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 ?


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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Jan 19, 2018
Shoes for the Proprioceptive seeker
by: Ann

My son is 8, and only in the last 2 years have we been able to tap into a few tools that make his life easier. Tags, waistbands, seams on socks, and ridges and seams in shoes have all been an exhausting struggle... I've spent so much money on all types of shoes, only to find that after he's worn them for a few days he now can't even look at them because they're so uncomfortable.

Of course, having a proprioceptive seeking child requires us to find activities that allow a lot of input and for him, it's swimming and bouldering. At our last indoor climbing adventure (Verticle World, in Seattle), it hit me! Climbing shoes are very snug fitting and have NO SEAMS!

After a lot of persuading him to just try them on, he looked up at me shocked and said, "I didn't know it could be like this, mom." Such a relief for our whole family.

For those struggling with this issue I highly recommend looking into climbing shoes. They have multi-tightening velcro points (around the ankle, top or foot and along the bridge of foot). They're not cheap, but I personally cannot put a price on an end to this struggle.

Jan 15, 2018
SPD 5 year old boy
by: Anonymous

It is so comforting to read your comments. I am almost at the verge of insnity with my boy's sensitivity toward shoes and clothing.

I just don't know what to do. I have bought all possible kinds of shoes and none really help. The only ones that he doesn't complain so much are the booty ones but usually they have laces and are not permitted at his school.

All the Velcro ones, he complains about how loose he feels them. My husband try to tight them many times and is never enough.

Pants and trousers the same. He refuses to put a pant on no matter how soft the fabric is. the elastic is always uncomfortable no matter how freezing is outside. He is using shorts with leg warmers (he complaints about leg warmer too) in 32o (or less) conditions.

I will try some of your past suggestions.

Aug 23, 2017
school uniforms and SPD
by: Anonymous

If your child has a SPD diagnosis from a doctor or OT or is receiving OT at school under an IEP, the school cannot require your child to wear a specific type of uniform. They can require certain colored pants, shirt, etc. but not the materials they are made of.

My daughter's school has a strict uniform policy and I made it part of her IEP that she is allowed to wear whatever shoes she is comfortable in for that day. We try to find ones that comply with the uniform policy, but some days it just doesn't happen and with it in her IEP, they can't punish her for it and it helps make our mornings a little less stressful.

Jun 20, 2017
Active distractions and 100% attention until destination
by: Anonymous

Same situation with us...6 year old boy, all the same scenarios. I have found when we give him time in the morning to wake up, have a regimen-come downstairs, eat, dress, (no shoes/socks yet), brush hair,teeth, read do a puzzle (something calming) This helps us. Absolutely NO TV or ELECTRONICS in the morning!!

This seems to make the eventually shoe situation worse once we say 'It's time to go' I have given him a piece of gum and a fidget spinner at the time I am 'helping' him with his shoes which seemed to take some of the stress out. Last, simply goal setting for each morning he gets his shoes/socks on w/o issue a reward program is in place. 5 stars equals 'X'

May 17, 2017
My tips
by: Anonymous

My daughter is 7 years old and we have the same problem. She is diagnosed with SPD. I learned a few things over the years with her.

I notice if she is tired or hungry this will cause more stress. I maintain a schedule with her make sure she goes to sleep on time and gets enough sleep. I feel this is the most important thing.

In the morning I wake her up slowly. Cuddle with her and maintain calm. I give her an hour to get ready for school in the morning. This is also important. If you rush your child there will be more anxiety and it will not be a productive morning. I will remind her that we only have _mins left but I do not raise my voice.

She wears dresses most of the time.
Shirts are usually no problem it is underwear, bottoms, shoes, and socks that are. I let her eat breakfast before she gets dressed. (she wears a bathrobe at the table)

Getting dressed is usually she thinks her undies are too tight and I have to "stretch" them out. I tug on them to make her feel better. Shorts are very complicated still she tends to complain she has a wedgie. So I buy her stretchy shorts or loose cotton shorts.

Like I said she mostly wears dresses besides the days she has P.E. Sock are usually turned inside out so she can't feel the seams. Shoes I will "stretch" them also. If she starts to go into a panic about her clothes I remind her if she focuses on something else the feelings will go away. I will distract her by asking questions that require her to think or ask for a hug. Sing a song that is bound to be stuck in her head all day.

If you can get your child off of the thought that their clothes feel funny then your morning will be better. Also for shoes, I heard a mother tell me that she buys shoes from thrift stores because they don't have the "new shoe" feeling. I haven't tried that but am considering.

Keep strong Moms and Dads with children that have SPD.

Apr 13, 2016
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
Perfect Shoes for Kids with Sensory Issues
by: Ron

I would like to introduce to you unique shoes that work very well for Kids with Sensory Issues.

Check out a review by a blogger, who has a kid with sensory issues: http://ohsosavvymom.com/2015/03/extreme-clothing-sensitivites-kidofit-shoes-for-kids-with-sensory-issues/

KidOFit’s unique features include:
Seam-free fabric interior, which is padded with foam offers a very gentle contact with the foot, eliminating irritation, and providing ultimate comfort and protection.
An elastic collar stretches around the heel to conform to the individual foot width. The supple design insures soft contact with the foot for maximum comfort and protection.
Heel Strap - enables the adjustment of the grip around the heel for a comfort fit and to eliminate slippage.
Fitting Inserts - A set of inserts allow to reduce the space inside the shoe when the fit is too wide or too loose.
Barefoot Design - thin soles, made of flexible elastomer, mimic barefoot walking, and enable natural foot motion, and help promote healthy foot development during the early stages of growth.

For more information on KidOFit shoes please check our website at https://kidofit.com/difference.asp

Jul 20, 2012
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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