I’m going to say it straight: I don’t like to see a child in heeled shoes. Let me be clear. I’m not only talking about high heels or those plastic high-heel costume shoes. I’m talking about school shoes and soccer shoes. Summer sandals, toddler shoes, and “healthy shoes for kids.” If you look at the kids around you, you’re likely to find a heel on almost every pair of shoes they are wearing.
Last year I posted this on my Facebook page:
“When I see a ONE INCH heel on both a Kid’s size 8.5 shoe and a Woman’s size 7 shoe, it makes me wonder if anyone in shoe-design has ever taken trigonometry. FWIW, the shorter the foot, the GREATER the distortion created by a particular heel height.”
I expanded on this picture in Whole Body Barefoot and I’ve copied it below because I think it’s important that you read it.
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KIDS AND HEELED SHOES
Recalling Picture B on page 15 [adding below for your reference], there are three measures that affect how much a heel distorts a body from neutral: the height of the heel, the length of the foot, and the height of the body.
The shorter the foot wearing a heeled shoe, the greater the angle upon which the foot is set. When it comes to putting kids in heeled shoes, it bears emphasizing:
- The higher the heel, the more forward the body is projected.
- The shorter the foot, the more forward the body is projected.
- The taller the body, the more forward the body is projected.
Kids are short, but they also have short feet, which is why it drives me crazy to see a child’s shoe with a heel the same height as their parents’. The short foot of a child “magnifies” a heel’s effect—even a heel of seemingly inconsequential height. Which means that, in the case of these shoes (a woman’s size 7 and a child’s size 8.5), the angle between the standing surface and the foot would be much greater in the child than in the adult.
It also means that the necessary compensation to get the body back “upright” is relatively greater for the child than the adult. Want to experience the math for yourself? Go to a free-standing bookshelf and put this book under either the right or left side to see how far the bookshelf tips. (For extra fun, look how the books shift and imagine how the loads to each of the “book cells” change in this arrangement.) Then put this book under the back of the bookshelf and again, note the total distance traveled by the unit…and the books.
Barring medical conditions or the occasional dress up, heeled shoes have no place in a child’s wardrobe. Children’s shoes are not mini versions of adult fashion; they’re maxi versions. They amplify the deleterious effects of traditional footwear. For this reason (and for many others), I buy only minimal shoes for my kids.
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When you first start looking, it feels impossible to find shoes without heels (or elevated toes, or pointy toe-boxes that squish the toes together, or don’t attach, like a slide-on or flip-flop). Especially if you’re walking into a store like this:
Fortunately, companies that make “minimal shoes” (to various degrees) are sprouting up all of the time. Read Shoes: The List to gather the basics on what you’re looking for. Here’s a picture of the list of Kid Shoes from an appendix in Whole Body Barefoot (sorry for the blur, I need a new camera!).
Support sprouting companies when you’re able, so they can continue making these products. If you’re an ETSY store or larger company that makes minimal shoes for kids, or you’ve got a lead on a great brand or shoe, leave a link in the comments and I’ll compile and publish Shoes: The KIDS List. OK?
Tread well, my friends!