort. I recommend providing your child with shoes that come with soft padding all around the shoe, such as below the tongue and around the heel counter. This will guarantee your child’s comfort.
I am always emphasizing to parents that it doesn’t matter how many features a particular shoe style provides, if the shoes are not fitted properly which involves getting the correct shoe length and the correct shoe width, your child won’t get any of the benefits that the shoes have to offer.
I always recommend parents to take their children to their local children’s shoe store that they trust, the issue is that most stores have been closing down and parents need to end up buying their kids’ shoes online. There is nothing wrong with this, but you must know your child’s exact foot size in order to know what size to order.
I created a map that showcases the best fitting children’s shoe stores by state, so I suggest you start by taking a look at that map:
If after looking at that map you still can’t seem to identify a shoe store in your area, then proceed to taking a look at an article along with a video I created that describes the simplest, yet most effective way to figure out your child’s foot size from home:
One concern I have is the number of parents I see who bring their child to the store wearing a pair of Converse shoes with their AFOs. They explain to me how easy these shoes are to get on and off, but the issue is that Converse shoes don’t provide the structure or the support that your kids need to get the full benefits of their orthotics.
Converse shoes are fashion rather than functional shoes. They are recommended to be worn for only a couple of hours a day, even for those kids that don’t have foot issues. All Converse shoe styles come with a flat sole and a heel counter that is too soft.
Abnormal contractions of muscles in the feet of a child with cerebral palsy can lead to a flat foot, with no arch or a very low arch. This is most common when cerebral palsy causes the muscles in the foot to have low tone. The correct type of orthotics worn with the correct type of shoes will prevent your child’s feet from collapsing and turning inwards/outwards due to their flat feet.
Now that you know what features your kids’ shoes must provide in order to accommodate an orthotic and how you can figure out your child’s exact foot size from home, you are ready to take a look at a selection of the best shoes for kids with cerebral palsy.
The Best Shoes for Kids with Cerebral Palsy ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Please keep in mind that I only write reviews of shoe styles that I have fitted before, so I can personally assess how well-made they are, the amount of support that they provide, and how well they fit.
Below you can find a selection of the best shoes for kids with cerebral palsy. Disclosure: Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases.
This selection of shoes fits “true to size”, which means that you need to go a half a size longer of the size that your child measures in the standard foot measuring tool (Brannock device), in order to allow for growing room. However, since orthotics tend to take some extra space inside the shoes, I recommend that you start by trying a whole size longer instead of a half a size.
I always recommend parents to provide their children with shoes that come with shoelaces instead of Velcro closure, in particular when they require an orthotic to be worn with their shoes. Shoelaces will provide your child with more stability and support, and help keep the orthotic in place. Always avoid shoes that come with complicated features and closures, they will only lead to difficulties and frustrations.
If you want to see a selection of the best stylish shoes that can accommodate an AFO please go to the link below:
Before you leave, I wanted to tell you that socks play a key role in keeping your kids’ feet healthy.
If your child is wearing AFO braces there is a particular type of seamless sock that is soft, durable, wicks perspiration, comes with an anti-microbial fabric and have a heel free design that ensures a perfect fit.
These socks are long and thick enough to prevent your children from getting blisters or red spots from their AFOs. They work much better than traditional socks.
Here you can find a selection of the best kids’ socks for AFOs. Please refresh your browser if you can’t see the recommendations:
Now that you know which are the best shoes for kids with cerebral palsy, you are ready to make the most informed decision.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have trouble finding a particular shoe style for your child, it’s highly likely that I have fitted it before, and I will help you find it.