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Can the shoes a toddler wears affect their feet later as they grow?


Did you know you can buy high heeled shoes for your toddler, through online retailers in Australia? No podiatrist would ever recommend this type of shoe for a growing foot (and probably not for an adult foot either!) The marketing of high heel shoes for toddlers is symptomatic of a wider problem across the children’s footwear industry. While lots of kid’s footwear brands do their best to provide appropriate shoes for growing feet, others sell foot-ware designed for its aesthetic appeal rather than comfort.


Does this matter?
Yes it does! According to almost every podiatrist you talk to today, the types of shoes children wear as toddlers can have long term negative impacts on their feet and bodies as they grow up.


Why do shoes have such a big impact?
Studies have found that children who grow up in barefoot communities have stronger and healthier feet. When toddlers start walking, their feet are still developing, the foot bones actually don’t finish developing and hardening until about the age of 13. It’s not until children are about six or eight years old that their arches fully develop.
Toddlers need to build up the necessary muscle strength and ligament stiffness to walk effectively, and some shoes, by limiting their movements or constricting their feet, prevent this from occurring. If leg, feet and toe muscles are not able to function as intended, children could face ongoing physical imbalances in their bodies. This can become more problematic in later life, contributing to chronic pain conditions or repetitive injuries.
We know that many of the shoes we wear as adults are not good for our feet, but at least our feet have the benefit of being fully developed!


What sort of shoes should toddlers wear?
To allow their feet and toe muscles to develop properly, podiatrists recommend that toddlers (especially those just learning to walk) wear shoes as little as possible. Obviously you want to protect your toddler’s feet when faced with sharp or rough surfaces. When shoes are deemed necessary podiatrists recommend you opt for soft, flexible shoes with plenty of toe room and soft soles. Soft soled shoes allow toddlers to feel the ground beneath their feet and to exercise their toe muscles. Toddler’s shoes should not put pressure on any part of the foot and should have high edges to prevent tiny feet from slipping out.

Keeping all this in mind there might be times when special occasions call for fancy footwear. If your toddler is only wearing the ‘fancy’ shoes for a little length of time, it is not so important that they are foot-friendly. The most important thing is that their every-day shoes, (the ones they wear to the park or the shops and do all their running around in) provides protection for their soles without inhibiting the natural muscle development in their feet.

If you have concerns about what shoes to buy your children, or believe their feet aren’t developing normally, contact us today for a consultation.