The Best Shoes for Children with Special Needs

Are you looking for a pair of comfortable and supportive shoes for your child with special needs? Finding the right pair of shoes for your child can be challenging, especially if they have a specific disability that may make it harder for them to express how their shoes feel.

In this article, I aim to provide a substantial list of the best everyday shoes for children with special needs. Remember to be patient with your child while you search for the best shoes for them. The shoes that work for one child may not work for another and your child may need to try out a couple of different shoe brands and styles before finding the one that works best for them. The most important thing is that you find the best kind of shoe for your child, and if they seem upset or uncomfortable with their current shoes, there is likely a reason.

I have also become accustomed to some of the most common foot-related problems and conditions that children with special needs can have.

Common Foot Problems of Children with Special Needs

➡️ Flat Feet: Flat feet is a condition where a person’s feet have little to no arch. Although flat feet is a fairly common condition for all kids (as their arches are still developing), children with cerebral palsy, down syndrome, or other disorders are more likely to have flat feet.

➡️ Hypermobility: Hypermobility is a genetic condition that causes people to have extreme flexibility and pain. Children with joint hypermobility have loose or weaker ligaments that lead to their immense flexibility and discomfort.

➡️ Hypersensitivity: Hypersensitivity refers to having extreme sensitivity to the stimulation of any of the five senses. Children with hypersensitivity to touch and movement may find some shoes uncomfortable even if they are fitted and sized properly.

➡️ Hypotonia: Hypotonia refers to decreased muscle tone. Children with low muscle tone may struggle with their mobility and posture, so having them wear well-fitting and comfortable shoes is crucial.

Furthermore, children with special needs are more likely to have wide or extra wide feet or wear foot braces like AFOs (ankle foot orthotics) or SMOs (supra-malleolar orthotics).

All of these specific foot cases/conditions can make it especially difficult for families to find well-fitting and comfortable shoes for their children with special needs. However, there is a pair of shoes out there for every child and foot shape, and I will do my best to help each child find theirs.

What Makes the Shoes I Recommend Effective for Children with Special Needs?

1️⃣ Supportive Footbed: The shoes I recommend provide a footbed with an internal support mechanism (the shoeʼs sole) that is engineered to provide excellent arch support and cradle the natural contours of the foot. This feature will help stabilize your child’s feet without adding unwanted pressure. Having an impact and pressure-reducing footbed like this is especially important for children with special needs who wear orthotics. For example, the shoe on the right has a much more supportive outsole than the shoe on the left:


2️⃣ Extra Depth: Having deep shoes is very important as it ensures that your child’s feet fit comfortably inside of them. It also ensures that your child’s feet will not be rubbing against the top of the shoe, which can often cause discomfort.

3️⃣ Rounder Toe-Box: Similar to the extra depth feature, rounder toe-boxes are very important because they ensure maximum comfort for your child’s feet. Rounder toe-boxes prevent your child’s toes from overlapping or rubbing against the sides of the shoes. In addition, the feature provides more room for your child’s toes to move and breathe.

Difference between a New Balance shoe with a round toe-box and a Nike shoe with a pointier toe-box.

4️⃣ Oversized Openings: The shoes that I recommend open up nice and wide to make it easier for parents and children to get the shoes on and off.

Below you can find a list of the best shoes for children with special needs. 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.

Remember that children with special needs are more prone to having wide or extra wide feet. You will notice that all of the shoes that I recommend are available in wide (W) and extra wide widths (X-Wide).

The Best Shoes for Children with Special Needs

Take a look at the information below each shoe to determine:

  • The foot shape the shoe can accommodate (narrow, medium, wide, extra wide)
  • The type of closure the shoe offers (velcro or laces)
  • The best size to order allowing for growing room
  • Other important information such as material

Are You Unsure of What Shoe Size to Order?

Itʼs important to get the right shoe size for your child in order to get the full benefits that these shoes have to offer. Shoes that are too big allow for too much foot movement inside the shoes, making your child’s feet and heels less supported. On the other hand, shoes that are too small may cramp your child’s feet and heels and cause pain.

If you are unsure of your child’s foot length and shape, I recommend taking a look at another resource I have created. In just two simple steps, I will be able to determine what shoe size your child should wear.

If your child wears orthotics you might need to order your child’s shoes in a slightly larger size than their current shoe size. Just let me know this when sending me your child’s foot measurements, and I’ll be sure to assist you.

Should You Provide Your Child with a Pair of Shoes with Laces or Velcro Closure?

I understand that it might be challenging to provide a child with special needs with a pair of shoes with laces. The reason why I provided you with both laces and velcro options is that shoes with laces provide better support and stability compared to shoes with velcro closure. So, if your child has a foot or leg condition and needs extra support and stability from the shoes, you might want to consider buying shoes with laces.

Some parents don’t understand the importance and the positive impact that shoes can have on their children’s lives. Please remember this: “Any structure built on a weak foundation will collapse”. Our feet are the foundation for our entire body, and we must take good care of them!

Donʼt hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions or are having trouble finding the best pair of shoes for your child: 

[email protected]

Have you found a specific shoe style or brand that has worked well in helping your child with special needs? Let us know in the comments below so other families can benefit from your experiences 🙂