Do you have a child who is complaining about foot pain? There might be several reasons of why your children complain about foot pain, but one thing is clear, pain is not normal, and when children experience pain, their bodies are telling us that there is a problem.
I have spoken to several families who have taken their children to their physical or occupational therapist due to their kids’ foot pain, but they were told not to worry, and that the child will outgrow the pain. I do not recommend that you take the “wait and see” approach, since this can lead to your child developing bad habits, poor alignment, and fall further behind.
I am going to describe the top 3 most common foot problems in children and the best shoes that will help treat these conditions. If your child is dealing with a particular foot condition that I don’t mention in this article, please let me know and I will guide you in the right direction.
I have been working for a specialized children’s shoe store for over 10 years now. This experience has afforded me many insights into children’s shoes and the way they fit. Our store specializes in shoes for children with foot and leg problems, but we provide regular shoe fittings as well. From my experience fitting thousands of kids, I have become familiar with the best shoe brands for children with foot pain and the best styles among those brands.
Let’s start with the most common problem of why children experience foot and leg pain.
One of the most common reasons of why children experience foot pain is due to having flat feet. This type of foot is relatively common in children, especially in toddlers. Most toddlers are flat footed since their arch can develop until age 5, and no intervention is required unless the toddler starts complaining about foot pain.
Flat feet is also referred as pronation. We all have a certain degree of pronation, but when its excessive that’s when most issues arise. When pronation is excessive is usually referred as overpronation.
When children are flat footed, their feet tend to collapse and roll inwards, which throws their whole bodies out of alignment. This leads them to put pressure in parts of their bodies where they are not supposed, which usually leads to foot, knee, and back pain.
These are the most common symptoms of children who have flat feet and that parents should watch out for:
- Tripping or falling
- Muscle fatigue or soreness
- Hip pain
- Back pain
- Growing pains
- Not willing to participate in sports or normal activity
- General fatigue
How to Treat Flat Feet? – Supportive Shoes
The most effective way to treat children with flat feet is through supportive shoes. In certain cases, the child might need an orthotic for extra support to be fitted inside the shoes depending on the degree of the child’s pronation.
Let’s take a look at the image below. Does it look familiar?
Now let me show you what a difference the correct pair of shoes can make in treating your child’s flat-footed condition. Here is an image of a different flat-footed child.
Now let’s take a look at an image of the same child wearing a pair of supportive shoes. Do you notice how much straighter the feet are? The substantial sole of the shoes are preventing the child’s feet from collapsing and turning inwards. This will improve the child’s posture.
Please note that if we fit that same child in a pair of shoes that are unsupportive and too flimsy, you will notice that the feet will start collapsing and turning inwards again. Let’s take a look at the image below:
The correct type of shoes won’t mold your child an arch, but it will help your child walk and run straighter, and improve your child’s overall posture.
Most people relate flat feet with having rolled ankles, but in my experience a child doesn’t need to be flat footed to have rolled ankles.
This condition throws the child’s body out of alignment and can cause heel pain. Unlike flat feet, rolled ankles can be corrected by wearing the correct pair of shoes, and in certain cases orthotics as well.
The image below shows a child with rolled ankles:
When children have rolled ankles, you need to find a pair of shoes that come with a firm heel counter, which is this back part of the shoe that provides ankle support. This is where the heel counter of the shoe is located:
Now, always make sure that when you press on the heel counter of the shoe it feels firm and not soft or flimsy. Let’s take a look at the images below for visualization purposes. As I am pressing on the heel counter of the shoe in the first image I can feel it feels firm and it doesn’t easily bend. However, as I press on the heel counter of the shoe in the second image you can see how it bends because the heel counter it’s too soft.
Having rolled ankles is more common than you think. If your child is complaining about heel pain, always start by making sure that the shoes that your child is wearing provide a firm heel counter. Shoes that come with shoelaces instead of Velcro closure will always provide more heel support.
Toe walking is a walking pattern in which a child walks on the toes and there is no contact between the heels and the ground. Take a look at the picture below to see how toe walking looks like:
I have helped several children who were toe-walking find the correct pair of shoes that helped “ground” them and walk heel to toe.
Toe walking in babies is common, and if your child is just beginning to walk then you shouldn’t be concerned, since this is a common condition in babies who are learning how to walk. However, if your child continues to toe walk beyond the toddler years (by 3 years of age), then you must take action since this can lead to stiff muscles (tight calf muscles in particular) and toe walking can compromise your child’s stability (making your child more prone to falling down).
The type of shoes that are recommended for children who toe-walk are ones with less flexibility at the front. The less flexible the shoes are the better, since this will prevent the likelihood of your child walking on his/her toes. I always start by recommending a pair of shoes, but most children who toe walk end up wearing orthotics as well.
I am always explaining to parents that in order for their children to get the full benefits that the shoes have to offer, they need to provide them with the correct shoe size. This involves getting the correct shoe length and the correct shoe width.
Shoes that are too short or too narrow will cramp your kids’ toes and make them rub against one another or the side of the shoes. On the other hand, shoes that are too long or too wide will allow for too much foot movement inside the shoes. Both of these scenarios will create several foot issues to your child such as blisters, calluses, ingrown toenails, corns, as well as foot pain.
This is the reason why I always recommend parents to take their kids’ to their local children’s shoe store, where they can be properly fitted for shoes. However, a number of parents have contacted me asking me how and where they can get their kids’ shoes online, since they don’t have a local shoe store in their area that they trust.
If you are not sure whether you have a good fitting children’s shoe store in your area, start by taking a look at a map that I created where I describe the best fitting shoe stores for kids in the United States. Go to the link below:
If after looking at that map you still are not able to locate a kids’ shoe store in your area, then proceed to taking a look at an article along with a video I created where I describe the simplest, yet most effective way to figure out your child’s foot size from home:
Now that you know how to figure out your child’s exact foot size from home, and which are the most effective shoes to address your child’s particular foot condition, you are ready to keep your children’s feet healthy.
I have put together a selection of shoes that have proven to be the most effective ones when it comes to treating these 3 common foot conditions.
Best Shoes for Flat Feet, Rolled Ankles, and Toe Walking ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
I only review shoe styles that I have fitted before, since that is the only way for me to tell how well-made and supportive they are, and how they fit. The shoes I recommend below all come with shoelaces instead of Velcro closure, since shoelaces will provide more support and stability to your child’s feet.
All of the shoe styles that I recommend will fit a child with medium, wide, or extra wide feet (as long as you choose the width accordingly).
Disclosure: Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases.
This selection of shoes fit “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 shoe measuring scale (Brannock device) in order to allow for growing room. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you are having trouble finding a particular pair of shoes for your child.
I have helped children with the narrowest and widest feet find the correct pair of shoes. Some parents find it near impossible to find shoes for children with high insteps for example, but I know which shoe styles are extra deep to accommodate the shape of a child with a high instep as well.
You can leave me a comment in the section below or contact me directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org