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Foot Fitness for Kids, when being barefoot isn't an option

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  • Foot Fitness for Kids, when being barefoot isn't an option

    I have an 8.5yo son who overpronates. His ankles roll inward and his arches appear to be nearly flat. I was told to get him some orthotics to put in his shoes to support his feet in the right position. However, I'm not one for just putting a band aid on an issue. Especially one as important as foot, ankle, knee and hip health, if indeed that is what I'd be doing with the orthotics.

    Instead, I looked around the web a bit and found that just being barefoot, as humans were meant to be, would strengthen his feet. I'm more in favor of going barefoot and doing some natural strengthening than sticking some piece of molded rubber in his shoes.

    All that being said, he can't walk around barefoot all day because he's in public school. So I'm thinking about getting him a pair of Merrell barefoot sneakers, similar to one of the barefoot shoes I have and like.

    Will putting him in barefoot shoes be enough to strengthen his feet to the point where his foot position is corrected or are the orthotics something he actually needs?

    Opinions and evidence are greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    The Merrell shoes will certainly help a lot more than the orthotics for strengthening and hopefully correcting the issues. I'd definitely go that route before the orthotics route. My 5 year old wears the Merrell's btw.


    • #3
      Softstar shoes. Soft Star Minimalist Shoes for Infants and Children | Soft Star Shoes
      Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.


      • #4
        Barefoot shoes will definatly help him walk in a natural way. I trip to a good osteopath should find out if he has any alignment isses they can help with, or failing that some specific excersises to help from a physiotherapist may help. but both those will be helped by using minimalist shoes.
        You know all those pictures of Adam and Eve where they have belly button? Think about it..................... take as long as you need........................


        • #5
          I tried those for myself and my son.. wasn't a fan. Fit was terrible, soles to stiff and bad customer experience all-round.


          • #6
            Chances are your kid will have to actively correct his gait to compensate if he's going to wear minimalist footwear, which is a tough thing for a child to grasp/do. That being said, I was given orthodics when I was 11 and wore them until I was 23. When i chucked them it felt a little weird a first but I made a conscious effort to have a neutral walk. Never had any issues/pain since. I think the issue arose from the fact that my feet just don't work well with most shoes. They push my ankles inward, and i notice that my shoes always wear down on the outer heel because my ankle wants to roll out.

            I wear neutral sole canvas shoes like vans or globes. They are pretty comfortable and stylish, and affordable. I wear flexible neutral soft sole loafers to work. I don't run anymore but I used to quite a bit. I'd probably go for a neutral running shoe or a nike free if I did want to run again.

            shoes aren't inherently bad, they are only problematic when they force your foot into an awkward position/range of motion. I'd say hold off on the orthodics for your kid until he starts to have actual problems/pain. Even better if you can get some mobility drills from your podiatrist for him to do to improve his gait/posture.


            • #7
              My two cents - it depends. Firstly, on who told you, ie what are their qualifications in the peds PT/orthopedic arena, and secondly, on how bad the problem is.

              You see, I have a daughter who has been wearing ankle-foot orthotics since preschool (now 12) for some decently serious ankle weakness problems. She would never have had the support to be able to stand correctly and walk correctly, much less run without them, and by this point in her development, her posture/gait would have been seriously screwed up without them. I go to a peds therapy center to do exercises and stuff on a regular basis with a PT, along with the heavy-duty braces, as well as have her barefoot as much as possible while still maintaining the support as she grows. They have helped tremendously.

              I know the MDA demonizes orthotics and shoes and all, and mostly for cause I believe, but there are situations where stuff like this is a right thing to do.

              Anyway, I have been around a bit in this department, and there are several things you don't want to do. They would be: take advice from someone not qualified in this field; ignore advice from someone who is qualified and experienced; go cheap on the orthotics if they are needed (meaning stay away from off-the-shelf stuff... Custom is more expensive, but also works better and is hugely more comfortable); and assume this will be forever.

              My daughter will be done with the heavy duty stuff about 18 months after menarche, because that is when her bone growth will be done, and then transition into custom inserts. After/concurrent to that, I will see if Vibrams and Co. might be right, along with the barefooting we already do. Watching kids walk horribly is kinda a pet peeve of mine, just from my experiences with the daughter.

              Not being a peds orthopedic specialist, I cannot really tell you yea or nay, but I would advise you to take this earnestly and seek out good advice, and then take it. (Not that you aren't - just sayin'). All children's hospitals have peds orthopedists who can give you the entire lowdown in one visit, just as a resource, if you haven't got good people. In my experience, the peds orthopedists are interested in getting the kids out of inserts/braces just as much as they are interested in getting them into them, once the problem is helped.
              I have a mantra that I have spouted for years... "If I eat right, I feel right. If I feel right, I exercise right. If I exercise right, I think right. If I think right, I eat right..." Phil-SC


              • #8
                Two chiropractors have told me that he overpronates. I can see it clearly myself, looking at his feet.

                What I don't want to do is put him in orthotics if we could do it differently and as effectively. I'm not very trusting of most doctors, having had bad experiences with my somewhat-alternative way of thinking and their not-so-alternative-throw-some-pills-at-the-problem way of thinking. I'm not, however, a person who doesn't listen to different perspectives, so going to a pediatric ortho specialist will be on my list of things to do.

                I don't think shoes are inherently bad, but I also think that our feet are adapted to doing the things we need to do without all the rubber between us and the earth. For me, barefoot shoes are a happy medium, and one that I'm definitely willing to spend the money on. My other son wears the neutral sole shoes, like Vans, and has no ankle/foot issues.

                Thank you guys for your input. I will find an ortho who can give me some guidance that I can trust, and I will also do more research on the subject.

                Thanks again.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by slowcooker View Post
                  I tried those for myself and my son.. wasn't a fan. Fit was terrible, soles to stiff and bad customer experience all-round.
                  I haven't tried them, but they look horribly uncomfortable and expensive. I don't think my kid would wear them simply because of the way they look.


                  • #10
                    My recommendation would be to put him in barefoot shoes and let his body figure it out.


                    • #11
                      there are a ton of physical therapy exercises that are helpful. its necessary to treat the weakness in the feet and body first. one exercise is just standing on a towel, fanning the toes out to reach and grab up as much towel as possible and scrunching them in so the toes grasp the towel and drag it towards the heals, hold and release to make the towel as flat as possilbe. look up some of these exercises, many are used by ballerinas and gymnasts. they make some great and comfortable arch/ankle support compression socks that can be warn with shoes that really help to support the arch and allow the foot to walk in a much better position. i use them and can say they save my feet on days when i have to walk around like a mad women at work(i farm). i wear them with shoes with a very slight arch but no real cushion that are wide.


                      • #12
                        Posted this on another thread. Realize that if you decide to keep your child in traditional shoes and orthotics, you will cause him to be flat footed for the rest of his life. Fact. Like it or not. Orthotics and motion control shoes have only been around for a few decades.......our feet have been with us forever. Let them work.

                        I'm very very flat footed. 33 yr old and wore almost every type of motion control shoe or orthotic for flat feet there is. 3 yrs ago, about the same time I went primal, I started wearing minimalist shoes....starting with five fingers. Running up to a mile, then working my way up. Same with day to day wear....I'm a nurse and on my feet alot. It's mixed emotions. Grateful that I now actually have a little bit of an arch and no ankle, knee, or shin pain (part of life before barefoot). But also wish I had been doing this since I was a child. My parents went with conventional wisdom and had me in orthotics as a child. Exact opposite of what I should have been doing. So, the thoughts of what could have been. I've changed the future though, and my two little flat feeted toddlers wear minimalist shoes and sure enough, they have arches now and are less and less flat footed every month. The reality? Our feet are designed to support our body and any type of running or walking we choose to do. Let your feet do just that.


                        • #13
                          Barefoot alternatives

                          Originally posted by jodeyh View Post
                          of going barefoot and doing some natural strengthening than sticking some piece of molded rubber in his shoes.

                          All that being said, he can't walk around barefoot all day because he's in public school. So I'm thinking about getting him a pair of Merrell barefoot sneakers, similar to one of the barefoot shoes I have and like.

                          Opinions and evidence are greatly appreciated.
                          I live a barefoot lifestyle, at least as much as possible. The shoes I wear when I must wear them are from VIVOBAREFOOT | The original barefoot shoe | Barefoot Running | Barefoot Shoes | Home which have a very thin soul, which is about as barefoot you can get with a closed toe shoe. The sandals I wear are from Huaraches Barefoot Running Sandals of the Tarahumara Indians | they also have a very thin and flexible sole. Both should give your son as close to a barefoot feel as possible without going barefoot when he can't.

                          Hope this is helpful,