At Dotty Fish we are very excited to have teamed up with The London Podiatry Centre to produced a short video that educates parents about the benefits of soft soled shoes for children, especially in those early years. The London Podiatry Centre has one of the most sophisticated gait analysis systems in the world. They used this equipment to test Dotty Fish shoes and analyse the results. We have been so proud to be working with Consultant Podiatric Surgeon Ron McCulloch and Podiatrist Fran Campbell and see the benefits our soft soled leather baby shoes have for young children. The video talks about babies foot health and early foot development and how Dotty Fish soft soled shoes are an ideal choice for young children taking those first crucial steps.
At Dotty Fish we have long known the benefits of soft soled shoes for babies and early walkers. We have always designed shoes that not only look good but are also good for growing feet. It was important for us to have a look at the science behind our philosophy. To conduct podiatry testing on our shoes and see if they measured up. We worked with The London Podiatry Centre, one of the most advanced podiatric centres in the world, who have cutting-edge gait analysis equipment and specialise in paediatric podiatry. The results were fantastic and really helped reinforce our belief in the benefits of wearing a less structured shoe. One that allows a child new to walking to develop these skills naturally.
We worked closely with the clinic and have fostered a good working relationship with them. The aim is to educating parents and child-care professionals on children’s foot health and the right kind of footwear babies, toddlers and young children should be wearing. At Dotty Fish we want to deliver a quality product that is a cost effective alternative to traditional first shoes. Getting our shoes tested by the experts and looking at the results has been a step in the right direction for us. A step that promotes healthy foot development in babies and early walkers.
We are keen to educate parents and childcare professionals on why soft soled shoes are better for developing feet. The anatomy of a baby and toddlers foot is different from that of an adults. This needs to be taken into account when buying those first few pairs of shoes. A babies foot doubles in size between birth and the age of 4 years. By their first birthday, a baby’s foot is almost half the size it will be as an adult. Babies have 22 partially developed bones in their feet, that are mostly cartilage, while an adult has 26 bones. This rapid growth and development needs to be kept in mind when choosing which shoes to buy.
Shoes for young babies and children need to be:
One of the big benefits of a soft sole shoe is the flexibility they offer. We know that barefoot is best, but this isn’t always practical in the artificial modern world we live in. Having a lightweight flexible shoe that protects babies delicate feet can be of enormous benefit. This is especially true when they are starting to crawl and walk. A thin, non-slip sole allows them to feel the floor beneath them while not slipping and tripping. “I have a young boy of 2 who runs around the house on hard, unforgiving surfaces so there’s a potential to slip. He has actually slipped on a number of occasions. We tried different socks with limited success, and then we tried the Dotty Fish shoes which have been very effective actually” said Ron McCulloch, Consultant Podiatrist at The London Podiatry Centre.
The first few tests were all performed on a Tekscan pressure mat. This tested postural sway or balance and how this is affected by footwear. The results were very encouraging while wearing soft soled Dotty Fish shoes. This is probably due to the fact that the shoe gives increased contact points around the foot making children more aware of their feet. Babies and toddlers process this information in their brains and the feedback they get is very important. A structured shoe may interfere with this proprioception and is therefore not always recommended.
As children’s feet develop they need room to spread and move in as natural a way as possible. When they have a soft, flexible shoe on the shoe allows them to do this without impeding natural foot movement. Ron explains, “A key thing is actually that we don’t want to see any change between bare feet and the shoe. We just want to see normal natural function and to make sure that it’s not impeded by footwear, and so far the results are encouraging.”
Once the testing using the pressure mat was completed they put sensors onto Carter’s feet, legs and hips. The 8-camera 3D Vicon system was then used to capture him walking with soft sole Dotty Fish shoes and without shoes. This valuable information was analysed, and an in-depth report was produced. It was fascinating to see the images of Carter reconstructed as a 3D figure and to see the data on screen. You really got a sense of how a toddler earns their name as his walking style was reconstructed in 3D on screen. This test was done a number of times with Carter toddling across the clinic and even running a few times. Helen, Founder of Dotty Fish Ltd was able to sit with the team at the clinic and have a look at the data and talk through some of the findings and how important the right type of footwear is for toddlers.
Fran Campbell, a podiatrist from the centre, carried out a lot of the testing and prepared a detailed report once the clinic had analysed all the data. The report is overwhelmingly positive and really demonstrates the benefits of wearing soft soled shoes in those early years. An improvement in hip and knee symmetry was noticed when wearing Dotty Fish shoes. The pattern of movement in the ankle was also much better when wearing soft soled shoes. The reduced risk of slipping and tripping was also highlighted as a key benefit of wearing Dotty Fish soft soled shoes.
Another key finding was that the shoes did not cause any disturbance in normal gait. It was also noted that in a number of areas walking style improved. This may be as a result of the shoes improving a child’s sense of awareness by increasing the number of contact points between the foot and the floor. This was something that was stressed during testing, the aim is to see children walking as close to naturally as possible while reducing the risks of slipping and protecting their feet. Dotty Fish soft soled shoes definitely do this as shown by the testing and results.
It was lovely to meet Carter, one of our young brand ambassadors who came along to the clinic to test our shoes. At just 18 months old he was the perfect age to test the benefits of soft sole shoes for early walkers and he loved his Dotty Fish shoes. He happily pointed out the panda on them and his Mum could easily put the shoes on. No pulling away and scrunching his toes up as she tried to jam his foot into a structured shoe.
At Dotty Fish we have been so impressed with the testing and the results, and are eager to get the message out to parents and re-educate people on babies foot health. Giving parents the information needed to make an informed choice when buying footwear for young children. We want to create a movement, one that looks at what is best for babies growing little feet.
“My first impressions from the “Dotty Fish” team were that they were very very behind this product and that it was something that was so important to them, it was actually something to help children’s foot health going forward,” said Fran. The Dotty Fish team have been really proud to be working with such a world class clinic. Both Dotty Fish and The London Podiatry Centre are looking forward to taking this research further and assessing shoes and early foot health in the future.
The results of the research has been documented in a full report which can be viewed here.