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The Best Shoes For Children With Autism

Kids legs upside down with Friendly Shoes on

We know how difficult finding the right shoes for children with autism can be. From the shopping experience, to looking for shoes that won’t be a struggle to get on, are comfortable and that they’re proud to wear – it’s definitely not easy.

That’s what we’re here for. We’re two mums and we started Friendly Shoes UK to help people who usually struggle to find footwear. We’ve been blown away by the feedback from parents (and their kids!) on our sensory friendly shoes, so let’s get into who they’re for and what makes them different!

Shoes For Kids With Sensory Processing Disorder

One of our customers said that before they found Friendly Shoes, they “had been having such trouble getting shoes on our 7 year old son, it was causing meltdowns every morning”.

A child with autism can find it hard to process everyday sensory information, so a daily act like putting shoes on might cause sensory overload. From a sock wrinkling inside the shoe, feeling a label or shoe seam, find the shoe hard to wear in – these are all factors that could be overwhelming for someone with hypersensitivity.

Tying shoelaces can also be a hurdle too, as autistic kids can have difficulties with fine motor skills and co-ordination.

Adaptive Shoes For Autism

So why exactly are Friendly Shoes the best shoes for children with autism?

Adaptive shoes

This means they have zips that go all the way down the side of the shoe, or round the back, opening the shoe up wide. You set the lace tension on the first wear and then just use the zip so don’t have to worry about tying and untying them, and your little one can slide their foot in easily so the sock doesn’t wrinkle up. Hurrah for magical closing shoes!

Stamped label on inside tongue of trainer
The Quest Mermaid shoe opens up from toe box to ankle so the foot can easily slide in.

Seamless shoes

We do as much as we can to make our shoes sensory friendly. They’re lined with super soft smooth lycra, the zip seams are covered by material, and the tongue label is stamped on to make it smoother for those with hypersensitivity.

Seamless black school shoes open
Check out the smooth linings on our
Adventure Jet Black, popular for school.

Supportive shoes

If your little one has proprioception, then a supportive shoe could help. Our Excursion is our deepest shoe, it has a smooth padded heel collar and laces so you can set the tension as tight as needed (on the first wear, then just use the zip!).

Our Excursion Rainbow Leopard provides ankle stability, tension and comfort.

Lace free shoes

We know some kids hate laces flapping about and touching them, even if they’re done up. In that case, we’ve got two styles that are lace-free. Our Force is our roomiest shoe at the ankle and our Quest has an adjustable elastic toggle, making them ideal shoes for kids with sensory issues.

Zip up and go in the Force Black Lime.

Tips For Finding Autism Friendly Shoes

Taking the above into account, here are some tried and tested tips to help your little ones find shoes they like to wear.

  1. Buy online. We know that going shopping in-store isn’t always possible with your child – plus, it can be so much more convenient to buy online and get them posted to you. Friendly Shoes can be shipped across the UK and Europe and we send out exchange shoes for free in the UK.
  2. Measure their feet slowly. Knowing the right size is important so the shoes are as comfy as possible. If your little one doesn’t want you to measure their feet, try and do one foot one day and one the next to break it up. Could you do this in front of the TV so they don’t notice as much? If they wear an AFO, measure that instead and use those measurements on our size guide.
  3. Break the routine. If you find that getting your child to put their shoes on everyday is an uphill struggle, change up the routine. Don’t always ask them to sit on the stairs just before you’re about to go. See if putting them on in a different room, with something to distract them helps.
  4. Get seamless socks. If sock seams are a problem, then wearing them all day in shoes is not going to be comfortable, and won’t encourage your child to wear their shoes. We rate seamless bamboo socks.

The Best Shoes For Autism

We had a quick chat recently with Claire, a mum who recently bought the Quest Marine Camo for her autistic son. We couldn’t resist asking her some questions when we read her review:

“I ordered him a pair of these and after some convincing he agreed to try one shoe on, with the agreement that it would be taken straight off again. I put it on and he said, in surprise, ” it’s nice and comfy!” and asked me to put the other one on! And that was it, he has been wearing them happily since they arrived and showing them off to everyone!

He could not put his own shoes on before now but can manage these himself. Because they open all the way, he can put his foot down flat into them, which stops his sock wrinkling up, which I think was part of the problem. They are nice and padded on the footbed and at the heel so no breaking in was needed.

I’ve already recommended them to the SENCo at his school so she can tell other parents!”

Question: What’s the most important thing you look for when it comes to shoes for your son?
Answer: He has wide feet, so we want lightweight and nothing too constricting. He doesn’t like laces, how they flap about which is why we like the toggle. And they need to look cool! Warmth is important too, so he isn’t wearing Crocs all year. Appropriateness for school is the least priority.

Q: What was shopping for shoes like previously?
A: When he was two years’ old, before his autism diagnosis, we weren’t aware of his sensory needs, and he wouldn’t take off his winter snow boots. As spring approached, we had to get him out of the boots. We went to Clarks and had to go into the stock room to be away from other people. He was measured in the buggy and wasn’t happy about it. We put the new shoes on him, threw the boots away and went to the park to distract him.

Since then, I’ve bought the same shoe in a size up each time. Sometimes I buy second hand on Vinted, they’re worn in so more comfy. Now shoe shopping is all online – going in-store isn’t a possibility.

Q: What tips do you have for helping your son put on shoes?
A: When I put shoes on him before finding Friendly Shoes he would have his guard up as he doesn’t like it. When we got our new shoes, I showed him them in the box and he liked them, and then I put it away. The next day when he was calm and watching TV I told him I was going to put one shoe on one foot and take it straight off again. He actually liked it and was happy (which was amazing!) but I find that doing it gradually, when he’s distracted and in a good mood is the best.

In Summary

Finding shoes for children with autism isn’t always easy – there can be a lot of hurdles to overcome. However, help is at hand. Our sensory friendly shoes can really make a huge difference to your little one.