January 31, 2011

Stride Rite’s In-Depth Multi-Phase Research Study Reveals Significant Findings on How Shoe Design Affects Child Development

LEXINGTON, Mass., Jan. 31, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Stride Rite Children's Group (SRCG), a leading provider of premier children's footwear, officially unveiled today the findings of the Stride Rite-commissioned multi-phase study, "The Effects of Shoe Design on Children Learning to Walk," to date the most in-depth research on children's feet ever conducted. Additionally, the company offers insight into how the findings are influencing the continued innovation and evolution of Stride Rite's shoe development.

The study was conducted over a two-year period in partnership with the Leon Root, M.D. Motion Analysis Laboratory at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City (in partnership with the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine and the California College of Podiatric Medicine) and reveals that placing children in proper fitting, ultra-flexible shoes results in less stumbles and falls when learning to walk. These results can be attributed to a shoe's minimal, ultra-flexible outsole with rounded edges hence mimicking the foot's natural shape and a sole that provides high sensory feedback or possibly better proprioception (the feeling of the ground as you walk).

The study's focus was to understand children's foot development milestones in order to identify if shoe flexibility should vary for each development stage - cruiser, first walker, toddler, preschool and grade school. Research may lead to the discovery that the first step a baby takes determines their gait (unique walking pattern) for the rest of their lives.

Important details of the study include:

  • At birth, a baby's foot is soft and comprised of cartilage. As they grow, the bones begin to ossify.
  • In the first 2 years of development, barefoot is best but foot coverings are needed to keep tiny toes safe, dry and warm.
  • Not until age 5, do critical bones completely form, leaving open the possibility of malformation if proper footwear is not worn.
  • From ages 2-7, children need increased heel and mid-foot stability while maintaining flexibility and foot conformance in the forefoot
  • A child's foot is not fully formed until age 18, but the most critical development occurs in the first seven years.

In approaching the study, researchers sought to understand how footwear affects the functional activities of typical developing children ages 9 to 24 months. The most appropriate type of shoe design for new walkers was not yet known. Stiff shoes have been thought to cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility. (1) The study researchers examined how the different characteristics of shoes affect a child's gait pattern, plantar (the sole of the foot) pressures and stability while performing functional tasks through an obstacle course -- all while wearing shoes of varying flexibility and barefoot. The study is currently being peer reviewed and is pending publication.

"The striking results of this study shed light on the very important, but under-researched topic of child foot development," said study researcher Dr. Paul R. Scherer. "When we approached the research, the only available information on child foot development was based on opinions nearly 50-years-old."

Stride Rite Applies the Learning

Stride Rite applied the study's key findings (listed at-a-glance below) to develop its leading Sensory Response Technology(TM). The ground-breaking children's shoe technology combines a flexible outsole with rounded edge design and features a sensory feedback system that enables children to better feel the ground beneath them, allowing them to better stabilize and more quickly adjust to changes in terrain. This ultimately improves the child's stability, reducing the number of stumbles and falls, while also enhancing the overall and long-term development of their walking gait. It was determined that each developmental stage requires differing levels of flexibility and mid-foot support. SRT(TM) is applied to children's shoe products for the Early Walker (walking independently for less than 5 months), requiring the most flexibility and to the Cruiser, First Walker and Toddler stage, which requires flexibility with additional structure and cushioning. Stride Rite plans to continue incorporating these findings into its new collections and product innovations.

"Stride Rite has one of the industry's leading children's research and development teams in the U.S. and has been engineering healthy footwear for children for over 90 years," said Sharon John, president of SRCG. "Stride Rite has and will continue to collaborate with expert pediatric podiatrists and pediatricians to understand the complexities of children's foot development and work closely with them to achieve our goals of advancing children's footwear through leading-edge innovation."

Top-Line Findings:

  • The least number of stumbles and falls occurred when the children were barefoot or wearing the shoe with the highest flexibility. Peak plantar pressures were often highest in the most flexible shoe in comparison to barefoot.
  • For children in the early stages of walking, the goal is to maximize plantar loading to provide the clearest proprioceptive feedback so that the child learning to walk may build a successful motor program.
  • A shoe must fit, shape, mold and flex to -- and with -- the foot to achieve Match Foot Movement (meaning that shoes support and follow the natural movement of the foot).
  • Mature walkers had significantly higher plantar pressures for the majority of the foot when compared to early walkers. As a child develops and increases activities and movement ability, shoes need more structure, protection and durability.

Today, Stride Rite is hosting an event to showcase their findings and insights into their footwear development. For media interested in viewing the presentation via webcast, please visit: http://media.rampard.com/striderite/20110131.


(1) Staheli L. Shoes for children: A Review. Pediatrics. 88:371-375, 1991.

Study Researchers: Howard J. Hillstrom, Ph.D, Paul Robert Scherer, DPM, MS, Melanie Buckland, PT, MPT, Corinne McCarthy, PT, DPT, MS, Cherri S. Choate, DPM, Andrew Phillip Kraszewski, David M. Scher, Jinsup Song, DPM, Ph.D

Media Contacts (for complete study results, interviews and further information):

Stride Rite: Malinda Freitas, [email protected], 617-824-6231

RF|Binder: Edwige Buteau, [email protected], 212-994-7517

About Stride Rite Children's Group and Collective Brands, Inc.

Stride Rite Children's Group, part of the Performance & Lifestyle Group unit of Collective Brands, Inc., markets leading premium children's footwear brands worldwide, including Stride Rite®, Saucony® Kids, Sperry Top-Sider® Kids, Keds® Kids, Robeez® by stride rite® and among others. For 90 years, the company's passion for excellence in design has been focused on ensuring the proper development of children's feet with a commitment to innovation, research and technology.

Collective Brands, Inc. (NYSE: PSS) is a leader in bringing compelling lifestyle, fashion and performance brands for footwear and related accessories to consumers worldwide. The company operates three strategic units covering a powerful brand portfolio, as well as multiple price points and selling channels including retail, wholesale, ecommerce and licensing. Collective Brands, Inc. includes Payless ShoeSource, focused on democratizing fashion and design in footwear and accessories through its nearly 4,500-store retail chain, with its brands Airwalk®, Dexter®, Champion®, Zoe & Zac(TM), the first-ever affordable green footwear brand, and designer collections Lela Rose for Payless, Unforgettable Moments by Lela Rose, Christian Siriano for Payless, Patricia Field for Payless, Isabel Toledo for Payless and STPL x Airwalk, among others; Collective Brands Performance + Lifestyle Group, focused on lifestyle and performance branded footwear and high-quality children's footwear sold primarily through wholesaling, with its brands including Stride Rite®, Keds®, Sperry Top-Sider®, Robeez®, and Saucony®, among others; and Collective Licensing International, the brand development, management and global licensing unit, with such youth lifestyle brands as Airwalk®, Above The Rim(TM), Vision Street Wear®, STRIKEFORCE(TM), Clinch Gear(TM), Sims®, Lamar® and LTD®, World Snowboarding Championships(TM) and Hind®. Information about, and links for shopping on, each of the Collective Brand's units can be found at www.collectivebrands.com.

SOURCE Stride Rite Children's Group