Do you have hammertoes? Bunions? Ingrown toenails? These may not be a recent development. In fact, the root of these problems may have started in childhood with shoes that didn’t fit properly.
It won’t be a surprise to any parent that kids burn through shoes – sometimes it’s hard to believe how fast they grow. It’s easy to tell when your kids have outgrown shirts, pants, socks, gloves, etc. But what might escape your attention is their footwear. If your child isn’t complaining about their shoes being too tight or hurting, we tend to forget that their feet are growing at least as fast as the rest of their bodies.
When should I buy my child’s first pair of shoes?
A child’s feet grow rapidly during the first year, reaching almost half their adult foot size. As they develop, their feet are soft and pliable and abnormal pressure can easily cause the foot to deform.
During the first year, don’t force their feet into baby shoes when it’s not necessary. Children don’t actually need shoes until they begin walking, between 12-15 months. Until then, socks or booties are enough to protect their feet and keep them warm. When your child begins standing and walking, shoes provide protection from injury.
Little girls actually have it the worst where this is concerned. Buying a shoe for her based on style instead of a pair which are actually supportive for her growing feet may cause her problems in adulthood. The most important quality to look for in shoes is durable construction that will protect her feet and keep them comfortable. Remember that her shoes should conform to the shape of her feet – not the other way around. Soreness, blisters, callouses, and permanent disfigurements can be caused by repeatedly stuffing your child’s feet into shoes that don’t fit her well.
Recommendations for buying children’s shoes
- Have your child’s feet measured every 3 months – check for signs of too-tight shoes like redness, callouses or blisters.
- Generally speaking, if a shoe fits correctly, there is a thumb width between the end of the shoe and the end of the longest toe.
- The sole of the shoe should be relatively straight, just like the foot.
- The heel should sit firmly in the back of the shoe so that the foot doesn’t slide inside of it.
- The shoe should bend where the foot bends – at the ball of the foot, not the arch.
- Best shoe materials are leather or canvas, as they’re more durable and can breathe. No plastics.
- The toe boxes should be rounded, not pointed, to allow the toes room to move.
- Modern shoes do not need to be “broken in”. They should fit well and be comfortable the first time your child tries them on.
A sneaker is usually the ideal shoe for a child of any age. The toe box should provide enough space for growth, and should be wide enough to allow their toes to wiggle. High-top shoes are recommended for younger children who may have trouble keeping their shoes on, but contrary to what you may have heard, high-tops offer no advantage in foot or ankle support over low-cut shoes.
Remember that the primary purpose of shoes is to prevent injury and support the foot as it grows.
When you check your child’s feet, if you notice anything out of the ordinary, make an appointment with PA Foot and Ankle Associates for a thorough examination and diagnosis of your child’s foot problem. Foot problems treated in adolescence may prevent more serious problems in adulthood.