Spina Bifida occurs when a baby’s spine doesn’t form normally. The most common issue with Spina Bifida is the partial or complete paralysis of the legs and feet. This is the most common reason why children with Spina Bifida need orthotics or ankle foot orthoses (AFOs) to be fitted in their shoes. Some children might also need to wear especially designed shoes.
If you have a child that is dealing with Spina Bifida, you must find a pair of shoes to support and protect your kids’ feet and the spine from injury as well.
No two children with Spina Bifida are exactly alike, since some children might have issues that are more severe than others. Some children with Spina Bifida can walk without any aids or assistance, while some other might need foot or leg braces, crutches or wheelchairs.
The correct type of shoes and braces will support your kids weak muscles and keep the feet and legs in proper position for standing and walking. The shoes and the orthotics work together in improving your child’s posture and realigning your kids’ feet and legs. The goal is to increase your child’s function and independence.
Let me show you what a difference the correct pair of shoes can make in improving your child’s overall posture, which starts from their feet.
The picture below shows a child wearing a pair of unsupportive shoes. Do you notice how the feet are turning inwards? This child might be flat footed, have rolled ankles, low muscle tone, or might have a weak calf muscle.
Now let’s take a look at picture of the same child wearing a pair of supportive shoes. Do you notice how much straighter the child’s feet look? This will improve your child’s overall posture and allow your child to walk and run straighter.
Your physical therapist will work with your children and show you exercises to improve your child’s strength, flexibility, and movement. Children with Spina Bifida can develop blisters, calluses, and sores on their feet and ankles, but they won’t be able to tell their parents because they might not be able to feel certain parts of their body. This is the reason why you must always check your kids’ feet periodically.
The best way to prevent these foot conditions from happening is by providing your child with the correct pair of orthotics, shoes and socks.
There are certain orthotics and AFOs that are specifically designed to treat foot and leg disorders in children. They also help treat other foot and leg conditions such as low muscle tone, knock knees, or rolled ankles. Most children with Spina Bifida end up wearing an AFO, which is one of the most effective orthotics, but the downside is that there are only specific shoe styles that will be able to accommodate the AFO.
There are different types of orthotics that are available to provide proper body alignment, help your child with balance, and decrease effort during walking. Which type of orthotic your child will need depends on what foot and leg conditions your child might have.
Your pediatrician or physical therapist will determine how much stability your child needs. Some children don’t need any orthotic intervention, but when children are trying to stand on their own and their lower limbs are not supporting them well, then they will need to be fitted for an orthotic to provide them with extra strength.
Finding a pair of shoes to accommodate your child’s orthotics can be an extremely frustrating and time-consuming experience, specially if you don’t know what shoe styles to look for. I have been contacted by several parents who returned to their homes practically in tears a few times and felt defeated because they couldn’t find any pair of shoes that would fit over their child’s AFOs.
Who knew that buying shoes for your kids could be such an emotional experience!
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, and also providing regular shoe fittings.
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.
Before I provide you with a selection of the best shoes for kids with Spina Bifida, let me first show you what features these shoe styles will provide.
Shoes for Spina Bifida – The 5 Most Important Features!
✅ Extra Depth: Since most children with Spina Bifida need to wear orthotics inside their shoes, shoes with extra depth will prevent giving your children the impression that their feet are coming out of the shoes when they walk, as well as prevent you from having to shove your child’s foot in the shoes every time you have to put them on. Shoes with extra depth will also prevent the top part of your kids’ feet from rubbing against the top part of the shoes.
Let me show you the difference between a deep pair of shoes and one that is shallow. For better visualization purposes, there is an orthotic fitted in both of the shoes below:
Do you notice how the orthotic is sitting much deeper in the grey and pink shoe style than in the all black shoe style?
✅ Round Toe-Box: This feature is important since it 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 your child’s orthotics from making 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:
Whether your child is able to walk or in a wheelchair, protecting your child’s feet is very important, especially if they have nerve damage.
Now that you know what features your kids’ shoes must provide in order to provide good support to your kids’ feet and accommodate an orthotic, you are ready to take a look at a selection of the best shoes for kids with Spina Bifida.
The Best Shoes for Kids with Spina Bifida ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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.
Here you can find a selection of the best shoes for kids with Spina Bifida.
These shoe styles all fit “true to size”, which means that you need to provide your children with a half a size longer of the size that they measured in the standard foot measuring tool (Brannock Device), in order to allow for growing room.
Children with Spina Bifida are at greater risk of being overweight due to the fact that they are less mobile than someone with normal leg function. All parents want their children to be able to run, explore, play, and have adventures.
I want to remind parents that walking is only one method for their kids of getting around. The most important factor is that your child becomes as independent as possible, no matter what method of mobility is used.
If you are looking for a pair of fashionable shoes for your child to wear with his/her AFOs, there is a particular shoe company that provides custom made Mary Jane shoes, boots, and casual sneakers. Take a look at some of their most popular shoe styles:
The name of this company is Gracious May, and it is the most popular shoe company that manufactures stylish kids’ shoes for AFOs.
I have been contacted by many parents who feel heartbroken when they see the disappointment on their kids’ face when not a single pair of the fashionable and cute shoes that they want to wear are able to accommodate the shape of their ankle-foot orthoses (AFO). Now you can provide your child with a pair of the stylish shoes that they always wanted!
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are having trouble finding a particular shoe style to accommodate your child’s foot condition or particular foot shape, it’s highly likely that I have fitted it before and I will help you find it.
Have you found a particular shoe style that has worked well with your child’s AFOs? Please share your findings below so other parents can benefit from your experiences.