The Psychological Impact of Wearing Pediatric Orthopedic Shoes


When a child is prescribed orthopedic shoes, it’s usually viewed from a purely medical perspective. However, the emotional implications must also be carefully considered. Pediatric orthopedic shoes can have a significant impact on a child’s self-esteem, sense of normalcy, and psychological well-being, making the adjustment process challenging. An understanding and empathic approach by parents, caregivers, and teachers can help the child navigate this situation more easily. This article aims to shed light on these psychological implications and provide guidance for those supporting a child through this transition.

The Need for Pediatric Orthopedic Shoes

Children might need orthopedic shoes to correct, support, or accommodate a wide variety of foot and lower limb conditions. Conditions such as flat feet, in-toeing or out-toeing, muscular disorders, developmental delays, or malformations from birth may necessitate the use of these specially designed shoes. Orthopedic shoes help align, support, and improve function in the child’s feet and lower limbs, contributing significantly to their overall foot health and mobility.

Orthopedic shoes, simply put, are a medical remedy shoe custom-designed for the individual child. They often have various special features like additional support, wider design, and deeper than regular shoes. They are shaped in a way to take the pressure off problematic areas, encourage proper foot alignment, and improve balance.

The Psychological Implications

Adjusting to pediatric orthopedic shoes isn’t just a physical change for the child; it’s a significant emotional transition too. The child might feel self-conscious about being ‘different’ or fear alienation and bullying from peers. It is critical to understand and address these feelings to ensure the child’s emotional well-being during the adjustment period.

Research and child psychologist insights show that children who wear orthopedic shoes often grapple with feelings of embarrassment, feeling overly ‘different’, or fear being isolated from their friends. Often, these feelings stem from a fear of standing out unfavorably among their peers, where being alike is highly valued.

A Closer Look at the Issues

Delving deeper into the feelings of embarrassment and fear of ‘otherness,’ it’s clear that these emotions go beyond just shoe aesthetics. From real-life experiences, children have shared how they felt singled out, feared being made fun of, or felt left out during certain activities due to their shoes.

For example, Kate, a ten-year-old with flat feet, shared her experiences of being at dance class. When all her friends wore ballet flats, she was asked to wear her orthotic shoes and felt different and left out from the rest. These instances profoundly impact the child’s self-esteem and pose challenges during the adjustment period to orthopedic shoes.

Strategies for Helping Children Cope

Parents and caregivers can adopt different evidence-based strategies to help children cope with this transition. One essential step is open communication.  Ensure the child understands why they need to wear these shoes, and do so in a clear, age-appropriate language.

Additionally, encourage the child to express their feelings. Child psychologist Dr. James suggests using storybooks or cartoons with characters going through similar experiences as a conversation facilitator. According to him, when children see others navigating similar situations, they feel less alone and more understood.

Creating a Supportive Environment at Home

A child’s home should be their sanctuary where they feel seen, heard, and loved. Parents and caregivers can foster a supportive environment through understanding and open communication.  Strategically displaying positivity and embracing differences can significantly improve the child’s outlook.

Encourage your child to participate in decision-making wherever possible, for example, choosing shoe patterns or colors. This could give them a feeling of control and make the shoes seem less intimidating.

Addressing Concerns at School

School, a major social environment for children, can be a space where they face challenges due to their orthopedic shoes. It’s crucial to address their concerns about potential teasing or bullying.

Parents can collaborate with teachers, proposing a classroom session explaining why some children might need special shoes. This step can give a positive spin, encourage empathy and understanding among their peers, and prevent bullying due to ignorance or misunderstanding.

Positive Reinforcements: Stories of Success

Sharing real-life success stories of children who have successfully navigated the transition to orthopedic shoes can inspire and motivate your child. Sam, for example, a seven-year-old boy with flat feet, went from being embarrassed about his orthopedic shoes to flaunting them when he discovered that he could run faster and play for longer without pain.

These success stories underpin the importance of positivity and the belief that these ‘special’ shoes can make them stand out in a positive way.

Fitting Fashion with Function

Orthopedic shoes have long evolved from clunky, dull designs to a variety of trendy and colorful options. Many kids’ fashion labels have collaborated with pediatric orthopedic shoe brands to deliver functionality without compromising on style.

Allow your child to choose from various stylish options that suit their preference. Incorporating these shoes into their unique style can make them feel good about their shoes and encourage acceptance.


The journey toward accepting and positively viewing pediatric orthopedic shoes can be challenging and requires understanding and support. But with a strategy informed by expert advice and insights from shared experiences, parents and caregivers can ease this transition.

Emphasizing the crucial role that parents and caregivers play, it’s essential to remember that with understanding, positive reinforcement, and patience, we can help our children navigate this change successfully.

This guide, informed by robust research, expert interviews, and real-life testimonials, aims to provide a comprehensive understanding and approach to help children adjust to wearing orthopedic shoes. All content adheres to Australian English standards, with culturally inclusive examples and references.