What’s the Best Shoe for Small Feet?

We often hear the question “What’s the BEST shoe for small feet?”  And as parents, we often seek to maximize the family budget. One common cost-saving technique involves choosing shoes that toddlers and children “will grow into”. This week we will review a paper that examines this practice.

Kobayashi (1) recently investigated: “How do too big shoes affect the joint kinematics of kids gait pattern?” (Yes… that’s really the title.)

The authors found two interesting changes in kids wearing oversized shoes:

  1. Decreased stride length
  2. Decreased walking speed

The study concluded: “Wearing shoes that are oversized negatively impacts gait parameters”.

Shoes that are flexible, with minimal cushioning, have been shown to improve proprioception and proper arch formation. Examples of shoes that promote these qualities include the AltraInstinct Jr.®, NIKE SMS Roadrunner ®, and Vivobarefoot ®.  As kids get a little bigger original Converse All-Stars are not a bad choice either.

(1) Kobayashi et al. How too big shoes affect to the joint kinematics of kids gait pattern? Footwear Science Volume 7, Supplement 1, 2015

Shoes that have a built-in heel also are of concern as they negatively impact calf and Achilles tendon length.  The longer time you spend shortening your Achilles tendon the greater impact on the gate and orthopedic injury.  This is exactly what is experienced in practice as children have very few orthopedic injuries prior to the first few years in shoes and are virtually unheard of in cultures that do not have excessive foot support of heel height as a population.  Remember due to the small size of toddlers and kids a very small heel lift in a tennis shoe would be almost an inch to two-inch heel in an adult.

Allowing your kids to run barefoot or in minimal shoes can help strengthen the arches and small muscles of the feet; rather than ‘casting’ a foot in a rigid tennis shoe.  There are many options out there to ensure that your little ones are developing as designed.