What is adaptive footwear?


What is adaptive footwear?

Have you heard of adaptive footwear? Though it is a growing area of focus for fashion brands across the world, many people don’t quite understand what it is.

Adaptive clothing is focused on accessibility for disabled people or those with similar challenges. From wheelchair users to those with arthritis, adaptive clothing makes it easier to live an active, independent life.

These user-friendly shoes have been designed in part because of increased awareness of the unique challenges that many humans face. In recent years, designers have created more innovative technologies that work towards solving those challenges.

Today, our team at Kizik will go over everything you need to know about adaptive footwear. We’re breaking down the challenges that adaptive footwear addresses and the specific features you should look for in finding a high-quality pair for yourself or a loved one, as well as answering some common FAQs.

Who is adaptive footwear and clothing for?

When it comes down to it, adaptive footwear and adaptive clothing are for everyone. 

People who use wheelchairs often make use of adaptive options, and the elderly, injured, and anyone with a disability can benefit from the convenience, comfort, and support of adaptive styles. 

Adaptive clothing is a perfect fit for a variety of conditions, including:

  • Motor Neurone Disease (MND)
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
  • Muscular Dystrophy

Ultimately, any and every person can enjoy adaptive clothing, regardless of their situation, thanks to the focus on practical benefits that make such clothes convenient to wear.

Unfortunately, many existing options fall short. While they might be more accessible in one way, they sacrifice something in two or three other areas. The biggest offenses are in terms of comfort and style, which are usually sacrificed for a bit of extra convenience. 

That’s why we’re approaching adaptive footwear, one of the most important areas of adaptive fashion, a bit differently here at Kizik. Our designs optimize style, comfort, and convenience to create an all-around ideal shoe for anyone.

What’s different about adaptive footwear? 

When we compare adaptive footwear to regular footwear, the differences may seem subtle. 

Adaptive footwear, most importantly, needs to be easy to put on and take off. Safety is also a priority, which is why anti-slip soles are a vital feature to look for.

The typical everyday footwear sold by activewear or casual fashion companies often doesn’t put so much intentional effort towards convenience and safety, which sets adaptive footwear apart.

For example, many adaptive shoes use velcro pull tabs. Others stick to traditional laces or zippers (but turn to alternative improvements like slip-on technology). Some are also shaped differently, such as shoes with longer heels to give extra support to wheelchair users. 

Other adaptive shoes feature SMO or AFO orthotics designed to support feet affected by specific disabilities.

What features should I look for in adaptive sneakers?

If you’re looking to try adaptive footwear, there are a few essential qualities any style you try needs to have.

Convenient entry & exit

Putting on or taking off shoes can be difficult for many of us due to any number of challenges. A loss of fine motor skills in hands and fingers, for example, or difficulty bending over, makes this important everyday process an ordeal.

Slip-on shoes are the perfect solution. Slip-on shoes aren’t a new idea, but many of the options that exist today are unsatisfactory. 

Despite the best intentions, not every pair of high-top or low-top slip-ons you find in stores is that easy to slide on. Even if you can slide your foot in, many slip-on shoes will mess up your socks or require you to use your hands to help. Slip-on shoes are often even harder to take off, as well.

At Kizik, we’re tackling these issues with our HandsFree Labs® technology. Our shoes feature a structure in the heel that flexes down when you step into the shoe and then pops right back into place. It’s a streamlined solution that makes our footwear actually easy to put on and take off for anyone.

Don’t let your challenges stop you from living a full, active life. Styles like our Men's Athens and Men's Lima are built to empower and enhance your independent lifestyle, one step at a time.

Slip prevention: Essential for adaptive athletic shoes

Being able to put on shoes or take them off easily is only part of the battle for improved everyday quality of life. Ensuring safety and stability is another key function of adaptive footwear.

Falls are often a greater risk for those who use adaptive footwear, such as the elderly or those with Parkinson’s Disease. They are not only more likely to occur; they’re also likely to be more dangerous if they do.

Proper traction on the bottom of the outsole is a vital feature for adaptive footwear to minimize the risk of falls as much as possible. Rubber provides superior traction, and specific designs on the bottom of the shoe can provide more or less traction as well.

Our Women's Roamers, for instance, are built with traction grooves along the bottom of the shoe. Paired with their wide base, our Roamers make it easier to smoothly roll through your steps without worrying about slips.

We also use rubber traction pads on our other styles, such as our Lima shoe, to provide traction from heel to toe.


What good would adaptive footwear be if it didn’t actually adapt? Being able to approach any situation with confidence is key, and the best adaptive footwear helps bring that feeling.

Adaptive footwear should work for all things, from casual occasions to light exercise. Whatever you're up to, a durable, performance-oriented shoe helps protect your foot and keep you cool and comfortable.

Versatility goes all the way down to the details. For example, here at Kizik, our styles are designed with removable, washable insoles. This means you can wash your insoles easily or even replace them with special insoles that are often recommended for certain medical conditions.

Support is a must for adaptive shoes.

One thing that many adaptive footwear styles out there today lack is proper support. 

High-quality insoles and outsoles that support your foot aren’t limited to adaptive footwear. They’re an essential part of any good pair of shoes, especially for someone looking to live an active lifestyle.

Support works in two parts. First, it protects you from rough terrain. Outsoles need to be built with shock absorption to make each step softer. For people with conditions like arthritis or muscular dystrophy, this is especially important as it eases the burden on the body.

Second, support makes you more comfortable. Even when you aren’t exercising or traveling, good insoles make shoes much more comfortable to wear.

The best adaptive footwear styles to try

As the world of adaptive footwear expands, better options are becoming available that are more stylish and more functional than ever before.

Here at Kizik, the accessibility features of our favorite styles make them a perfect choice for those looking for adaptive footwear.

Get started with our Women's Athens shoe, an active-minded shoe with our signature HandsFree Labs® technology. Putting on and taking off shoes has never been easier. All you have to do is step in! 

For something even more subtle in terms of looks yet just as heavy-hitting in terms of practical features, look no further than the streamlined silhouette of our Lima shoe for women. Like the Athens style, our Rabbit Foam® outsoles provide exceptional support and comfort with every step. 

Removable insoles in all our styles add to the versatility, letting you keep the insoles fresh and swap them for medically-recommended insoles if needed.

Looking for extra stability or a different style to add to your collection? Our Men's Roamers are fresh to the scene and ready to empower you even further. A wide stance and ample traction grooves help with slip prevention and sturdy steps, balanced by abundant cushioning in the soles.

Our adaptive footwear collection: Easy on, easy off

Ultimately, you can find accessible, versatile, comfortable shoes that fit your needs. From our favorite styles here at Kizik to new designs on the way, we’re working to help everyone feel more at home on their feet, wherever life takes them. We offer shoes for little kids, big kids, and adults, so you can easily find all the footwear on your wishlist.

For more guides like this one, as well as holiday gift guides and more, check out the rest of our Kizik news and follow us on social media! In addition, if you want to give the gift of easy-wear shoes, you can always send a Kizik Gift Card.


Statistics | Parkinson's Foundation

Orthotics: What They Are and How They Can Help Relieve Your Pain | Healthline 

What Is Arthritis? | Arthritis Foundation

Written By: Chris Fry

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