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Written by: Chris Fry
About one percent of all children have autism. The world is taking notice, becoming kinder and more inclusive. Specialty footwear is one way in which the world is becoming more accommodating of children with autism.
Below, Kizik uncovers the benefits of choosing specialty shoes for your child.
Inclusivity matters, but it’s important to back it up. We’ve hit the point where companies use it as a buzzword to show support without actually doing the work. With Kizik, we wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for “the work.” “The work” and making more inclusive footwear is the whole reason we exist in the first place.
Accessibility in footwear isn’t just one thing: It’s all the little things that add up to create a better, more inclusive future. For us, it all starts the moment you slip your shoes on.
If the shoes have laces, and your children aren’t able to tie them, it will invariably fall on you to retie them. This could be because they haven’t yet learned how, or it could be that co-occurring dyspraxia makes it difficult.
Laces can create issues for kids. An inability to tie shoes may create frustrating feelings of dependence in children. One way to eliminate this, and to do so in style, is to choose laceless shoes. For dress shoes, loafers offer a laceless alternative. For everyday shoes, there are Kiziks.
With Kizik shoes, you simply slide your foot into the shoe. The heel bends with your foot, then pops out as your foot enters it fully. For kids, the shoes are simple enough to put on by themselves. For adults, the shoes are fast to put on and never require tying. It’s the perfect thing when rushing to school.
Autism-friendly footwear means sensory-friendly footwear. Any given sense has its own sensitivities, and several factors in shoes can spawn a reaction. The secret to making sensory-friendly footwear comes from a few key details.
The first is having a variety of uppers to avoid material sensitivities. Ours includes four-way knit fabric and suede for a variety of impressions. These are in both bold and neutral colorways to provide shoes in a variety of styles.
Overly bright colors can cause an overwhelming visual stimulus, which is to be avoided in something as prominent as shoes. To that end, all of our shoes, for both children and adults, have some muted color variants.
The following way someone can seek to provide sensory-friendly footwear comes from the inside of the shoe. Mis-sized shoes can pinch and pull, creating an uncomfortable sensation for your child. This can be an issue when it seems like shoe sizes change every other month, if not sooner. On your end, frequent checking of feet sizes can help with this detail.
From a shoe designer's perspective, the answer is to simply make more comfortable shoes. Kizik shoes are made with extra cushioning and shock absorption. This protects your little one’s feet at a crucial stage in development and makes them feel more comfortable overall.
Specialty shoes may place tags in places where they do not touch the skin. Tags are often a nuisance for children with autism. Thus, specialty shoes may often either minimize these tags or make them easily removable.
Speaking of comfort: Some specialty shoes are designed to be more comfortable than standard shoes.
It just makes sense: Who would deliberately design a shoe to be uncomfortable? Nobody we want to see designing shoes for children, that much is sure.
Comfort is obviously essential in any shoe. However, sometimes children may not be as able to articulate abnormal pain and discomfort as they are sensory discomfort. While both are issues, the former can have more long-ranging consequences: Improperly sized shoes can cause issues with neuropathy and possible foot deformity.
Kizik makes shoes comfortable in a variety of ways. First of all, when we use four-way stretch knit material in uppers, it means the shoes will be breathable. Your kids’ feet will stay dry, and if they do get wet, they’ll dry out quickly. Fighting sweat is an essential way to enhance comfort.
We use a Rabbit Foam™ outsole to elevate the performance of our shoes. This foam bounces back in response to jumping, playing, and all other movements. They’re also super durable, helping to extend their lifespan (if the feet don’t outgrow them first).
Our shoes handle a lot of abuse. We trek in them, we expose them to mud, we crush them, and we live chaotic lives in them. In particular, kids can expose their shoes to things without thinking of their long-term care. Thankfully, Kiziks are built to last and to be easily cleaned.
To clean your Kiziks, simply take a toothbrush and a bit of dishwashing liquid and water. Spot-clean the knit portions of your shoes, and you’re good to go.
And as far as crushing goes: Most shoes suffer from the back heels getting crushed. Either kids aren’t careful enough when slipping them on, or they stamp their feet in the process. Thankfully, Kiziks are created to be totally crush-proof.
With Kiziks, the heel is designed to be bent when you put the shoe on. It bends inward as you put your foot in, and it pops out just like that. No crushing, no bending, and no worries about them being too hard to put on. They are designed to be quick and easy for wearers of all abilities.
Balance and grip can be a concern for any child, especially when it comes to shoes. Falls can happen, but reducing their frequency can reduce the bruises and painful skinned knees.
Most of the time, kids’ shoes have some manner or grip on the outsole in order to protect them. Specialty shoes go the distance a tad farther to help address any mobility or stability issues.
In the case of Kizik shoes, we address stability through site-specific traction pods. Providing rubber traction points at the heel and toe create stability at the main points of articulation in the shoe. Kids still fall while playing, but this way, they can fall less.
Branding has power. It may be that for some children, knowing what brand something is can be a source of comfort. Thankfully, all Kiziks are slip-ons and not just a small number. When you buy Kiziks, your family will know exactly what to expect. You’ll find comfortable shoes that practically hug the wearer, providing ease of use in any context.
They are also a recognizable brand in the world of slip-on shoes. People of all different abilities use Kizik because of our core values of ease and accessibility. Everyone wants comfortable shoes, and everyone deserves them.
One of the most essential things to look for in children’s footwear is protection from the elements. Children put their bodies through a lot when playing, discovering their limits, socializing, and going through falls and spills. When they are going through all this, their footwear must support them.
Specialty shoes can come with extra padding that serves a variety of purposes. It can help with a variety of foot issues but can also solve comfort issues for some children. An extra bit of comfortable padding can mean one less bad texture to deal with.
Some specialty shoes have direct analogs to adult shoes. This is recognizable within certain footwear in our Kizik Kids Collection. This brings previously adults-only accessible footwear to users of all shoe sizes.
If you have a child that loves matching your style, then being able to match shoes is a wonderful gesture. Also, let’s be honest: Matching outfits make for really cute holiday photos.
Matching adult styles also means getting top-quality footwear in the process. For one example, let’s explore the Kids’ Prague.
This comfy sneaker has a stylish canvas upper that’s incredibly versatile. Little pieces of suede along the upper improve the style and make it suitable for the playground and well beyond. The colorways of the Prague are humble but stylish, with lavender, granite, army camo, black, bone, and dusk blue.
Once we start to analyze the make-up of the shoe, we start to see what makes it so special. The Flex Arc™ is what gives it its slip-on capabilities. It makes it easy for your child to take on and take off their shoes without worrying about laces. The heel simply bends in and bends back out without ever being crushed.
Special Rabbit Foam™ outsoles make for a remarkably comfortable shoe. Complaints of uncomfortable or unsupported shoes are sure to go by the wayside. This foam bounces back as you walk, creating a gorgeous, gliding-on-air feeling. If that weren’t enough, a rubber heel and toe serve to improve the balance of the piece.
The Prague is a special shoe. But by Kizik standards, it’s our norm. For us, accessible, high-quality footwear should be where the bar is at.
Our answer, if our attitude above hasn’t made it obvious, is a resounding yes. Specialty shoes acknowledge the differences in the world and make it easier to navigate.
Making inclusive footwear doesn’t require having some secret insight. All it takes is a desire to make better shoes. For better, easier footwear, there’s always Kizik.
Autism I World Health Organization
Dyspraxia in Autism: Association with Motor, Social, and Communicative Deficits I National Library of Medicine
Why It's Important to Wear the Right Shoe Size I Very Well Health
Written By: Chris Fry
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