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01-12-2019 | Review | Uitgave 1/2019 Open Access

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research 1/2019

Key concepts in children’s footwear research: a scoping review focusing on therapeutic footwear

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research > Uitgave 1/2019
Matthew Hill, Aoife Healy, Nachiappan Chockalingam
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13047-019-0336-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Reports suggest that children with mobility impairment represent a significant proportion of the population living with a disability. Footwear is considered to be the key extrinsic factor affecting children’s gait and footwear modifications have been historically postulated to assist with locomotory difficulty. Although therapeutic footwear has been considered within the literature, there is a lack of consistency on terminology and paucity on the overall understanding. A scoping review was performed to chart the key concepts in children’s footwear and to establish the range of studies that considered therapeutic footwear.


A systematic search of MEDLINE, CINAHL, PubMed, SPORTdiscus, and Scopus electronic databases was performed using MeSH headings and free text terms in relation to children’s footwear. All studies that used footwear as an intervention in children aged 9 months to 18 years with the outcome measures including design, fit, and the effects on development and health were included. Studies were charted by textual narrative synthesis into research groupings dependent on the topics discussed and the methods used in the studies.


The search yielded a total of 5006 articles with 287 of these articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Two overarching areas of research were identified; articles that discussed footwear design and those that discussed the effects of footwear. Eight further general groupings were charted and apportioned between the overarching areas and therapeutic footwear was charted into three subgroupings (corrective, accommodative and functional).


Children’s footwear has become an increasing area of research in the past decade with a shift towards more empirical research, with most of the included articles examining biomechanical and anthropometric aspects. However, children’s therapeutic footwear has not shared the same recent impetus with no focused review and limited research exploring its effects. Empirical research in this area is limited and there is ambiguity in the terminology used to describe therapeutic footwear. Based on the findings of this review the authors suggest the term children’s therapeutic footwear be used as the standard definition for footwear that is designed specifically with the purpose to support or alleviate mobility impairment in childhood; with subgroupings of corrective, accommodative and functional dependent on the intended therapeutic role.

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