Back to School Shoe Shopping

A frequent question I hear this time of year is, "What kind of shoes should I be buying for my kids?". There is no easy, one size fits all answer to this question, but here's some tips for finding the right shoe for your kiddos.

The first thing to look at is shoe fit. When checking shoe size, the longest toe should be about a thumbs width from the end of the shoe. This is often the big toe, but can sometimes be the second toe. Children’s feet can grow up to two sizes in six months, so account for growth when buying shoes. Don’t buy shoes too big, though. Oversized shoes can cause the foot to slide forward, putting excessive pressure on the toes. Tight shoes can cause blisters, corns and calluses, and ingrown nails, which can become infected. Signs of infection include: pain, redness or fluid draining from the nail area. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your foot and ankle surgeon for treatment.

The next criteria is support. Most shoes in children's sizes are intentionals flat. This is to allow the natural contour of the childs foot a "blank canvs" as it grows. Children with flat feet need shoes with a wide toe box and shock absorption. The best shoes to buy are athletic, lace-up shoes that have enough depth for an orthotic insert, if necessary. For children wearing adult size shoes, look for a shoe that has semi-rigid support through the arch and can accomodate an orthotic if needed.

Shoes lose their shock absorption over time, so inspect new and old shoes for proper cushioning and arch support. Worn-out shoes elevate the risk for heel pain, Achilles tendonitis and even ankle sprains and stress fractures. Replace any shoes with wear and tear around the edges of the sole and make sure the toe area (toe box) on your child’s shoes flexes easily and the shoe doesn’t bend in the middle of the sole. A good pair of running shoes will be rated for 200-300 miles before needing to be replaced.

With these facts in mind, I start a majority of my patients in a mild overpronator to neurtal shoe. If there are issues with injury or flat feet, these shoes can accomodate an orthotic well and offer additional stability. Brands of shoes that I recommend include: ASICS, New Balance, Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Altra and Hoka. If you think your child may need orthotics to help with their flat feet or with other foot and ankle issues, we recommend seeing your foot and ankle speacilist for a full assesment to help them get back to doing what they love.

Chris Suykerbuyk, DPM FACFAS

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