There is little evidence to guide recommendations of footwear features, for young children, in particular the sole hardness. The aim of this study was to investigate the difference in spatiotemporal measures of gait in young children during walking and running in different types of soft and hard soled footwear
Demographic and lower limb anthropometric data was collected from typically developing children. Participants walked and ran along a GAITrite mat at a self-selected speed with the condition order randomized. Duplicate footwear was tested in a boot, runner and sandal with two different sole hardness; an exisiting industry standard (Shore A) and a comparative sole being 20% outside of tolerance range (Shore B). Spatiotemporal gait measures were extracted from the GAITrite. Linear regression clustered by participant was used to understand the different gait variables.
There were 47 typically developing children aged 2-4 years recruited. Soft-soled sandals increased stride length compared to hard soled footwear (Coef=2.07, CI95%=-4.01 to -0.08, p=0.04) during walking only. There were no differences between walking or running in soft or hard soled sandals, boots or runners. There was a small increase in tripping in soft-soled sandals during walking only.
Discussion and Clinical Relevance
Current perception is that sole hardness is an important feature in young children’s shoes. These findings infer that sole hardness has a limited effect on the spatiotemporal measures of young children’s gait in walking and running. Parents seeking advice from health professionals about footwear and be informed that this shoe feature has limited impact on walking and running in younger children which can therefore guide both clinician and industry recommendations.