Daily Shoe Meltdowns

My 4 year old boy has a huge uncontrollable meltdown over his shoes every morning when I try to put them on. He had velcro shoes which were too loose no matter how hard I pulled. I got him tie shoes but even if I pull them amazingly tight he still freaks out that they are too loose or then sometimes too tight. He can't make up his mind. The meltdown often continues out the door and in the car, screaming about his shoes.


At daycare we drop off his little brother in the baby room and he has to take off his shoes there, and we go through it all over again. My husband is calling it a nightmare.

Any thoughts how we can improve this ?

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Ah, the old shoe meltdown... very common indeed! Sorry you guys are going through this!

Suggestions? First, I am curious... does he have SPD? Tactile defensiveness? Sensory seeking behaviors? Is it isolated to the shoe issue? Or, are there other tactile or proprioceptive issues?

In the case of shoe meltdown, I would try the following:

Increase proprioceptive input in any way you can. Buying tighter, compression-like socks (spandex/lycra like materials). You can ask him doctor is a "compression sock" is ok for him. How about using ankle weights? Or, maybe high top sneakers? Have you tried any of these?

Use the Wilbarger Deep Pressure Proprioceptive Technique ONLY IF in OT and shown how to do it by a knowledgeable and trained therapist. If not, you may want to consider getting him hooked up with one if he has other tactile issues. Has this ever been done?

Find tight, hugging shoes... not regular sneakers. Maybe a softer material that hugs the feet better... not leather. For example, there are ones made of more suede like material and have stretchy laces built into the shoes that hug pretty good. You may have to struggle with him in the stores to find a good tight fit that feels comfortable, but it can be done.

Give him some good deep pressure foot massages before putting shoes and socks on. Deep, firm pressure to feet and ankles... use a relaxing scented lotion too if tolerated.

Use vibrating massagers on the feet before putting his shoes and socks on.

Do the seams on his socks bother him? Try turning the socks inside out or get seamless socks.

Increase proprioceptive and heavy work activities throughout his day, every day to keep him regulated and decrease some of the sensitivity or sensory seeking behaviors.




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Apr 13, 2016
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Trying new shoes
by: Stefanie F

Hi. All of these comments are exactly what we've been going through with my 5 year old son. I bought a pair of those shoes hoping they would help. He won't even try them on. Anyone have any suggestions? We keep buying new socks and shoes but he only wants the old ones. He only has 4 socks he'll wear and now one pair of shoes but we go through the whole "too tight/ too loose" battle. Thanks!

Apr 10, 2015
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by: Ron

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Jul 20, 2012
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Shoe meltdown
by: Anonymous

My 3 yr old grandson is just the opposite, he freaks out when he has to take his shoes off. At bedtime he will scream and cry hisself to sleep due to having to take off his shoes. It is a horrible problem, Any suggestions of why this is happening?

Jan 26, 2012
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Shoes
by: Anonymous

My five year old son just started doing this a few months ago. It has been a nightmare. We constantly change his shoes every morning before school because they are too tight or too lose. He also complains about the socks too. If he can feel the seem its all over with. I have to change his shoes and socks until he is a little more satisfied. After we go through the tantrums in the morning and he get to school he seems to forget about it completely. Its driving me crazy though and I would really like to find a solution to this problem.

Jun 07, 2010
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Shoes not tight enough
by: Sara Carrillo

I am so happy to know we're not the only ones with this problem. My son is 5 now and has pulled to velcro strips off his shoes pulling them so tight. He's become compulsive about stopping to re-tighten his shoes. His OT recommended wrapping his feet in thera-band strips (to simulate socks) during the day to give him the sensory input he's craving.

Oct 20, 2009
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Shoes
by: Anonymous

My son is recently going to OT and we learned the brushing technique. He finally will wear his school uniforms, but our daily morning meltdown happens when we put the shoes on. They are either too loose or too tight. I can't seem to get them right it makes me insane!! I hate for him to start his school day off so miserable and upset, I just don't know what to do. Any suggestions for a shoe, but not crocs as they cannot wear them to school, would be appreciated. Once he comes home at night there are no issues, unless he has to take his shoes off for some reason. HELP! This is so stressful for him.

Sep 18, 2009
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Shoes/Clothes - starting school with sensory
by: Anonymous

My 5 year old has had clothing issues for 2-3 years now. It has been a nightmare. We have problems with most clothing types -but mostly things around her waist/crotch (underwear and we mostly wear skirts/dresses) and shoes/socks. The summer is not as bad because she can wear sundresses and flip flops. But the start of Kindergarten a couple weeks ago has been a nightmare - trying to get her there and dressed on time.

Before Kindergarten, my husband would go into work late (he's self employed) - so she could take her time in the morning - the dressing process can take over an hour and sometimes erupts into screaming a crying. We find a outfit or two that "work" and then I wash them nearly every night so they are always clean. Two summers ago she actually wore the same outfit everyday for three months - I just washed it every night.
I did have her evaluated by a psychologist and an OT. They agreed that there are likely sensory issues that were contributing and causing behavior issues. She is seemingly normal in virtually every other way. They said the brushing program "might" work -but it has to be administered very consistently..we work full time..so when on earth can we find time for this treatment that may or may not work!!! They certainly aren't going to pull her our of class for brushing.

I am so relieved to have found some of these stories. At least it's comforting to know we're not alone and that this is a real issue. I have had countless people tell me that she is manipulating us and the situation (she might be doing that to some extent - but I do believe the root of the problem is sensory.)

Couple questions:
1. Why does an outfit work one day and then it's unbearable the next?
2. Why is that once she get dressed and starts the day - she seems fine. There is rarely an issue or meltdown. Her teacher hasn't noticed a thing. Once she gets her mind off the clothing it seems to be fine.
Frustrated in Chicago


Sep 10, 2009
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4 1/2 year old's Meltdowns
by: Anonymous

I'm happy to see we are not the only family going through this. Our 4 1/2 year old daughter has been obsessed with tightening the velcro on her shoes for quite some time and it's becoming a daily problem. We cannot seem to get them tight enough for her. She is now obsessed with the new sneakers she got for school and I'm concerned she spends too much time pulling on them in class. I've gone through the SPD checklist and she has none of the other symptoms. She's very bright with no learning issues. Is it possible for kids to have very mild SPD? If so, is treatment required or can we help her at home? I would be grateful for any suggestions.

Aug 01, 2009
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shoe problems
by: KD- new york

My 6 year old boy also has the same problem with his shoes not being tight enough. He also wears a belt to make his pants tighter and now recently his bathing suits feel too loose - no matter how tight we make them. He does not want to go swimming anymore. This all started a few months ago and now i am aware that these are real issues. This website has helped me see that. I am calling the doctor on monday - but in the meantime - any advice on what to do? I am not even sure where to start. He is such a good boy and it makes me so sad to see him struggle with this.

May 07, 2009
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Shoe Meltdown
by: Ali Z

I have a 6 year old son you also has shoe meltdowns everyday. He has been diagnosed with SPD and we are going through therapy right now. We have not found any shoe that works at this point either so any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

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