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Sensory Smart Tip: Make socks and shoes more comfortable.  

Many children with sensory processing disorder, or SPD, find it difficult to toelrate socks and shoes. They can be exquisitely sensitive to textures, even noticing seams in socks. They can be annoyed by the sensation of tightness, or feel insecure walking in shoes that don’t feel right to them.  

Adjust their socks. For socks, pay attention to the thickness, material, scratchiness, and seams. You may be able to get away with turning the socks inside out or simply snipping off the threads sticking out from the seam at the toe. However, your child may be most comfortable in seamless socks. Wearing shoes without socks is not hygienic, so unless you can rotate several pairs of shoes and wash them frequently, your best bet is to work on the sock issue rather than let your child wear shoes over bare feet.  

Desensitize their feet. Try giving input to the child’s foot to desensitize it, both before you put on socks and shoes and as part of the sensory diet to train her nervous system to function more typically. Gently holding or pressing a vibrator against the feet, rubbing oil or lotion on them, or massaging the toes and feet can give calming input. You might also encourage her to do fun sensory diet activities such as standing or walking barefoot on different textures, from carpets to floors to packed dirt. Have her stand in a bin of dried beans, rice, or birdseed and swish her feet around.  

Save the receipt for shoes! Parents are often frustrated when they feel the pressure to buy shoes for school, physical education class, rainy days, and snowy days, and their child with sensory issues can’t seem to find any footwear that’s tolerable (unless it happens to be the pair with the highest price tag!). Note whether your child’s foot runs wide or narrow and what brands seem to fit her best (for example, New Balance ® often runs wide, Uggs ® and Crocs ® are often very comfortable for sensory kids). You may be able to scour rummage sales, Craigslist, eBay, and consignment stores for shoes that they won’t wear daily and will grow into, such as rain boots, slippers, or Crocs®. Never buy used shoes that are worn out and conform to some other child’s feet. Check soles to make sure there are no holes or wear.  

When you do purchase new shoes, give her calming input to her feet before trying on shoes and promise her a reward for her patience and tolerance. Make sure she walks around the store in them and do not go by the size measured by the metal device in shoe stores which is often inaccurate; ask her how they feel. If you think she may just be resisting a new sensation, buy them and keep the receipt, and have her wear them at home, not on the street, to see if she’ll be able to tolerate them after all.  

Be flexible. Whenever possible, be flexible about what she wears on her feet. She may want to wear socks and sandals well into November, or he may insist on wearing Crocs ® or boots. As long as you stay on top of foot hygiene to prevent excess sweating and rashes, and your child is wearing shoes that are safe for her activities, it’s probably not worth battling with your sensory kid over foot fashions.    

Check it out!  

You can find seamless socks, as well as other clothing that’s more comfortable for people with tactile issues, at www.sensorycomfort.com  

“There are two ways of meeting difficulties: you alter the difficulties or you alter the way you meet them.”—Phyllis Bottome

Copyright © 2012 Nancy Peske  

For more practical solutions for everyday problems, see the revised and updated edition of the award-winning book Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues by Lindsey Biel, OTR/L and Nancy Peske, available from Penguin Books wherever books are sold.

The information contained in this article is provided as a public service. It is for informational and educational purposes only. This information should not be construed as personal medical advice. Because each person’s health needs are different, a health care professional should be consulted before acting on any information provided in these materials. Although every effort is made to ensure that this material is accurate and up-to-date, it is provided for the convenience of the user and should not be considered definitive.

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