Some people might think shoes are no big deal, but shoes can mean a lot to a kid. How a shoe looks, feels and functions are all factors when it comes to picking out shoes for a kid who lives with a disability. Yet there seem to be shoes everywhere, so why is it sometimes so difficult to find ones that work for your kid?
Well, the answer is that not all kids are the same. Needs and wants vary from kid to kid. Your child might find a pair of sneakers in her absolute favorite colors. But you can’t buy them because they have shoe laces instead of Velcro, which is necessary for a lot of kids who have trouble tying their shoes. Or maybe your kid wants shoes that’ll match his favorite school outfit, but finding those shoes that’ll also support his ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) can be a struggle.
There are plenty of reasons why shoe shopping isn’t always the easiest. That’s why we turned to our parenting community for their help. We wanted to know what shoe brands parents recommend for kids with disabilities. Every child is unique so some of these suggestions might not work for your child, but at the very least, we hope that this list gives you some new options to try.
Here’s what our community recommended:
Some Converse kicks (like these Converse x Frozen 2 Chuck Taylor All Star shoes) are not only great for any “Frozen” fan out there, but a good choice for kids with disabilities. There’s a quick fasten strap that makes the shoes easier for putting on. It also runs a half size larger, allowing room to accommodate AFOs.
“Converse!” suggested Samantha Hallas. “Not just for kids, but adults as well. They make slip-ons that don’t tie. I have several pairs, and although I don’t wear AFO’s anymore, friends have told me they fit comfortably with them.”
“Converse slide over the AFO’s really well and are not bulky,” said Carrie Rosati Fick.
Buy the Converse x Frozen 2 Chuck Taylor All Star Toddler High Top Shoes for $40 from Converse.
2. New Balance
These toddlers 680v5 Hook and Loop New Balance sneakers are meant for a kid who is active and loves to play. The Velcro enclosure makes them easy to put on and take off. They also come in three different fits: standard, wide and extra-wide, which is good for kids who wear braces or just need a little extra wiggle room.
“We’ve had good luck with New Balance for our little one,” said Brian Deringer. “They have several options for wider feet and Velcro.”
“New Balance sneakers because the brand offers sneakers in different width sizes which are an option for older kids/tweens that wear SMO braces,” said Kathleen Borsetti. “Also, New Balance sneakers offer laces and Velcro closure. This is the perfect sneaker brand for my daughter.”
“New balance is great and hold up really well,” said Jennifer D. “Lots of styles with no ties.”
Buy the Hook and Loop 680v5 Shoes for $39.99 from New Balance.
These TSUKIHOSHI kid sneakers have wide toe boxes. This is beneficial for comfort when a child is wearing braces. The shoes also have a hook-and-loop closure, allowing for easy access when putting them on and taking them off. They are also machine washable and easy to clean.
“TSUKIHOSHI is our favorite,” said Alicia Doyon. “They are latex free, naturally wide, and work really well with AFO’s.”
Buy the TSUKIHOSHI Kids Neko (Toddler) Gray/Purple Sneaker Shoes for $52.95 from Amazon.
These Direct Pulse – CIVIX shoes from Sketchers have a pull-top loop so they slip on and off your child’s feet easily. The stylish kicks also feature gel-infused memory foam, which allows for comfort for any kid who wears these. There’s also a wide variety of sizes (and other Sketchers styles), so it’s a great option for older kids too.
“Skechers have worked well as they are lightweight, durable and have Velcro straps instead of laces,” said Dawn Mandemaker.
“We have had good luck with Sketchers,” said Kate Denotter. “They have Velcro in the larger sizes for my kiddos who can’t tie shoes.”
“Sketchers with the false laces and the Velcro,” said Morgan H. “They last a long time and my five-year-old doesn’t have kids in his class making fun of him for being unable to tie his shoes yet because they see the fake laces.”
Buy the Direct Pulse – CIVIX Shoes for $47 from Sketchers.
These Saucony kids S-Velocer A/C shoes are designed for both younger kids as well as older kids. They’re sturdy but lightweight at the same time, allowing for good support if needed without slowing your child down. There’s also a hook-and-loop strap and mesh, making these shoes comfortable to wear with braces.
“Saucony,” recommended Tracy Boyarsky Smith. “Especially through Stride Rite when they are young. Velcro options and narrow, medium, wide and extra wide options in a lot of shoes. Not too heavy, but sturdy.”
Buy the Saucony Kids Boy’s S-Velocer Shoes for $28.99 from Amazon.
These stylish Ty Black Opal shoes from Plae have Velcro straps and are known to be a good pick if your child has AFOs or supra-malleolar orthosis (SMOs). They’re naturally wide, machine washable and flexible, making them comfortable for whoever wears them. They also have good traction for active users, a solid option for kids who move around a lot.
“Plae shoes are great,” recommended Emily Stilwell Kingsbury. “They have Velcro straps and are wider to help with braces. If you do have braces, I would order longer Velcro straps so that they attach better. The shoes also stretch out better as you wear them more, so they’re easier to get on.”
“[Plae is] my favorite for use with AFO’s,” said Christina Wheeler. “It has good grip, but not too grippy! It has extended Velcro straps. Great quality and long lasting.”
Buy the Plae Ty Black Opal Shoes for $55 from Plae.
In addition to Nike’s adaptive FlyEase sneaker line, these Nike Free RN 5.0 shoes are also great for kids with disabilities. The sneakers stretch around feet instead of squishing them in, making it a solid choice for a kid who needs room for braces. The fabric conforms to your movements, which can be helpful for a kid who needs to be able to move in different ways. There’s also a Velcro strap and the shoes come in a variety of sizes.
“The toddler Nike double Velcro sneakers are a dream for my girl’s puffy feet,” said Raquel Bibi Cahill. “I wish I had them in each color!”
Buy the Nike Free RN 5.0 Little Kids’ Shoes for $51.97 from Nike.
8. Stride Rite
These Stride Rite Soft Motion Wally Loafers have memory foam and a hook-and-loop closure for ease of access, along with an oversized opening. The soles are flexible and go with the natural movement of feet, which can help with support and balance. There’s also great traction on the bottom to help your child with stability.
“Stride Rite is the only one that works for our son (extra wide feet),” said Julie Martin. “But I like the Velcro closures and the fact that they are washable. My son loves to play in the dust and mud, so having something that lasts through weekly washing is essential.”
Buy the Stride Rite Soft Motion Wally Loafer Shoes for $50 from Stride Rite.
9. Billy Footwear
Billy Footwear, whose founder lives with a disability, designed an entire line of adaptive shoes, ranging from sneakers to boots. For example, these Bill Cozy Boots zip all the way down and around the toe of the shoe so it’s easy for kids to independently put them on. They’re also great for putting on shoes while wearing braces. There are sizes for young kids and big kids. Plus, they are fashionable and (in the case of these boots) great for winter.
“[Billy Footwear] is durable, works with AFO’s and is a dream to take on and off,” said Christina Swanson.
“A friend gave us a pair of used Billy Footwear shoes,” said Naomi Schell. “They are really nice to have with my daughter’s SMO’s. Just unzip and slip them in.”
“Billy shoes because the zip,” suggested Tina Brannen Rhodes. “Made for people with special needs kids and grown-ups!”
Buy the Kid’s Black Billy Cozy Boots With Zippers for €54.29 from Billy Footwear.
These Hatchbacks Freestyle Kids Shoe are orthopedic. They are also designed specifically to work with AFOs. They help with stability and last for a long time. It’s a good option for any kid who needs a shoe that works with them, not against them.
“Hatchbacks are perfect for our daughter’s MAFO’s,” said Aimee Magnan Gollihur
Buy the Hatchbacks Freestyle Kids White/Gray Leather Shoes for $39.95 from Hatchbacks.
What shoe brand would you recommend? Comment below with your suggestions.
For more recommendations from our community, check out the articles below: