Back to school shopping can present a dilemma to both parent and child. Whether it's choosing the latest look in clothes, a new backpack, or even lunch boxes, parents should not forget about the importance of choosing the right shoes. Predicting a toddlers expected growth or negotiating a teenager’s expensive tastes can be difficult without some direction. Shoe shopping questions like correct style, size, and choice of materials can be down-right puzzling. Here’s some guidance on these questions, and others, to provide a goal to shoot for when shopping for shoes with your child this year.
Deciding on what size of shoe shouldn’t be a compromise. The maximum distance between the end of the longest toe and the shoe should be 1/2 inch, about a thumbnail in length. Using the old “rule of thumb” allows parents to maximize how long a growing child will fit in a shoe without increasing the child’s probability of tripping in their next game of Tag. Obviously the easiest thing to do is to have your child's foot sized by an expert. Many shoe stores have trained employees to make basic measurements, if not come and see us! Be sure to measure both feet in length according to the longest toe and go with larger of the two feet.
Next it is easy to forget to size the child’s foot for the right width. Children's feet tend to narrow as they grow older so watch out for cramped toes in younger kids shoes. In addition, brands and models of shoe within a brand vary in length and width.
The last part of proper shoe sizing is making sure the heel doesn’t slip out of the back of the shoe when walking or running. Also, watch out for the back of the shoe being too tight or too high which can cause irritation and blisters at the back of the heel. Some say the average mother’s pinky finger should fit to the first knuckle at the back of the shoe.
Check the fit of your child's shoe every 2-4 months. Most kids have growth spurts, not consistent growth, so it is crucial to stay a step ahead of growing feet. So this means when you are buying children’s shoes of any age, each shopping trip should be treated like the first. The foot doesn’t stop changing shape with a driver’s license or even when we go to college.
Although it might be tempting to pass down a siblings shoe to the next of kin to save a few bucks, this is a no, no. Shoes mold to the first owners feet. Hand-me-down shoes, force your child's foot into a shoe that has already molded to the shape of someone else's foot, which means your kiddo could end up with foot pain and blisters. On the other hand it is never necessary to “break-in” a stiff pair of new shoes, especially for kids. Shoes should be comfortable with the first step.
When it comes to sandals versus shoes, it is almost always better to side with shoes. Active kids need shoes with socks. Sandals worn outdoors through the summer often harbor smelly fungi and do not protect a child's foot properly for inevitable outside play. If sandals are needed for the beach or are the only thing your kid wears in the summer go for newer sandal styles that cover the toes, hold the heel, and provide some arch support. A great list of sandals is on the APMA (American Podiatric Medical Association) website. In addition look for sandals (and shoes for that matter) with the APMA seal of approval.
Hopefully some reminders and new tips have been provided for parents as we approach this year's back to school season. Knowing what to look for in shoe size and materials can prevent a trip back to the shoe store in the middle of the fall quarter. As always if there is any question about your child’s foot shape, pain, function, texture, smell, or color for that matter, schedule an appointment with Dr. Larson at Sole Foot and Ankle Specialists.