Most kids get very excited about back to school shopping – especially the opportunity to get new shoes! Ever notice how even a toddler will proudly show off their new shoes to anyone and everyone?
While children may have several pairs of sandals or slip on shoes, it’s crucial for them to also have at least one pair of quality, supportive, properly fitting pair of sneakers / athletic shoe for wearing all day at school or while running and playing outside. It’s important to select the appropriate style and make sure that they are properly fitted to prevent foot problems and injuries to your child’s feet.
Following are several tips for making the right selection of shoes for your child to start the school year.
- Bring your child shopping with you so they can be measured for proper size by a shoe store employee. Children often grow at an incredible rate which means their shoe size is going to change frequently. Proper shoe size will prevent tightness and improper motions that could lead to unwanted structural and functional changes in the feet. If one foot is larger than the other, you should always go with the larger size so it does not cramp the toes or create hammertoes (when your smaller digits contract up like a claw). Taking your child with you and teaching them what to look for also teaches them good habits for the future.
- When in doubt about proper shoe size, always use the rule of thumb: Make sure that there is at least one thumb’s width between the tip of the big toe and the end of the shoe. This rule can also be used for adults.
- Look for a shoe that has a rigid midsole area (see illustration). If the shoe is able to bend front to back or twist side to side, it does not provide enough support.
- Select a good sturdy shoe that has a stiff heel counter (the part of the shoe that goes around the backside of the heel) and a semi-rigid toe box (partially stiff-partially flexible area that goes over the tops of the toes) to help support the foot and prevent injuries or improper wearing-out patterns in the shoes. It is important to regularly check the wear pattern of your child’s shoes to make sure both shoes show a similar normal pattern, as abnormal wear patterns can indicate changes in the foot and provide information to your podiatrist about possible foot problems your child may be experiencing. You can check the wear pattern by simply looking at the bottom surface of the shoe (the surface that touches the ground). A normal pattern should be worn out in the middle and outside of the heel area as well as in the area under the big toe and second toe. You can see in this picture that this follows the normal pattern of how force is distributed across your foot with each step you take, beginning when your heel strikes the ground and ending when your big toe pushes off the ground to move your forward.
- In general, once shoes are outgrown, they should not be passed down as they tend to break down and wear out based on individual foot type. Shoes will lose support and function with excessive wear. Sharing shoes could also possibly spread warts or fungus from one child to another.
- Shoes should be comfortable when they are first put on and should not have to be “broken in”.
Sneakers come in so many fun colors and stylish designs that it is no longer necessary to give up the “cool factor” or “in-style” design to find a pair that is also good for their feet.
Dr. Jarod Spencer has joined the team at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates. If you have any questions about your child’s shoes or feet or have a problem with your own feet, please contact him at 309-661-9975 or visit him online at www.HeartlandFootandAnkle.com.