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Q&A: Can’t Keep His Shoes On?


Can you suggest steps to have a child keep his shoes on? Thanks!


First, we need to figure out if the child removes his/her shoes because of over- or under-responsiveness. I recommend having the parent or teacher fill out a Sensory Symptoms Checklist to gain insight into the underlying issues. Our checklist is available to download and print here:

If it seems that over-responsiveness to tactile input is the cause:

  • Try snug-fitting shoes and ones with a good arch support.
  • Provide 5–10 minutes of heavy work activities before having the child put his shoes on each day. These should be whole-body activities (wheelbarrow or animal walks, crashing play) to calm down the entire nervous system.
  • After the whole-body calming activities, provide joint compressions to the lower extremity joints.
  • Immediately after shoes are on, have the child engage in 5­–10 minutes of heavy work activities again to help his feet habituate to the shoes.

If it seems that under-responsiveness to tactile input is the cause:

  • Try shoes with inherent tactile input like Crocs.
  • Weather permitting, allow the child to be sockless in shoes.
  • Tactile inserts can be added to tennis shoes. A parent of a child I worked with made inserts from sand paper, velvet, and artificial turf and let his child choose the inserts each day.
  • Prior to putting shoes on, provide tactile input to feet by using a hairbrush on feet, placing feet in a tactile bin, or walking on tactile surfaces. Show the child on a visual schedule that he will have another opportunity (or a few opportunities) throughout the day to remove shoes for more tactile input to his feet.

For both over- and under-responsiveness, implement a system of rewards for keeping shoes on and/or consequences for shoe removal.

I hope that helps! Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Best Wishes,