Vans is a footwear brand known for making skating shoes and related apparel, as well as shoes for other extreme sports like BMX and snowboarding. Their footwear and clothing are meant to be comfortable, as well as sturdy and stylish, but this time they’ve gone above and beyond to create something even the most finicky foot owners can appreciate.
It’s common for people with autism (and sometimes even people who are not on the spectrum) to be sensitive to sensory input. This manifests itself in different ways for different people, but it’s common for people with autism to dislike loud noises and particular textures in their food or clothing. There may be other textures and visual effects, however, that they find particularly pleasing and can’t get enough of. With their new line of shoes, Vans hopes to cater to this sensory-sensitive group by taking away the negative sensory stimuli that are commonly found in footwear (such as tags and seams that can poke the foot) and add positive ones instead.
The new Autism Awareness Collection from Vans is supposed to be ultra-comfortable with “sensory-inclusive elements, including a calming color palette and design features that focus on the senses.” Along with shoes, the collection also features short- and long-sleeved tees for kids.
Vans worked with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards to come up with design ideas that would cater to people with autism and sensory sensitivities. Their new products feature itchless tags and seams that don’t stick out in potentially uncomfortable places. The fabric is soft, and the shoes are available as slip-ons or with velcro closures.
The exterior of the shoes is designed to be pleasant to look at and interesting to the touch. Some of them have cushioned squares on the outside that are soft and squishy. Others have holographic rainbow effects that change as they move. And some, like the ones in the video below, are simpler and more sophisticated for the style-conscious wearer.
The shoes come in all sizes, from toddlers to adults, to make them more inclusive. They are available online or in Vans retail stores. And best of all, a portion of the sales from this line—a minimum amount of $100,000—will go to A.skate Foundation, which helps children with autism learn skateboarding. Participating in a sport helps people with autism improve their balance and motor skills, keeps them healthy and active, and can be a way for them to make friends and participate in a community.
Below is a review of the shoes by YouTuber Asa Maass and his son, Isaiah, on their YouTube channel, FatheringAutism. Asa’s daughter, Abbie, has nonverbal autism. She wasn’t able to review the shoes herself, both because she cannot speak and because the shoes were sold out in her size. However, her family has a great understanding of what Abbie likes and doesn’t like and what features make a product work well for someone with autism. So they reviewed a pair in Isaiah’s size instead.
Check them out and see what you think!
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?