I get contacted by parents who need help finding the best type of shoes for their children on a daily basis. In this particular case, this mother contacted me worried about not being able to find the correct type of shoes for his son that wears orthotics. Since you might be going through a similar experience, I decided to post the conversation here so all parents can benefit from it.
I am an expert when it comes to fitting children’s shoes since I have worked at a children’s shoe store for 10 years. I have been fitting children’s shoes and orthotics at a premier children’s shoe store specializing in proper fit for over forty years. We specialize in children with foot and leg problems, but we provide regular shoe fitting as well.
I ran across your website trying to research for shoes for my two and a half year old boy, and I am hoping you can help me. He has Down syndrome and very wide feet, which makes it extremely hard to find shoes that fit. Every shoe style that we try on him he tells me that it feels too tight and he immediately wants to take them off.
You should also know that we just got him a pair of Pattibob orthotics inserts for him (this has been making the whole process of finding a shoe much more complicated). Are you familiar with Pattibobs? Have you fitted them before? Here is an example of how they look like:
We took him to our local children’s shoe store, but they weren’t very much help. They kept making us try longer shoes and my son had a lot of trouble walking in them.
I am really frustrated at this point since I have wasted a lot of time and all the shoes that we tried were either not wide or supportive enough. The orthotic seems to take a lot of space inside the shoes and it raises my son’s feet up, that’s why he keeps complaining about the shoes feeling so tight.
Is there a particular shoe style that you would recommend that will fit the shape of his feet and the orthotics? Do you have any suggestions for shoe brands that we should try? We prefer old-fashioned shoes and wish to avoid New Balance and other tennis shoes if possible while he is still very young, but we are open to suggestions.
At the children’s shoe store that I work for, we carry Pattibob orthotics and I used to fit them all the time. They are great because they provide excellent arch and ankle support, and they truly make a difference in the way the child walks and runs. However, they do take a considerable amount of room inside the shoes and that is the main reason why I think your son is having such a hard time adjusting to them.
Keep in mind that most of the time we fitted Pattibobs in shoes we needed either New Balance or Saucony sneakers. I understand that you prefer old-fashioned shoes but when a child needs a particular orthotic we have to go for what’s practical and for what fits better. New Balance tends to make the deepest and widest shoes when it comes to fitting orthotics.
What shoe size does your child wear?
His everyday pair of shoes that he wears with the orthotics must be a sneaker since they provide the most support and that is the only way for your child to get the full benefit that the orthotics have to offer. You can always provide him with a second pair of shoes for him to alternate with, but I strongly recommend his main shoes to be a sneaker.
Once you get back at me with his shoe size I will be able to provide you with better advice.
I sincerely appreciate your help. I was told by the person who helped me at the children’s shoe store that he needs a shoe size 6.5 or 7 in order for the orthotic to fit inside the shoes and to allow for growing room.
Thank you so much.
What about his width? Please keep in mind that shoe width has the same importance as shoe length when it comes to keeping your children’s feet healthy. I am assuming he will need an extra wide shoe in order to fit the shape of his feet and also to accommodate all the space the orthotic takes.
Just so you know, you have a velcro closure or shoelace option. Shoelaces always tend to fit better than velcro specially if you need an orthotic inside the shoe since they prevent heel slippage and provide more support and more stability.
If you want velcro closure I would recommend the 6.5XW in this shoe style:
If you want shoelaces I would recommend also the 6.5XW in this shoe style:
I hope this help! Please let me know if you have any other questions.
I sincerely appreciate all your time and help. The person who helped me told me that he needed wide shoes but never mentioned extra wide shoes, and I think this is why my son has been complaining about the shoes, because the wide width is not wide enough for his feet!
I order the shoe style with shoelaces and will get back at you once they arrive and I try them on my son’s feet.
My son loves his new shoes, he is not complaining at all and I think it is because the shoes are deeper and wider. I can’t believe what a difference the shoes make and the PT told me how much straighter my son is walking, which makes me so happy.
I would also like to find a sandal he can wear this summer and I am wondering if a leather fisherman style could work. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
When it comes to summer shoes I will recommend Keen sandals or Jambu sandals since they both fit wide and provide the best support. Those two shoe brands are excellent for children who have foot issues and like to wear their sandals for longer periods of time. You can find the most supportive styles in an article I wrote called:
However, there is a fisherman sandal that comes in wide and extra wide widths that will work for your son if that is what you really want for him. You can find that style of sandal here:
Please remember to not let your boy wear his sandals all day during summer. He must still alternate with his sneakers to get more support from his shoes and orthotics.
I ended up getting him a pair of the Jambu sandals and the fisherman as well. I figured he can wear the fisherman sandal for when we go to dinner and needs something dressier. The Jambu one looks more for water play and running around.
I can’t believe I am done looking for shoes for my son. I couldn’t have done it without you guiding me through the whole process. Thank you so much and thank you for creating a website that helps children with foot issues!
I am glad that we were able to find shoes that worked out for your son, and more importantly that he doesn’t have any more foot or leg pain and is walking straighter. While getting shoes for children might seem like a simple task, it’s not easy at all and something so simple such as providing your children with the correct shoe size and the correct shoe style has a huge impact in keeping their feet and legs healthy.
If you happen to know of other families that have a hard time finding shoes for their children with special needs, please refer them to an article I wrote called:
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any other questions.