Shoe Issues

Shoes issues go to extremes for some individuals with autism. Some simply cannot tolerate shoes, and other cannot tolerate bare feet. Some of my friends with autism love the snug fit of shoes so much they wear shoes to bed. Now, that is extreme!

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Over the years, I’ve learned that some behavior issues and emotional outbursts are actually related to shoes. Even people with autism who are very articulate and able to express their preferences have encountered problems that they later realized stemmed from shoe issues.

For example, an older teen has wrestled for years with societal expectations for people to wear shoes. His feet are exceptionally averse to touch, and are very happy wearing flip flops, even in the dead of winter. But school, work, and over-protective grandmamas expect him to wear shoes and socks.

Another of my young friends with autism always took off his shoes, even in the winter. Since he preferred loosely-fitted clothing, we assumed he did not like the confinement of his shoes. After five or six years, it finally became apparent that he was actually taking off his shoes in an attempt to communicate he wanted deep pressure on his feet. He was very happy when his family finally fitted him with snug hiking boots fitted with textured liners.

Other friends with autism crave the security of tight-fitting socks and snug shoes or boots so much they want to wear their shoes to bed. While we may think that it rather strange to wear shoes to bed, most parents have found it counter productive to convince their youngster who craves deep pressure to go to bed barefooted.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Sensory issues can affect every aspect of life for individuals with autism, sometimes in ways that seem very strange to others. Our upcoming podcast “Shoe Solutions” looks at some creative ideas for increasing comfort and decreasing agitation. And click the Toolkit tab on our website – – for a treasure trove of ideas for pinpointing and resolving challenging issues related to autism, including issues related to shoes.

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me a confidential email at with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

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