Learn how to find the best shoes for orthotics for kids – and find some of our recommendations for the best shoe brands!
Pediatric physical therapists are often get asked “what are the best shoes for orthotics?” I was just asked this questions by a parent today so I thought I would take the time to answer it here! And, as with anything, it’s always great to find a handout on the subject to pass along the information to others. We’ve included a free printable below.
WHY DO KIDS WEAR ORTHOTICS?
Orthotics provide a stability and supportive foundation for a child’s developing feet. Up until around age 7, your child’s feet are constantly changing and it is extremely important to encourage proper alignment and support during their early years.
Orthotic devices can be as simple as an insert inside your child’s shoe, often referred to as a DAFO, or as complicated as a knee high brace with an articulating ankle, known as an AFO.
Orthotics can be recommended for children both with and without a diagnosis and can be prescribed for weakness, flat feet, toe-walking, toe drop, tone abnormalities, leg length discrepancies and more.
Uncorrected issues with a child’s feet can lead to pain in the feet, ankles, knees and back as they get older, poor walking pattern, and even delayed motor skills.
AT WHAT AGE SHOULD A CHILD GET ORTHOTICS?
Orthotics are often first considered around the age of 12 months when a child is ambulating. If a baby has high tone related to a diagnosis, orthotics may be considered earlier for positioning considerations (to keep the foot in appropriate alignment).
HOW IS YOUR CHILD FITTED FOR ORTHOTICS?
Once a therapist or doctor makes a recommendation for which orthotics will be most beneficial for your child, the orthotics will need to be fabricated. There are some off-of-the-shelf orthotics that only require a measurement of your child’s foot. This easy-to-get orthotic is most often a simple shoe orthotic insert.
For more significant issues, your child will need to be casted by an orthotist for custom orthotics and then the braces will have to be made. This often takes a week or two, depending on how complicated the brace is and how busy the orthotist is!
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE GET THE ORTHOTICS?
If your child is new to wearing orthotics, it is important to get their body used to wearing them.
We often suggest wearing the orthotics for a short amount of time (up to 2 hours) the first day and gradually increasing to long periods by a few hours each consecutive day as long as there is no soreness or areas of redness that don’t resolve in 20 minutes or less.
If there is an area that becomes irritated and you notice skin breakdown or blistering, it is important to contact your therapist, doctor or orthotist to have the orthotics adjusted.
TIPS TO FIND THE BEST FITTING SHOES FOR ORTHOTICS
Orthotics are designed for extra support, so it’s less important for the shoe to be as supportive as it might need to be without the orthotic. Orthotics do require increased room in the shoe’s width, depth and length. Sometimes these changes in sizing are minimal and sometimes they are significant.
A roomy toe box
This can often be found in shoes with a rounder toe versus a pointy or straight toe.
This can be achieved by removing the insole of the shoes. It can be as simple as pulling it out but, sometimes, these are glued in and more complicated to remove.
Type of closure
Shoes that lace all the way into the toe box make getting orthotics into the shoes easier. Velcro shoes can also be easier to get on while wearing orthotics.
Consider trying ½ size bigger to allow for the slight difference in length.
Look for high and sturdy heel backs that can withstand the process of getting orthotics into shoes without crushing the back. Durability is key!
Try to find insoles that are easy to remove versus ones that are glued down.
If you find the perfect shoe but still need extra depth for those cute feet that are on the chubby side, cut out the tongue!
Take the orthotics with you when you go shopping for shoes.
And…..the #1 most important tip…..If you find a shoe that fits, but more than one pair!
WHAT ARE THE BEST SHOE BRANDS FOR ORTHOTICS?
Here are my top 8 recommendations for shoe brands that I recommend to accommodate orthotics.
HATCHBACK FOOTWEAR: These shoes are genius with a 4E wide toe-box and extra girth at the ankles to accommodate AFOs.
FRIENDLY SHOES: Tagged as “the shoes for all abilities”, Friendly Shoes were created by an OT who knew that kids could walk for miles in comfort if they could just get their shoes on!! His shoes are genius!
IKIKI: Ikiki shoes have a roomy fit and breathable fabric. As a bonus, you can order two different sizes if your child only wears an orthotic on one foot! And, you can get these shoes with a squeeker in the heel just for fun or to encourage heel-toe walking (ahem…toe walker anyone?) GENIUS!
TARGET SURPRISE: Many families find these shoes, a Stride Rite brand, to be perfect for fitting over orthotics. The velcro closure and wider toe box seems to accommodate anything from SMOs to AFOs well!
NEW BALANCE: New Balance makes shoes in an extra wide, 4E, option which is perfect for the extra width needed when an orthotic is being worn. This is often my go-to recommendation for my older kiddos.
SKECHERS: Also a good option for the older crowd, Skechers has wider toe-boxes, increased depth (removeable insole) and both velcro and lace-up options.
BILLY SHOES: Another Target find, Billy Shoes have a unique zip entry for easy donning and functional laces and a removable insole to maximize fit.