As parents, we all want the best for our children – from their health, education, and overall well-being. Part of ensuring their proper development includes choosing the right shoes for them. Choosing shoes for your children is not only about the style and the fit. It also plays a significant role in their musculoskeletal development, including their posture.
Infants just learning to walk do not need shoes. In fact, infants may go barefoot indoors or wear only a pair of socks. This helps the foot grow normally and develop their muscles’ strength and encourages the grasping ability of their toes. However, once children are ready to walk as toddlers, their need for properly-fitted shoes is important. In general, a soft, pliable, roomy shoe, such as a sneaker, is the ideal shoe for all children.
Here are some tips when purchasing shoes for children:
1. Have both feet sized every time you shop for new shoes.
Since children’s feet are still growing, both feet should be measured every time you shop for new shoes. If the feet are two different sizes, shoes should be fitted to the larger foot.
2. The child’s foot should be sized while standing up with full weight-bearing.
When the child’s foot is in a standing position, it is easier to measure the size that would fit best.
3. Ensure that there is about one-half inch of space between the tip of the toes and the end of the shoe.
Children’s feet grow at varying rates, and this extra space will allow for growth. The child should be able to comfortably wiggle his or her toes in the shoe.
4. Have the child walk around the store for more than a few minutes wearing the shoe with a normal sock.
This will allow the parent to see if the child feels any pressure spots in the shoe. The parent should also look for signs of irritation on the foot after the shoe is tested.
5. Check the shoe for any staples or irregularities in the glue that could cause irritation. Examine where the inside stitching hits the foot.
Using the hand to feel inside the shoe for any object or stitching that might cause pain or irritation to the feet is an essential step in choosing the best shoes.
6. Examine the shoe itself.
Ensure that the shoe has a firm heel counter, adequate cushioning of the insole, and a built-in arch. It should be flexible enough to bend where the foot bends at the ball of the foot, not in the middle of the shoe.
7. Never force your child’s feet to fit a pair of shoes.
Also, shoes should not slip off at the heels. High-top shoes or boots are recommended for children who have a tendency to sprain their ankles.
8. Periodically check your child’s feet.
Children who frequently remove shoes from their feet may be signaling some discomfort. Check your child’s feet periodically for signs of too-tight shoes, such as redness, calluses, or blisters, which will help you know when they’ve outgrown their shoes.
Remember that the primary purpose of shoes is to prevent injury. Shoes seldom correct children’s foot deformities or change a foot’s growth pattern. If you notice a problem, please contact your child’s doctor or podiatrist to have your child’s feet examined.
Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM is a podiatrist who can help with all of your foot-related needs. He specializes in sports medicine, surgery, and orthotics. Schedule an appointment with him if you notice any problems with your child’s feet that could benefit from further medical attention. Properly choosing shoes for your children can make a world of difference in their daily lives and musculoskeletal development.