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hen children have just started learning

to walk their arms are held up high to

aid with balance; they walk really fast and may

trip or fall down. They rely on a wide base of

support to maintain their stability and may

appear bow legged because of this.

They often put their feet down flat on the

ground in full contact and they do not spend

as much time on each leg when clearing

their feet for the next step. Their foot

position appears very flat and flexible and

this is because of the presence of a fat pad

on the bottom of the foot and the position of

the heel bone. Some children may not walk

independently until the age of 18 months.

However, walking delay beyond 18 months

needs investigation. The time when you should

consider buying your child’s first shoes is when

they start to walk assisted and definitely by the

time they are independently walking and ready

to walk outdoors.

There is little high-quality research in very

young children in relation to footwear.

However, a systematic review published in

2011 updated the literature on the effects of

shoes on all aspects of children’s gait, where

they looked at the biomechanical differences

between barefoot and children wearing shoes

(Wegner et al, 2011). They found from their

meta-analysis that shoes affect the gait in

children and that children in shoes walk faster

by taking longer steps and they have greater

knee and ankle motion. Shoes were shown

to reduce foot motion and increase support

during the stance (foot flat on the ground)

phases of gait. During running, they found

that shoes were able to attenuate shock and

encourage a rear foot strike pattern. This is all

valuable existing information about how shoes

impact on a child’s gait but the long term effect

of these factors in relation to a child’s growth

and development are currently unknown.

While shoes are part of your child’s wardrobe

and you want them to be aesthetically

acceptable, the main important factors of

shoes for very young children is to protect

the foot from injury and infection and to

enable walking (Staheli and Song, 2012).

Well-fitting shoes are an essential part

of aiding the optimum environment for

adequate function and to prevent any

potential foot problems. Very stiff, unusually

shaped and compressive footwear may cause

deformity, weakness, and a loss of mobility

and function. As children get older, the role of

footwear will change in relation to their age and

for what activity or situation (i.e. school shoes /

sports shoes) the footwear is required.