Shoe Solutions

Shoes can be challenging. Some like them tight, while others like them loose. Some have trouble tying shoes, and others refuse to wear shoes. And what do we do if our friend with autism wants to wear their shoes to bed?

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Fortunately, the growing selection of shoe styles is providing more options for people who have tactile sensitivities in their feet, whether they crave deep pressure of tightly fitted shoes or prefer to walk barefooted.

Let’s start by looking at that unusual issue – wearing shoes to bed. We can, of course, take a stand and insist our friends take off shoes before going to bed. But, in some cases, it is easier to make some concessions in that area than to deal with conflict, emotional outbursts, and sleeplessness every night.

One strategy that has worked for some shoes-to-bed people is to distinguish “outside shoes” and “inside shoes.” They leave “outside shoes” at the front door and slip on a pair of clogs or other slip-ons to wear around the house. When it is time for bed, our friends can slip on a clean pair of thick, snug socks for confining their feet and allowing peaceful sleep. Outdoor catalogues and stores and travel catalogs have a big selection of compression socks and snugly fitted socks for hiking, camping, and traveling.

If our friends must have deep-pressure shoes on their feet in addition to the thick socks in order to sleep peacefully, they can wear some slippers or soft clogs for “bed shoes.” Some of my friends literally cannot sleep without ankle-high, confining boots, so they have “bed boots” that are worn only in the bedroom.

The fashion for slip-on shoes has helped many individuals with autism with poor perceptual motor skills. The clogs and slip-on shoes for men, women, boys, and girls have allowed many more people with autism to dress themselves more independently, decreasing their dependence on others for basic self-help tasks.

Clogs are also good choices for individuals with autism who struggle with tactile sensitivities that make it very uncomfortable to wear shoes. The loose-fitting footwear with lots of holes and no heel are much more tolerable than traditional shoes.

TIP FOR THE DAY: Do not ignore or downplay shoe issues. Recognize the reality for some individuals with autism of extreme sensory sensitivities related to shoes. Pinpoint the exact issue for that individual and develop a strategy to decrease agitation by increasing contentment and comfort. How do we do that? Just click the Toolkit tab on our website – – for tons of ideas for pinpointing and resolving shoe issues and other challenges related to autism.

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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