Are Your Child’s Feet Ready to Go Back to School?

Aug 7, 2019

Kids grow up so fast. One day you’re changing their diapers. The next, you’re sending them off for their first day of school. It all seems to happen in a blink of an eye!

The same can be said about the rate at which their feet grow, too. In fact, during childhood kid’s feet will go through most of its developmental stages, from pudgy baby feet to smelly teen feet. Of course, if you are a parent, then you probably already know this – with all the shoes your child seems to grow out of so quickly, your budget may even be starting to feel the effects.

With so much growing and stretching, there is plenty of room for things to go wrong. So while you’re watching your child grow up, make sure you also don’t forget to keep an eye on their growing feet – when left untreated, foot problems in childhood can lead to chronic pain and even deformity in adulthood.

That’s why our team of experts at Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates is here to give you some pointers on how to make sure your little one’s feet are kept healthy and safe as they return to another school year.

Finding the Perfect Shoes for Your Child’s Feet

Did you know that it only takes about three months for a typical toddler to outgrow his or her shoes? This means that you can say goodbye to those adorable, tiny shoes long before they actually start showing signs of ever being worn. And though foot growth will gradually slow over time, throughout their adolescent years, your child may still outgrow their shoes more than once per year!

What’s more, kids won’t always tell you if their shoes are too tight (children aren’t usually concerned with such “trivial” things), so you should make sure to routinely check how their shoes are fitting.


Well, simply put, shoes that don’t fit properly can contribute to problems with foot pain, posture, gait, or even foot deformities – now and in the future. And since we know you want the best for your child, here are a few things to keep in mind when checking the current fit of your child’s footwear and what to look for when purchasing new kicks.

If the shoes fit …

You should test the fit of your child’s footwear at least a couple times per month. Not sure how to determine if your child’s footwear is in need of retirement? Here’s a few things you can do to find out:

  • Ideally, there should be about half an inch of wiggle room between the front of the shoe and the end of the longest toe. Press down on the shoes with your child standing in them – if the toes are hitting the front of the shoes, it’s time for new kicks.
  • Look for any signs of bowing or bulging out along the sides. If these are present, then the shoes may be too narrow.
  • Look for any signs of foot swelling – ill-fitting shoes can cause the foot to swell and areas of irritation.
  • Does your child seem to frequently trip or stumble over their own feet, or is suddenly withdrawing from their favorite physical activities? It may be due to their footwear.
Stretching exercise

… If the shoes don’t fit (and how to find ones that do)

Okay, so you’ve determined that your child has outgrown their old pair of shoes. Now what? Below are some features you should always look for when buying a new pair of shoes:

  • Avoid buying pre-owned shoes or using hand-me-downs.
  • Take your child shoe shopping with you so they can test the fit.
  • Always measure your child’s before you start trying on pairs.
  • Leave about a thumb’s width of wiggle room between the front of the shoe and the longest toe.
  • Make sure you are able to slide your index finger down to the second knuckle between the heel and the back of the shoe.
  • Look for shoes that provide enough arch support and heel cushioning.
  • Don’t buy shoes that are too big thinking your child “will just grow into them anyway” – shoes that are too big can be just as damaging as shoes that are too small.
  • Finally, have your child walk around the store in each pair you test out to make sure they fit comfortably – never buy shoes that need to be “broken in.”

Other Things to Consider

Yes – wearing the right pair of shoes is a primary aspect of pediatric foot health. But there are also other things to consider, like hygiene and recognizing early signs of foot conditions before they become a serious problem.

Let’s discuss these points a bit:

Keeping feet clean and nails properly trimmed

Between gym class and recess time, your child’s feet will be doing a lot at school. And though their feet may still be small, they are home to about 250,000 sweat glands. That all translates into a lot of sweat! Teach your child to thoroughly wash and dry their feet every day – paying special attention to those areas between the toes.

You should also advise your child on how to properly trim their toenails (whenever you feel they are old enough to safely do it themselves, of course). Teach them to trim nails even with the edge of the toe and to never round out the corners – doing so may contribute to painful ingrown toenails.

Recognizing foot problems

You may notice that your little one’s arches become flat when they are bearing weight, only to reappear when they are sitting or standing on tiptoes. This is actually normal for kids around 5 and under. It’s also not uncommon for children to have feet that rotate inward or outward when walking. These symptoms usually resolve themselves as the child continues to develop.

However, if their feet or legs don’t seem to look quite normal, or if your child shows any signs of pain or unusual discomfort or fatigue, it is best to make an appointment at our Bloomington office right away. Though it’s possible that the problem will work itself out without any need for intervention, it’s better to find out early if there is any underlying problem that needs to be addressed. Doing so will ensure that your child not only maintains healthy feet now but also in the future.

So if you need to schedule an appointment with us, just give our office a call at (309) 661-9975 today, or fill out our request form online to have one of our staff members reach out to you.