Sunday, September 9, 2012

Best Shoes For Your Kids

My little one running in his Havaianas
I have many patients who are parents and they always ask what shoes should their little ones be wearing. Well, being a parent myself, let me try to provide an evidenced-based view for this.

Prominent gait and running researchers Daniel Liberman & Irene Davis have provided lots of evidence on how we run barefoot, with shoes and how footwear can affect it. Their research is even more relevant for young kids and youths since this is the time when their movement patterns and neuromuscular pathways are being formed.

In a study published way back in 1991, the author concluded that shoe selection for children should be based on the barefoot model as optimum foot development occurs in the barefoot environment. If their shoes are too stiff & compressive, deformity, weakness and loss of mobility could result (Staheli, 1991).

A systematic review published last year concluded that with shoes, children tend to walk faster by taking longer steps increasing tibialis anterior muscle activity resulting in greater knee & ankle motion. Shoes reduce their swing phase leg speed, reduce the child's foot motion and increase the support phase during gait cycle, encouraging a rear-foor strike pattern (Wagener et al, 2011).

For those of you who are trying to run in minimalist shoes/ barefoot running style shoes, this is exactly why you have a hard time switching, your neural pathways have been programmed to run such that you land on your heels. As I have written before, the shoes are not important, your running technique is.

Based on the above mentioned studies, the best shoes for our children are no shoes or those that are closest to no shoes, so they don't change the shape of the foot nor alters how the child's feet works.

So all you parents reading this don't fret if your child runs around sans shoes.


Staheli LT (1991). Shoes For Children: A Review. Pediatrics 88:2 371-375.

Wagener C,  Hunt AE et al (2011). Effect Of Children's Shoes on Gait: A Systematic Review & Meta-Analysis. J Foot & Ankle Research 4:3 doi: 10.1186/1757-1146-4-3.

*Picture of my little one running by iPhone 3GS.

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