Shoes for SMOs – Extra Deep, Supportive, Flexible, and with Wider Openings!

It can be challenging and time-consuming to find the correct pair of shoes if your child wears SMOs. The good news is that depending on which type of SMO device your child wears it might be a lot easier to find shoes that fit. I am going to show you which are the best shoes for SMOs based on my many years of shoe fitting experience.

SMO stands for Supra-Malleolar Orthosis. The difference between an SMO and an AFO is that the SMO is a lot shorter and usually prescribed for children who have soft, flexible, flat feet. SMOs help provide additional support and heel stabilization and are usually prescribed for children with the following conditions:

  • Strong pronation or supination.
  • Foot/ankle instability.
  • Hypotonia

I have been fitting children’s shoes and orthotics for the last 10 years, working for a specialized children’s shoe store that focuses in helping children with “complex” foot shapes as well as foot and leg problems.


Medical professionals are constantly referring children who wear SMOs/AFOs to the shoe store to be fitted for the correct types of shoes. Over the years I became familiar with the best shoes for kids who wear orthotics.

If you’re pressed for time, you can jump directly to the selection of shoes for SMOs.

Certain SMOs Take More Space Than Others

I have fitted two different types of SMOs. It’s important to note that there are SMOs that have footplates that extend beyond the toes while some others are cut back in a specific way.

Let me help you visualize the difference between two SMOs with different footplates.

➡️ In this first image, the SMO footplate extends beyond the toes. If your child wears this type of SMO it gets a little more challenging to find shoes that fit, as we need to consider the depth as well as the shape of the front part of the shoes.

➡️ In the second image, the SMO footplate is cut back. If your child wears this type of SMO the footwear options won’t be as limited as you think.

What Shoes Work Best with SMOs?

Let me start by telling you that I am not here to restrict the type of shoes your child should wear with his/her SMOs. I understand how important it is for children to be able to wear shoes that they like, but at the same time, I feel I have a responsibility to tell you if a shoe is doing more damage than good. You are investing money and time in an SMO so you might as well get the full benefits that the SMOs have to offer.

These are the 8 features that your kids’ shoes must provide for your child to get the full benefits that the SMOs have to offer:

1️⃣ Substantial Outsole: The shoes must provide a substantial outsole to hold the SMO in place and support your child’s feet at the same time.

2️⃣ Flexible and Lightweight: The shoes must be supportive, but lightweight and flexible at the same time to prevent your child’s feet and legs from easily getting tired.

3️⃣ Extra Deep: This feature allows the SMO to fit deeply inside the shoes. The deeper the SMO sits inside the shoes, the more comfortable your child will feel. This feature can drastically increase your child’s comfort and prevent your child from getting the impression that his/her feet are coming out of the shoes.

4️⃣ Round Toe-Boxes (optional): The importance of this feature varies depending on whether your child is wearing the SMO with a footplate that extends beyond the toes or not. If your child is wearing the SMO with a footplate that is cut back you don’t have to worry about this feature. On the other hand, if your child is wearing the SMO with a footplate that extends beyond the toes this feature is of extreme importance to prevent the front part of the SMOs from destroying the shoes.

5️⃣ Firm Heel Counter: This feature provides additional heel and ankle support as well as heel stabilization.

6️⃣ Wider Opening for Easy On & Off: This feature allows parents to easily slide the SMOs inside the shoes so they don’t have to struggle every time they have to put on the SMOs.

7️⃣ Removable Insoles: By removing the original insoles of the shoes you allow for extra room for the SMOs.

8️⃣ Shoelaces VS Velcro Closure (optional): This is an optional feature, but I strongly recommend shoes with shoelaces over velcro closure as they provide better support and stability. Shoes with shoelaces also allow you to open up the shoe widely to easily slide the SMO inside the shoes.

Don’t Panic! – There are Plenty of Shoes that Provide These 8 Features

I know this might sound like a lot, but finding a shoe that provides all of those features is not as hard as it sounds. I am actually going to make things easier for you and provide you with a list of shoes that provide all of these features.

Before I show you a list of the best shoes for SMOs I want to explain to you the importance of getting shoes that are not a whole size and a half or bigger.

The Problem of Buying Bigger Shoes for Your Child’s SMOs

Simply increasing your child’s shoe size by a full size or two to accommodate the SMO is unacceptable and let me explain to you why.

One of the most common reasons why children need to wear SMOs is to improve their stability. However, if you provide your child with shoes that are way too big, you’re stealing that stability right back.

The shoes I recommend below are all capable of accommodating an SMO and provide the correct amount of support and flexibility that your child needs to walk and run confidently.

Keep in mind that I strongly recommend shoes with shoelaces over an alternative closure as they will provide better support and stability for your child. They will also help prevent your child’s heels from sliding out of the shoes as well as keep the SMO in place.

Best Shoes for Kids with SMOs

There isn’t one perfect shoe that works for every child. With that said, the shoes I recommend are the ones I have fitted over the years and have proven to work best for SMOs. Disclosure: Some links in this post may be affiliate links and we may receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) when you click our links and make purchases.

What Shoe Size Should You Order?

If your child wears SMOs with a full footplate, I suggest that you order the shoes a half size bigger than the end of the footplate. This translates to 3/16 of an inch or 0.4 centimeters of space between the end of the SMO footplate and the end of the shoes.

If your child doesn’t wear the SMOs with the full footplate, then I suggest that you order the shoes a whole size larger than your child’s current foot size, which translates to 3/8 of an inch or 0.8 centimeters of space between your child’s longest toe and the end of the shoes.

How to Order the Correct Size for Your Child’s SMOs?

I came up with a system to help those families who are unsure about what shoe size they need to order for their child’s SMOs. My method takes 4 simple steps and shouldn’t take you longer than a minute to do, and you will have the peace of mind that you are ordering the correct shoe size for your child’s SMOs.

Additional Resources for Children Who Wear SMOs

So far, I have only created one additional resource for children who wear SMOs, but I will be creating new ones shortly. Here you can learn about the best sandals for children who wear SMOs.

Are There Any Other Shoe Options Available?

The list I provided you with showcases the absolute best shoes that work with SMOs. With that said, there are other shoes out there that can accommodate your child’s SMOs. There might not be as deep or supportive as the ones I recommended above but they will definitely fit the SMO.

Do not hesitate to contact me and I will show you some alternatives. Make sure to include in your email whether your child is wearing an SMO with a footplate that extends beyond the toes or not: [email protected]

How to Lace Your Kids’ Shoes to Secure the SMOs

If you decide to get your child a pair of shoes with shoelaces, there is a specific shoe lacing technique that I strongly recommend doing as it will secure and support your child’s heels and prevent them from slipping off the shoes.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the correct type of shoes in the correct size is the only way your child will get the full benefits of the SMOs.

You are investing time and money in your child’s SMOs, so it’s important to make sure that your child gets the full benefits that the orthotics have to offer.

Do not hesitate to contact me through my email or in the comment section below with any questions you might have about your child’s SMOs.