The impact of hard versus soft soled runners on the spatio-temporal measures of gait in young children and a comparison to barefoot walking

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Introduction: There is increasing interest in shoe sole softness in children’s footwear. Industry and health professionals have limited evidence to guide their recommendations on footwear for young children. Older children have demonstrated increased stride and step length when walking in footwear compared to walking barefoot. Older children have also demonstrated decreased cadence, with an increase in double support time and a longer stance time while wearing footwear (Wegener, Hunt, Vanwanseele, Burns, & Smith, 2011). Furthermore, another study examined the effects of the different footwear torsional flexibilities on gait in newly walking toddlers. It found that increased flexibility of the footwear sole resulted in a shorter stance time compared to barefoot. However, velocity and step length did not differ across different shoe flexibilities (Buckland, Slevin, Hafer, Choate, & Kraszewski, 2014). Clinicians only have these studies to guide their advice when recommending footwear for children under the age of six. Purpose of the study: This research aimed to determine spatio-temporal gait measures of young children while walking in soft and hard-soled athletic footwear, compared to walking bare foot. Methods: Demographic and lower limb anthropometric data were collected from typically developing children. Participants walked along a-4.3 m GAITrite electronic walkway at a self-selected speed. Three conditions were tested, duplicate styled athletic footwear with two different sole hardness and bare feet. Sole hardness A was the existing industry standard (Shore 48–53), with the comparative sole hardness B being 20% outside of tolerance determined by consumer focus groups (Shore 60–65). Gait conditions (Barefoot, Shore A, Shore B) were randomized using a Latin Square and spatio-temporal measures were collected with the GAITrite. Linear regression, clustered by participant was used to understand the difference in gait variables between barefoot and soft sole, barefoot and hard sole and soft sole compared to hard sole. Results: Participants included 47 typically developing children aged between 2 and 4 years (n¼25, 53% female, n¼15, 32% 2 year olds, n¼17, 36% 3 year olds, n¼15, 32% 4 year olds). Key differences between gait parameters in each condition are displayed in Table 1. There were many significant gait differences between both footwear conditions and barefoot but no significant differences between the two footwear conditions. Discussion and conclusion: Current clinician and parent perception is that sole hardness is an important feature in young children’s shoes. The findings of this study infer that sole hardness has limited impact on common spatio-temporal measures of children’s gait and both hard and soft soled shoes change gait compared to walking barefoot. Parents and health professionals can be informed based on this study, sole hardness appears to have limited impact on walking in young children. The minimal differences found between soft and hard soled footwear can be a positive finding for footwear designers as they may increase sole hardness and therefore shoe durability with minimal impact on the spatio-temporal measures of gait. However, clinicians and footwear designers should consider that while gait parameters did not significantly change, plantar pressures or comfort levels of the child were not assessed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S109-S110
Number of pages2
JournalFootwear Science
Issue numbersup1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2019
EventFootwear Biomechanics Symposium 2019 - Pomeroy Lodge, Kananaskis, Canada
Duration: 28 Jul 201930 Jul 2019
Conference number: 14th


  • children
  • Children’s footwear
  • gait analysis
  • gait studies
  • shoe

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