Are Your Kid’s Shoes Ruining Her Feet?
7 tips for making sure your child’s footwear is fitting
It’s hard to keep a growing child in shoes that fit. But outfitting yours with the right footwear is about more than buying the right size. Here’s what podiatrists want you to know, and do, to make happy feet (and healthy feet) a reality in your household.
1. Skip the novelty footwear. Those light-up shoes, fashion flats or platform sneakers or sandals may be cute, but they may not belong on your child’s feet. “Often this footwear has added features that make the shoes unwieldy and there usually isn’t great support or cushioning,” says Ami Sheth, DPM, a podiatrist in Los Gatos, California. What's more, some novelty shoes are made from materials that don't breath and could cause rashes, she notes.
2. Leave babies and toddlers barefoot. Don’t rush to put your tot’s tootsies in shoes. Bare toes allow babies and toddlers to feel the ground, get their bearings and understand the relationship between their feet and the surface they’re walking on. The muscles and tendons of the legs and feet need to learn how to function and develop without restriction, according to Marlene Reid, DPM, a podiatrist in Chicago and a spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association.
“Putting developing feet in shoes for anything other than protection while walking is like wearing mittens on your hands. They can inhibit freedom of movement, generate heat and excessive moisture,” explains Reid.
Sheth says you can put footwear on your baby when she starts to walk outside. Indoors, unless you have an old wood floor that tends to create splinters, bare feet or socks with grips are the way to go.
Related: 9 Baby Safety Myths Debunked
3. Don’t be a softie. Shoes should have a firm sole, “and only bend at the toes,” says Sheth. “I like shoes with a nice wide toe box that don’t look like there’s a right or left when you examine the soles.”
Reid says the back of the heel should be firm, but with a little give. “It shouldn’t be flimsy, like ballet slippers.”
4. Make sure shoes are playground-worthy. “I often see kids on the playground wearing shoes that don’t allow for normal motion,” says Reid. She recommends against flip-flops "or any shoes that aren’t anchored to the feet" for young kids.
Related: Is Your Child's Playground Safe?
5. Be sandal-savvy. Two-strap Velcro sandals are better than flip-flops, says Sheth, but it’s still easy for kids to get injured in them. She prefers a closed toe box. An ankle strap is helpful too, says Sheth.
6. Pay attention to what’s afoot. Parents who have foot issues should have their kids' feet looked at by a podiatric physician as soon as they begin walking because many foot problems have a hereditary component, says Reid. “Check in with a podiatrist sooner if you notice something that doesn’t seem quite right,” she suggests. Be on the look out for walking with toes pointed out or in, flat feet, frequent tripping and toe walking. Foot pain is never normal, so check for signs of discomfort such as kicking off shoes, complaints of tired legs or feet or not wanting to walk.
Many kids grow out of podiatric abnormalities, but 10 to 15 percent don’t and can end up with significant foot problems. “There are ways to correct for these deformities, but if you wait too long the treatments are less effective,” says Reid.
7. Skip hand-me-downs. It may seem like a smart money-saver, but there are reasons not to pass down a pair of shoes unless they’re in very good condition and fit properly. “Shoes that are too big may cause tripping and those that are too small should never be worn,” says Reid. What’s more, used shoes may have molded to the older child’s feet.
“You might also teach your child that shoes are special and sharing them means that you're also sharing other people's germs,” suggests Sheth.
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