Autism And Wearing Shoes

To comprehend the difficulties children with autism may face when it comes to wearing shoes, it is essential to first understand what autism is and the sensory challenges associated with it.

What is Autism?

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that affects an individual's social communication and behavior. It is typically diagnosed in early childhood and lasts throughout a person's lifetime. Individuals with autism may have difficulties with social interactions, communication, and exhibit repetitive behaviors or restricted interests.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that it manifests differently in each individual. Some individuals with autism may have exceptional abilities and strengths in certain areas, while facing challenges in others. It is important to recognize and understand that every person with autism is unique, with their own set of strengths and challenges.

Sensory Challenges in Autism

Sensory challenges are common among individuals with autism. Many children with autism have sensory processing differences, which means their brains perceive and respond to sensory information differently compared to neurotypical individuals. This can result in either hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) or hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to sensory input.

Sensory challenges can affect various senses, including touch, sound, sight, taste, and smell. Children with autism may experience heightened sensitivity to certain textures, sounds, or smells, making them more susceptible to sensory overload or discomfort in certain environments or when exposed to specific stimuli.

In the context of wearing shoes, sensory sensitivities can play a significant role. The sensation of wearing shoes, such as the texture of the material, tightness, or pressure on the feet, can be overwhelming for some children with autism. This can lead to aversions or difficulties tolerating shoes, making it a challenging task for both the child and their caregivers.

Understanding the unique sensory challenges faced by individuals with autism is crucial in finding appropriate strategies and support to help them overcome difficulties and enhance their overall well-being.

Difficulty Wearing Shoes in Autism

For individuals with autism, wearing shoes can present unique challenges due to sensory sensitivities and other factors associated with the condition. Understanding these difficulties is crucial for parents and caregivers in order to provide appropriate support and accommodations. In this section, we will explore the common issues and challenges faced by individuals with autism when it comes to wearing shoes, as well as the sensory sensitivities that can contribute to shoe discomfort.

Common Issues and Challenges

Children with autism may experience various issues and challenges when it comes to wearing shoes. Some of the common difficulties include:

  • Sensory sensitivities: Many individuals with autism have heightened sensory sensitivities, making them more sensitive to certain textures, materials, and sensations. This can result in discomfort or even pain when wearing certain types of shoes.
  • Difficulty with fine motor skills: Some children with autism may struggle with fine motor skills, including tasks like tying shoelaces or fastening buckles. This can make it challenging for them to independently put on and take off shoes.
  • Resistance to change: Individuals with autism often thrive on routine and predictability. Introducing new shoes or changes in footwear can be disruptive and cause resistance or aversion to wearing shoes altogether.
  • Communication difficulties: Children with autism may have difficulty expressing their discomfort or the specific issues they are experiencing with their shoes. This can make it challenging for parents and caregivers to identify and address the underlying problems.

Sensory Sensitivities and Shoe Discomfort

Sensory sensitivities are a significant factor contributing to discomfort when wearing shoes for individuals with autism. These sensitivities can manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Texture sensitivity: Some individuals with autism may be particularly sensitive to certain textures, such as rough fabrics or seams inside shoes. The sensation of these textures against their feet can be uncomfortable or even painful.
  • Tactile sensitivities: Sensory sensitivities to touch can make individuals with autism more sensitive to pressure, tightness, or the feeling of confinement that can come with wearing shoes.
  • Temperature sensitivity: Some individuals with autism may have heightened sensitivity to temperature changes. Shoes that trap heat or cause excessive sweating can be uncomfortable and lead to sensory overload.

To help alleviate these sensory sensitivities and reduce shoe discomfort, there are sensory-friendly shoe modifications available. These modifications can include features such as seamless construction, soft and breathable materials, adjustable closures, and cushioned insoles. However, it's important to note that individual preferences and sensitivities can vary, so finding the right sensory-friendly shoe may involve some trial and error.

Understanding the common issues and sensory sensitivities that contribute to difficulty wearing shoes in individuals with autism is the first step in finding appropriate strategies and accommodations. By addressing these challenges, parents and caregivers can help create a more comfortable and supportive environment for individuals with autism when it comes to wearing shoes.

Factors Contributing to Difficulty

When it comes to understanding the challenges individuals with autism face when wearing shoes, it's important to consider the factors that contribute to this difficulty. Two key factors are sensory processing differences and motor skills and coordination challenges.

Sensory Processing Differences

Sensory processing differences are common among individuals with autism. These differences can affect how a person perceives and responds to sensory information, including tactile sensations. For some individuals, certain textures, pressures, or sensations associated with wearing shoes can be overwhelming and uncomfortable.

Individuals with autism may experience heightened sensitivity to touch, also known as tactile sensitivity. This sensitivity can make wearing shoes, especially those with certain materials or textures, a distressing experience. The feeling of seams, tightness, or even the pressure from laces can be overwhelming and cause discomfort.

To address sensory processing differences, it's important to consider sensory-friendly shoe options that take into account the unique needs of individuals with autism.

Motor Skills and Coordination Challenges

Motor skills and coordination challenges are also factors that contribute to difficulty wearing shoes in individuals with autism. These challenges can affect the ability to manipulate and control movements, making it harder to put on and tie shoes.

Fine motor skills, which involve precise movements of the hands and fingers, are necessary for tasks like tying shoelaces or fastening straps. Difficulties with fine motor skills can make it challenging for individuals with autism to independently put on and secure their shoes. It may take them longer to complete these tasks, or they may require assistance.

Additionally, coordination challenges can affect the overall balance and stability of individuals with autism. This can make it harder for them to maintain proper foot positioning and balance when wearing shoes, leading to discomfort or difficulty walking.

To support individuals with autism in overcoming motor skills and coordination challenges related to wearing shoes, occupational therapy can be beneficial. Occupational therapists can provide strategies and exercises to improve fine motor skills, coordination, and overall independence.

Understanding these factors is crucial in finding effective solutions and support for individuals with autism who experience difficulty wearing shoes. By considering sensory processing differences and motor skills and coordination challenges, parents and caregivers can explore appropriate interventions and strategies to promote comfort and independence.

Strategies for Overcoming Shoe Challenges

For individuals with autism, wearing shoes can present unique challenges. However, there are strategies that can help overcome these difficulties and promote greater comfort. Here are three effective approaches to address the issue of wearing shoes in autism:

Finding the Right Shoe Style and Fit

One of the first steps in addressing shoe challenges is to find the right shoe style and fit. It's important to consider the individual's sensory preferences and sensitivities when selecting shoes. Some individuals with autism may prefer shoes with specific features, such as adjustable straps, soft materials, or seamless interiors. Exploring sensory-friendly shoes designed for individuals with autism can also be beneficial.

To ensure a proper fit, it may be helpful to have the individual's feet measured by a professional. This can help identify the appropriate shoe size and width. Additionally, choosing shoes with removable insoles can provide the option to accommodate orthotics or inserts if needed.

Gradual Desensitization and Exposure Therapy

Gradual desensitization and exposure therapy techniques can be effective in helping individuals with autism become more comfortable with wearing shoes. This approach involves gradually introducing the sensory experience of wearing shoes to reduce discomfort and sensory sensitivities.

Start by allowing the individual to explore the shoes in a non-threatening and supportive environment. Encourage them to touch and feel the shoes, gradually progressing to holding and putting them on for short periods of time. As the individual becomes more comfortable, gradually increase the duration of shoe wearing sessions. This gradual exposure can help desensitize the individual to the sensory aspects of wearing shoes.

Occupational Therapy and Sensory Integration Techniques

Working with an occupational therapist who specializes in sensory integration techniques can provide valuable support in addressing shoe challenges. Occupational therapists can develop individualized strategies to help individuals with autism regulate their sensory responses and improve their tolerance for wearing shoes.

Sensory integration techniques may include activities that focus on desensitizing the feet and improving motor skills related to wearing shoes. These techniques can include sensory play involving different textures, massage, brushing, and pressure techniques. An occupational therapist can also provide guidance on activities to improve coordination and body awareness, which can contribute to more successful shoe-wearing experiences.

By implementing these strategies, parents and caregivers can help individuals with autism overcome difficulties and increase their comfort when wearing shoes. It's important to collaborate with professionals and therapists who specialize in autism and sensory challenges to develop a comprehensive and individualized approach.

Supportive Measures

Parents of children with autism often face challenges when it comes to their child's difficulty wearing shoes. However, there are several supportive measures that can be implemented to help alleviate these challenges. This section will explore three key strategies: visual supports and social stories, sensory-friendly shoe modifications, and collaborating with professionals and therapists.

Visual Supports and Social Stories

Visual supports and social stories are effective tools that can assist children with autism in understanding and navigating the process of wearing shoes. These tools provide visual cues and step-by-step instructions, helping to reduce anxiety and increase predictability.

Visual supports can include visual schedules, shoe-tying charts, or visual prompts that outline the steps involved in putting on and wearing shoes. These visuals help provide a clear and structured routine, allowing the child to follow along and develop a sense of independence.

Social stories are personalized narratives that describe a specific situation, such as wearing shoes, in a simple and understandable way. These stories can include pictures, text, or both, and are tailored to the individual child's needs. Social stories help children with autism understand what is expected of them and why it is important to wear shoes, ultimately promoting cooperation and compliance.

Sensory-Friendly Shoe Modifications

Sensory-friendly shoe modifications can make a significant difference in improving comfort and reducing sensory sensitivities for individuals with autism. These modifications focus on addressing specific sensory challenges that may arise when wearing shoes. Some common modifications include:

Modification Description
Seamless Design Shoes with seamless interiors to minimize irritation and discomfort.
Adjustable Closures Shoes with adjustable closures, such as Velcro or elastic laces, for a customizable fit that avoids pressure points.
Breathable Materials Shoes made of breathable materials to reduce overheating and moisture buildup.
Wide Toe Box Shoes with a wide toe box to accommodate any sensory sensitivities related to cramped spaces.
Flexible Soles Shoes with flexible soles to provide better proprioceptive feedback and allow for natural movement.

By incorporating these sensory-friendly modifications, parents can create a more comfortable and accommodating shoe-wearing experience for their child with autism.

Collaborating with Professionals and Therapists

Collaborating with professionals and therapists who specialize in supporting individuals with autism can be immensely beneficial when it comes to addressing difficulties with wearing shoes. Occupational therapists, in particular, can provide valuable guidance and interventions tailored to the child's specific needs.

Occupational therapy may involve techniques such as sensory integration, which helps individuals with autism develop appropriate responses to sensory input. Therapists can also work on improving motor skills and coordination, which are essential for tasks like putting on and tying shoes. Collaborating with professionals and therapists can ensure a comprehensive approach to addressing shoe difficulties and provide parents with the necessary strategies and support.

By implementing visual supports and social stories, exploring sensory-friendly shoe modifications, and collaborating with professionals and therapists, parents can help their child with autism overcome the challenges associated with wearing shoes. These supportive measures create a more inclusive and comfortable experience, allowing children to participate fully in daily activities while promoting their overall well-being.


Why do people with autism struggle with wearing shoes?

People with autism may experience hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to certain stimuli, including touch, sound, taste, smell, and sight. Sensory issues can make it challenging to process and respond to sensory information, which can result in discomfort or irritability when wearing shoes. Additionally, some individuals may have difficulty with fine motor skills, making it challenging to tie laces or fasten buckles.

What types of shoes are best for people with autism?

When selecting shoes for people with autism, look for options that are comfortable and non-restrictive. Avoid shoes that are too tight or too loose, as they can cause discomfort or instability. Consider shoes with a wide toe box, soft materials, and minimal seams or embellishments that can irritate the skin. Slip-on shoes or those with Velcro straps or elastic laces can also be easier to put on and take off.

How can I help my loved one adjust to wearing shoes?

If wearing shoes is a new or challenging experience for your loved one with autism, start by having them wear the shoes for short periods of time and gradually increase the wear time. You may also want to try wearing socks or insoles for extra cushioning and support. Encouraging deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or other calming activities may also help manage anxiety and stress related to sensory issues.

Are there any safety concerns related to wearing shoes?

Yes. It's important to make sure that the shoes fit properly and are not too loose or too tight as this can cause tripping or slipping (loose) or restrict circulation causing discomfort (tight). Check feet regularly for signs of irritation such as blisters calluses and ingrown toenails. Choosing appropriate footwear for different activities is also important to ensure safety and minimize risk.


Wearing shoes can be a challenge for people with autism, but with the right strategies and tools, it can be a comfortable and safe experience. Remember to choose comfortable shoes, gradually increase wear time, experiment with closure types, and practice self-regulation techniques. Also, ensure safety and protection by checking for proper fit, considering foot health, and using appropriate footwear for different activities. With these tips, you can help make shoe-wearing a positive and enjoyable experience for people with autism.