A comparison of young children's spatiotemporal measures of walking and running in three common types of footwear compared to bare feet

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Background: Clinicians and footwear manufacturers often advise young children to wear soft-soled footwear when they are first learning to walk. There is limited evidence as to why this advice is given, and if soft-soled shoes are as close to barefoot as thought. Research question: What are the differences in spatiotemporal measures of gait during walking and running in three common types of children's footwear with a soft-soled compared to barefoot in young children? Methods: The study used a quasi-experimental design, with the condition order randomised using a Latin square sequence. Forty-seven children were recruited (2 - 4 years). Participants walked or ran the length of a GAITrite mat in a randomized order for barefoot and soft-soled sneaker, boot and sandal conditions. Linear regression analyses were used to investigate the main effect of each soft-soled footwear compared to bare feet in the different gait parameters. Results: For walking and running trials, cadence decreased whereas step time and stride length increased in all footwear types compared to the barefoot condition. While wearing sneakers and sandals increased the stance percentage for walking and running trials, compared to barefoot, this difference was only apparent during the running trial for the boots. Likewise, although double support time increased for both the boots and sneakers in walking and running, compared to barefoot, this difference was only observed in the sandals during walking. Significance: This research found that various types of soft-soled footwear impacted gait compared to the barefoot condition, with some differences seen between walking and running trials. These findings challenge the assumption that soft-soled footwear facilitate a similar gait to barefoot walking and running, although the clinical significance of these differences is unknown.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-224
Number of pages7
JournalGait and Posture
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


  • Barefoot
  • footwear
  • Gait
  • Shoes
  • Sole
  • Toddler

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