The Right Shoes

Take these easy steps when choosing shoes for children

Help kids put their best foot forward.

Step one in a correct fit. Have a knowledgeable person measure – not just length but width as well – with a Brannock Device (that clunky metal measuring thing). Wearing too tight shoes can lead to blisters, calluses and ingrown toenails. Wearing too large shoes can lead to tripping and falling.

Shop for shoes in the afternoon when feet are maximally expanded. Make sure the child is wearing the type of socks he or she usually wears with that type of shoe.

Here is a general guide to how often kids need their feet measured:

Toddlers (16-24 mo.) go up 1/2 shoe size every 3 months.
Ages 2 and 3, go up 1/2 shoe size every 4 months.
Ages 3 to 8, go up 1/2 shoe size every 6 months.
Ages 9 to 12, increase in size every 6 months-1 year

Check the shoe from heel to toe – The heel should be firm and shouldn’t collapse when you squeeze it from the sides. Make sure it doesn’t slip up and down when the child walks. The sole should not bend in the arch area because the arch of the foot needs firm support. The shoe’s sole should bend where the toes bend, in the toe box.

Look for room in the toe – a thumb’s width or 1/2 inch from end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe. This will prevent that toe from hitting the front of the shoe and causing damage to the nail.

Choose the right material. The shoe material should breathe, so look for leather, canvas or mesh. The shoe should be lightweight and shaped like the foot (a rectangle, not a pointy triangle).

If your child wears an orthotic, take the shoe’s inner sole out and put the orthotic in. Most children do not need special orthotics, unless they are experiencing foot or leg pain or frequent sprains that interfere with their activities.

When choosing athletic shoes, avoid slip-ons because athletic shoes must provide maximum support and be secure on the foot. Do not use second hand shoes or hand-me-downs for athletic shoes. Every foot is unique and wearing shoes with another foot’s wear patterns already established can lead to problems.

Buy running shoes for track, soccer cleats for soccer, etc. Cross-trainers work well for kids who play many sports. To find out if it’s time for new shoes, monitor the shoes inside and outside for signs of wear and tear.

When shoe shopping for toddlers learning to walk, the child needs to feel the ground with their bare feet. Shoes should not be worn until they have been walking for at least eight weeks. Shoes for toddlers need only protect the foot from sharp objects, heat or cold. Purchase high top shoes if the toddler likes to kick them off. Make sure there is enough room across the top of the shoe, as toddlers have thicker insteps and need more area.

Go to the American Podiatric Medical Association’s website – apma.org– for specific shoe brands approved for kids.

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