How can I get my 2 year old to wear shoes?
October 17, 2010 3:53 PM   Subscribe

My 2-year-old will not wear socks or shoes. What can we do/buy to work with him on this?

My kid is a Southern California native. He's NEVER liked wearing shoes or socks and rips them off the moment that they go on. This is especially true in the car and in the stroller.

He does understand that he will not be allowed to go outside/walk around without shoes on, so he'll put them on to go outside and run around.

What will he wear? Crocs and sandals (like Keens.) He'll occasionally wear velcro Vans-type shoes, but it isn't consistent. When he was littler, soft soled Nikes or Stride Rites were okay with him if we really kept an eye on him not taking them off. (We do own a variety of shoes already -- velcro low-top Chucks, soft soled Nikes.)

His lack of interest in wearing shoes hasn't been a problem until now. We're about to move to a colder climate and he's going to need to wear shoes out and about strolling around. We lost a Croc last night because he threw it out of the stroller without anyone noticing.

Suggestions for what we can do?

- I've heard to do high-top Chuck Taylors (with laces) so that he cannot rip them off.
- Maybe go back to soft soled shoes (he is 2 and has size 7 or so feet though.)
- Put him in tights so that he is at least wearing socks?
- Find some magical socks that he can't take off (We tried Nix... no luck.)
posted by k8t to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (42 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
So, I was a kid that hated shoes. I'm 26, and I still go without shoes most of the time. I survived New Hampshire winters in sandals.

Bring a pair with you when you go out - if he gets cold, he'll want the shoes. If not, no big deal. Like I said, I basically live without shoes, and I've survived.

Is this a hill you want to fight the battle on?
posted by SNWidget at 3:56 PM on October 17, 2010 [12 favorites]

After spending 20 minutes re-tracing our steps through Madrid when our toddler threw one of his shoes away (on day one of a two week trip) he spent the rest of the trip in his high-top Chuck Taylors and they stayed on fine. But our son is cooperative about putting them on, it would be tough to get them on a kid who did not want shoes on at all.

As much as I loathe commercially-themed crap for kids, it might be worth exploring if shoes with Elmo/Thomas/Buzz Lightyear/dinosaurs on them, or the ones that light up or squeak or whatever might be entertaining enough for him to decide he actually wants to wear them?
posted by ambrosia at 4:02 PM on October 17, 2010

Thanks Ambrosia. I read online somewhere that the squeaking shoes might be a way to encourage shoe wearing.
posted by k8t at 4:08 PM on October 17, 2010

I am also your kid. I wear mostly moccasins when I'm out. I almost never wear socks either way.
posted by cmoj at 4:14 PM on October 17, 2010

I'm really wondering if this is the kind of problem that is going to take care of itself once you are someplace cold.

Another option might be to let him pick out some shoes at someplace like Target (or where there isn't anything super expensive). Would that help?
posted by bluedaisy at 4:15 PM on October 17, 2010

I am also your kid. If I must wear shoes, I wear sandals -- year-round, even in knee-high snow, unless I'm walking a lot. When it gets cold enough, he'll want shoes, and perhaps you'll be able to find him some weatherproofed moccasins (maybe LL Bean or Lands' End?). Until then, why bother?
posted by shamash at 4:17 PM on October 17, 2010

I wonder if something very comfy like slippers or moccasins liked with shearling would help.
posted by emilyd22222 at 4:18 PM on October 17, 2010

It seems to me that he understands that sometimes one has to wear shoes (walking outside). When you talk about the move, explain in the new place he will have to wear shoes outside in the stroller. Once you get there, be very clear and consistent about the new rule. I'm guessing that if you make it clear and follow through, he will follow along.

You might also consider a rule that says bare feet are allowed for playing outside when the temperature is above x. I did this with my son (about long pants in the summer) when he was three. Made a picture of the thermometer showing which termperatures required shoes and which are optional for play. (Still need them for leaving the yard). When he wants to go out, check the thermometer together and see if he needs shoes for playing. That way you have a basis for letting him playing barefoot without breaking your rules.
posted by metahawk at 4:24 PM on October 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

You could start with the winter style crocs -- the ones lined with "shearling" or polar-tec. If you go to the crocs website, you'll see they also have boots, and also several kinds of shoes with characters -- SpongeBob, polar bear, etc.

Also seconding the idea of searching out shoes that have any character or theme your kid might be into -- when my son was about 2 he had a pair of tennies with pictures of construction vehicles on them and I could hardly get them to take them off.

(Also, just have to share that around the same age, my son threw his sandal out the car window when we were on the freeway.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 4:27 PM on October 17, 2010

ps - shoes off in the car is probably reasonable (since it is harder to enforce anyway.) plus if they come off, they should be easy to find. Just let him know it is OK so you won't think he is getting away with breaking the rules when he does it.
posted by metahawk at 4:28 PM on October 17, 2010

I was also this kid, but I was in Georgia, so weather wasn't an issue. When I was about 3 or 4, my mom got me a pair of chucks with the Tasmanian devil on them, and I thought they were so cool, I wore them all the time.

I also would have sold my 5 year old soul for a pair of light up shoes.

As a warning, I still hated shoes, and it was usually a struggle to get me to go to school with them on my feet -- the Taz ones, too. Even today, I don't wear shoes around the office all that much when it's warm outside.
posted by chicago2penn at 4:30 PM on October 17, 2010

Have you figured out why he doesn't like shoes? Do they hurt or bother his feet? Sounds like, if he's ripping them off, that something about most shoes is really uncomfortable for him: too tight, too restrictive, whatever. If you can figure out what it is that is bothering him, I would think you'd be a long way towards getting him to keep them on. And in the meanwhile, warm wool socks with crocs should be okay most of the time, I would think. Does he mind rubber boots? Because they're pretty loose and not restrictive, and so rubber boots with wool socks could work for days when the weather is a mess and crocs aren't really an option.
posted by colfax at 4:31 PM on October 17, 2010

I have a housemate who stopped wearing shoes many years ago due to back problems. He did some research, stopped wearing shoes, and his back trouble went away. He is a strong advocate for a barefoot lifestyle. He has a book about living barefoot that makes a pretty good case for not wearing shoes. He would probably also be happy to talk to you, if you're interested.
posted by aniola at 4:34 PM on October 17, 2010

High-top chucks worked for getting our son to not rip off his shoes, but we started much younger, at 10-11 months. They do take a bit longer to put on, but he's learned that shoes stay on that way. You may need a second pair of hands to hold him down. This may sound barbaric to non-parents, but toddlers are wiggly!
posted by kpht at 4:36 PM on October 17, 2010

Maybe some nice green frog boots? Then go out on a rainy day and hit the mud puddles hard.
posted by sammyo at 4:36 PM on October 17, 2010

My nephew was 2 y.o. when he slipped out the front door in just a diaper and a pair of Uggs to watch his uncle shovel the sidewalk. A couple years later I woke up one morning and he was out on the back deck wearing a bathrobe and crocs. It was 20 degrees. I don't think kids notice the cold, if you were counting on that.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:42 PM on October 17, 2010

These are lovely and toasty.

We have thrown ours in the laundry a couple of times to no bad effect, and if you're concerned it might be a good idea to get a couple of pairs so you could have one on standby. They're fine for outdoors -- most have rubber soles.

We got boys' Columbia winter boots for little llama last year (it was hard to find girl's winter boots that were seriously warm) and they were soft inside and her feet stayed dry.

Target is good for kids' shoes. He might find some shoes he genuinely likes at some point.

In the meantime--I think there are physical limits to how far a person will take a barefoot lifestyle and when there is frost on the ground and the grass is like sharp little frozen teeth, there's a reasonable chance he'll be willing to make an exception for really cold.

Like you, I wouldn't make much of an issue out of it other than to look for workarounds.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:48 PM on October 17, 2010

If he understands that he has to wear them outside-and does-then I submit this is a discipline problem and not a shoe problem.

Simply change the rule to-if mom and dad put them on they have to stay on till permission to remove them is given. Stroller=shoes. Car=shoes. The secret to parenting at any age is to make them understand that mom and dad's word is LAW.

I would of course check the fit and the comfort of what you put on your child-that's fair enough.

(I do think one should make as few rules as possible then enforce the heck out of the ones you make.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:19 PM on October 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Tactile defensiveness/sensory overload?
posted by alexandermatheson at 5:22 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Mr. F is also your kid. He wears Merrell jungle mocs, the kid version of which is like so.

He's recently gotten into Palladium's tactical boots, too, but tac boots might be a harder sell on a toddler.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:26 PM on October 17, 2010

To all of you saying why bother, parents have to put their foot (yes, I know) down at some point. Wearing shoes seems like an important point... have you ever seen all the signs that say "no shirt, no shoes, no service?" And secondly, do you know what kind of crap you get from other people if you take a kid out and the other people feel the kid's underdressed? (Yes perhaps you shouldn't care and tell them to mind their own business, but it's a hassle.)

I think a 2-year-old is a little young to choose a barefoot lifestyle.

K8t, the way I get little kids to get dressed when they don't want to is to let them choose what they want to wear. Show your kid all his (weather-appropriate) shoes and ask him which ones he wants to wear today. "None" is not an option. Picking up another pair or two that he really likes (characters, light-up, squeaking) might help with that.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:52 PM on October 17, 2010

Me and a lot of my family hate socks and shoes. It's hard to describe, but I feel like I breathe through my feet. I can't sleep under tucked in blankets because if I can't get my feet out it triggers a feeling of claustrophobia. I would wear shoes to school and formal outings, but they came off the minute I got home. Feetie pjs gave/give me major heebie-jeebies.

That said, when it was cold out I wore shoes and it wasn't really an issue. Maybe see how he deals with the change in climate before worrying about it?
posted by Kimberly at 5:54 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Along with the other excellent suggestions, try thinner socks. Heavy socks make my feet too warm and sweaty, causing them to chafe against the shoe. Switching to thinner socks made wearing shoes a lot easier, as they didn't seem to rub as much against my feet.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:58 PM on October 17, 2010

Thanks all. These are some great ideas. I think that I may need to do some Sierra-Trading-Posting for some of these different types of footwear.

He is not terribly fond of hats or sunglasses or ties either. He is also bothered by tags in clothes. Maybe he is a sensitive type.

Unfortunately he's still pretty non-verbal, so knowing what exactly his problem is isn't happening yet. It might be a tightness or something. Same thing with liking shoes with characters on them. (We do have some froggy wellies that he likes to march in though... right now we're still in SoCal, so rainy days are few and far between.)

And yes, this is in small part due to others saying "why doesn't that kid have shoes on?" and in big part because he'll need to wear them to play outside at daycare and at home to enjoy the snow.

[And as a side note: He has spent his whole life in a hippy-dippy all-day outdoor classroom for daycare where he gets to do just about anything that he wants within reason (which is awesome) and we're moving into more traditional daycare with 2 40 minute outdoor periods. We're already asking them to do cloth diapers for us, not feed him meat, deal with his verbal-delay... all these special snowflake things. I don't want to also have him be the kid that won't wear shoes!]
posted by k8t at 6:07 PM on October 17, 2010

Making taking off shoes less of a big deal, and explain that if he wants them off, he should hand them to you. Then you'll get fewer surprise tossings.

I grew up in New England and spent many cold winters wearing Birks and socks. Some people just don't need shoes as much as others.

If you want something that's less likely to come off without you noticing, definitely something with velcro (r-r-r-r-rip) or laces from the cheap-o Payless Shoes around the corner.
posted by zippy at 6:07 PM on October 17, 2010

Also, have him pick out a pair of awesome winter boots for his new location. He might be into it.
posted by zippy at 6:08 PM on October 17, 2010

He's recently gotten into Palladium's tactical boots, too, but tac boots might be a harder sell on a toddler.

Just like the firefighters wear!
posted by zippy at 6:09 PM on October 17, 2010

Maybe these would help to at least keep the socks on?
posted by analog at 6:13 PM on October 17, 2010

have you ever seen all the signs that say "no shirt, no shoes, no service?"

I was your kid, and my parents used this as a way to explain that We Are Human, And Thus We Wear Shoes.

I went barefoot in and out of the house during the warmer months. But anytime we had to go anywhere, my parents would tell me, "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service! Gotta put your shoes on if you want to go in the store!" It became sort of a mantra.

And thus I learned that, while it's fine to be barefoot at home, or in the yard, or going across the street to Jenny's house, when we go out and about in town and want to be Civilized Human Beings, we wear shoes.

FWIW, I pretty much lived in Keds and sandals until I was around 10. For dressing up there were patent leather mary janes, but I was a girl. Little boys can get away with a lot less.
posted by Sara C. at 6:25 PM on October 17, 2010

My son has a pair of Oshkosh B'Gosh hiking boots that he can't get off on his own, try as he might.

Also, nthing the idea of getting shoes that have pictures of whatever he likes. I know figuring that out with a nonverbal child can be tough, but once you know, that knowledge is GOLD.
posted by christinetheslp at 7:24 PM on October 17, 2010

I would drop the car issue because it's too hard to make them put the things back on when you're in the front and they aren't. Make sure he is comfy and let him pick between two pairs. And good luck; my entire family is full of shoeless SoCal heathens; 20 years of living in places with real winter has changed nothing. My stepdad wore shorts and sandals in Edmonton in winter.
posted by SMPA at 7:31 PM on October 17, 2010

My daughter has a pair of Mooshu squeaker shoes (the pink and leopard high tops here) that are her favorite shoes ever. She's not as adamant as your son is against shoes, but she does have a tendency to take other shoes off herself. There are a pair of cool hightop black and red boy's squeaker shoes on this same page, though maybe the velcro strap would be too easy for your son? In any case, good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:33 PM on October 17, 2010

Meh. Kids do that. Let him lose a toe to frostbite. He's the only person that's being harmed by him not wearing shoes. Sooner or later he will come around to wearing them.

As I said many, many times to myself - no one goes to college wearing a diaper.
posted by GuyZero at 7:38 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

At my son's daycare, another kid (3 years old) didn't like wearing his shoes either and always took them off in the room. The rule at daycare is mandatory shoes. Apparently, after a few days of this kid continually taking his shoes off, his dad solved the problem by wrapping duct tape several times around the shoe over the laces to MAKE the kid keep them on. I have to say, I was surprised at seeing him that way when I walked in one morning to drop off my son and after hearing the story, could hardly control my laughter. About a week later, no duct tape and no shoe issues. (Story is real; advice is in jest). =)
posted by cyniczny at 7:44 PM on October 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

My kid takes the shoe tossing a step further and actually rolls the automatic window down and chucks them out of the moving car.

Last winter we found a great pair of lace up 'duck' boots second hand for wearing in the snow and had the Chuck Taylors for the rest of the time. He couldn't get either kind off. He actually really liked wearing the Chucks, I'd say time for shoes and he'd go get them. Just make sure to tie the laces in a double knot.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:55 PM on October 17, 2010

Also, have you tried putting his socks on him inside out? Sometimes the seam at the toe can be really irritating. Either that or look for the seamless socks.
posted by TooFewShoes at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I suggest tights in super cold weather - they cover more than socks anyway, add another toasty layer and will be at least one covering if the shoe goes missing.

Also, watching a toddler trying to pull their tights off by the feet is kinda funny.

Whenever we put shoes on toddler anachronism it's a "YAY THIS IS FUN LET'S GO" event. Or "WOO STOMPING". She's a bit younger but we were dealing with many many lost socks when we decided this was how we're going to approach shoes. We're a barefoot inside household so she's usually pretty excited since shoes = going out. Or stomping.
posted by geek anachronism at 3:39 AM on October 18, 2010

I don't want to overworry you, but tactile sensitivity and delayed verbal development are sometimes an indicator for autism.
posted by By The Grace of God at 4:18 AM on October 18, 2010

My kid wasn't very verbal at all until age 3. So I wouldn't worry about the autism bit unless there are other issues to go with.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:56 AM on October 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

By the Grace of God - we had him evaluated (throughly!) 2 months ago regarding his speech delay. The 4 (!) different evaluators did not feel that autism was a concern.
posted by k8t at 6:56 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

"Also, have you tried putting his socks on him inside out? Sometimes the seam at the toe can be really irritating."

This. Buy socks that have the seam on top of the toes (where the bottom piece of fabric is longer than the top, and is wrapped around the toe area before being stitched together). I hate hate hate to this day socks that have fat seams pressing against the tips of my toes, when there's no particular reason for it.

My sister was exactly the same way as a kid. We couldn't verbalize our hatred (or reasons for it) at the time, and my mother was downright amazed when I mentioned this offhand to her >20 years later.
posted by astrochimp at 7:51 AM on October 18, 2010

My niece(10) and nephew(8) are two totally anti-shoe kids. As soon as they get inside a house they take their shoes and socks off. Doesn't matter who's house it is. If they're in the car longer than 10 minutes the shoes and socks come off. They both absolutely refuse to wear socks with any kind of seam at the toe. Their grandma doesn't quite understand this, so every Christmas my kids get the socks she sends them. Makes my life easier.

I don't know what brand my sister-in-law gets, but I know they tried a bunch of different brands before the kids found ones they like. Now that's all they buy.

I completely understand, there is something acutely irritating about a sock seam that somehow gets between your toe and toenail.

For the record, both kids are very healthy socially and academically so being sensitive to shoes and socks doesn't have to mean autism. As a matter of fact my nephew is very quiet and still doesn't talk much, but that's just his personality.
posted by TooFewShoes at 8:07 AM on October 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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