The impact of shoe flexibility on gait, pressure and muscle activity of young children. A systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is limited evidence of shoe impact in younger children, particularly in the context of immature gait patterns. It is unclear if the impact from shoes in younger children is similar to what has been seen in older children. This systematic review aims to identify any impact of shoe features on younger children's gait, and if there are any differences between shoe sole flexibility compared to barefoot. Methods: Study inclusion criteria included: Typically developing children aged ≤6 years; comparison of barefoot and shod conditions (walking and/or running) with shoe features or style of shoe described; sample size > 1. Novelty types of footwear were excluded, as was any mention of in shoe support or modifications. Studies were located from six databases. Study methodology was assessed using the McMasters critical review form. Sample size weighted standardized mean differences (SMD) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated. Results: Four studies were included. Participant age ranged from 15.2 to 78.7 months, with 262 participants across all studies. All studies had limited methodological bias based on their design type. Compared to barefoot walking, shoes increased velocity, step time and step length. Shod walking decreased cadence. Peak plantar pressure was generally lower in the stiff shoe design and there was a higher peak plantar pressure in the Ultraflex shoes. No studies were found investigating muscle activation. Conclusions: Shoes affect younger children's gait in spatiotemporal gait aspects, similar to those seen in older children. There is limited evidence on effects of particular shoe features such as sole hardness, on gait, and no evidence of any changes in muscle activation patterns. Further research is required to evaluate the impact of different types of shoe and shoe features in this population to provide clinical advice on the type of shoe that is appropriate in this age group.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Foot and Ankle Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019


  • Child
  • Footwear
  • Gait
  • Run
  • Shoes
  • Toddler
  • Walk

Cite this