Sensory Responses to Footwear Advice

Some children respond to sensations like touch more intensely, more quickly and for longer than other children. This can mean that the sensation of wearing some types of clothing like socks or shoes may be perceived by some children as painful which instigates a ‘flight or fight’ response.

This blog by an occupational therapist explains more about this and some tips and strategies to make putting on socks and shoes less stressful for everyone. This includes:

1. Introducing footwear and wearing socks early if you can.
Take your time, sometimes it is a good idea to leave the shoes around the home so the person can get used to the sight and feel of them. Another technique is to let the person get used to their feet being touched and handled, through gentle strokes and massaging the legs. You could also massage the feet and legs prior to putting on the shoes or footwear.

2. Using distraction strategies and keep dressing as low key as possible.
So that it does not become an unpleasant experience. Reward behaviours that you want to encourage.

3. Taking your time.
Allow plenty of time for your child's dressing routine so that no one feels hurried or stressed.

4. Making sure footwear is the right size.
No one wants to wear tight and painful shoes – ill-fitting footwear can also damage the feet as they grow.

Other things to think about include:

The type of fastenings on the shoe.

  • Buckle and lace-up shoes - tend to be tight and restrictive. It can also be awkward for both the wearer and the carer to put on and remove. 
  • Velcro fastening shoes are more convenient - the Velcro straps will also allow the shoes to be worn tight or loose, depending on what the wearer prefers. For school (if they are permitted) and sports these can help the wearer and staff get changed more easily. 

The fit of the shoe.

  • If the person does not like the shoes to be close fitting, maybe try a bigger or wider size so that he can have more room for their toes. 
  • Some families have told us that their children feel less stressed if they wear shoes that are easy to take on and off because they feel they have more control over what they are wearing. 

What the shoe is made of.

  • Some people may prefer the softer, more flexible feel of a textile fabric, rather than leather. Footwear with soft fleecy linings may also be more comfortable. Some families have found trainers or soft high top trainers are a good option. 

Get your child involved in choosing their shoes!

  • If the wearer is able to help choose their new shoes it could help make them less resistant. You can also leave their shoes around the house so they can try them on in their own time.

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