Shopping for your children’s shoes can be frustrating. Their feet grow so quickly, it seems as if they need a new pair every few months. And even when children don’t outgrow their footwear, sports play, muddy playgrounds and all that life has to throw at you can leave little shoes worn out and unable to provide proper support.
With all of that, in can be tempting to pass down those barely-worn, outgrown pairs from sibling to sibling…but it’s just not a good idea. Read on to find out the best way to secure a well-fitted shoe for your child (and to discover the one thing you should never do!)
Check Your Child’s Foot Regularly
As noted, kids’ feet grow quickly. It’s entirely possible that they will need a new sock or shoe size within months of your most recent purchase. Ask your older children how their shoes feel, and check fit by pressing on the big toe and the end of their shoes. There should be some wiggle room between the two, or you can run into problems like foot pain and ingrown toenails.
Make sure to look at the heels of their shoes as well. If the wear is uneven, it could be a sign of arch issues or flat feet that are causing their feet to roll in or out (pronation or supination.) Your podiatrist can help fix this issue, but it’s better to begin with orthotics fairly quickly.
For little ones, who can’t speak up as well, watch their feet for signs of irritation—redness, blisters or a change in the way they walk could all indicate it’s time to size up those sneakers.
And here’s the thing you NEVER do, which I alluded to before: don’t use hand-me-down shoes. First off, your child’s feet mold their shoes as they walk. But those feet are still developing, so if you wear a different child’s shoes, it can affect the growth pattern of the one wearing hand-me-downs. Plus, if that’s not enough reason, conditions like bacteria, athlete’s foot and nail fungus can live on in shoes well after they’ve been cured in your child. By passing on old shoes, you also run the risk of passing on those old infections!
What to Do When Purchasing Children’s Shoes
Go directly to a children’s shoe store or department, where an experienced sales professional can properly measure your child’s feet. Make sure both feet are measured, as there are often size-imbalances in growing kids. If that’s the case for your child, simply size to the larger foot.
NEVER shop for shoes online, assuming that you can just purchase the next size up. Without getting your child’s foot length and width measured, and allowing him or her to try on and walk in a prospective new pair, you run the risk of buying a poorly-fitted or uncomfortable shoe. And while you can return (often with free shipping) there’s a good chance your child will say the fit is fine and walk away, especially if the shoes look cool or the child hates shopping. It’s better to get a guaranteed good fit, the first time around, all while supporting local retailers.
And about that good fit—if a pair of shoes is right for your child, it will feel comfortable from the first moment of wearing. Keep in mind your child should try the shoe on with the type of socks or tights she or he plans to wear with the pair.
This is What you Look for in a Pair of Children’s Shoes
As a podiatrist, I prefer closed-toed shoes for children—they offer better protection against bumps, drops and infections. And Velcro or lace-up shoes are typically more supportive than slides, which may force your children to grip with their toes to keep the shoe in place.
I also recommend choosing a pair with a stiff heel. How do you know if it’s stiff enough? You should be able to press on both sides of the heel without having the shoe collapse. In contrast, I recommend shoes that have some flexibility in the toe box—just enough so that the shoe bends a little with your child’s toes as he or she walks. But, in the middle of the shoe, you certainly don’t want flexibility. If you try to twist a child’s shoe in the middle and it moves, look for a different pair.
Of course, even in the best-fitting pair of shoes, injuries may occur, or foot pain may still develop. My final piece of advice—don’t assume your child will outgrow a foot issue. Instead, come see your podiatrist as soon as possible, so we can get your child back on the proper developmental path.