by Ralph J. Napolitano, Jr., DPM, CWSP, FACFAS

School.  Yes, it’s that time again.   Back to the school routine for the kids, and parents too.  On the shopping list I’m sure was book bags, pens and notebooks.  Maybe even a computer or that first phone for the tweeneer.  How about new school shoes?  Absolutely!  This month’s foot health blog touches on shoes for kids.

Most children learn to walk by the time of they are one, sans late bloomers or over achievers.   As your child begins to walk, you’ll probably have your first questions about what shoes he or she should wear.  A growing child will need new shoes frequently, and more questions will arise.   We’ll narrow our focus to school age kiddos saving our talk on shoes for new walkers and toddlers for another time.  When shoe shopping for kids, paramount is shoe fit.  Shoe construction is also important because construction correlates to shoe shape which in turn relates to how a shoe fits a particular foot shape.  Pick the pair that “feels good” to your child.  Kids are smart, and parents will need to sort out if Batman or Hello Kitty is influencing the decision.  There are nearly endless makes, models, and styles on the market.  Even though size is chosen correctly and foot type is accounted for, the shoe that’s tried on may not feel quite right.  Variation among “identical” pairs is a reality since shoes are mass produced.  Select another pair to try on, same make and model, or start over looking at something different.  A general rule of thumb is the “rule of thumb.”  Make sure you have about a thumb’s nail length from the big toe (or second toe if it’s longer) to the end of the shoe.   Make sure your child does a nice hike around the shoe store to be sure things are comfortable.  “Break in” is a farce.  Shoes should feel comfortable from the get-go.  If new shoes need to be “broken in,” it means either they were not properly designed or not properly fitted for your child’s foot.

Children’s feet grow in spurts, and they require new shoes every three to four months.

  • The young child, 24 to 36 months old, grows approximately one-half a foot size every four months
  • Children over 3 years of age experience increases of one-half a foot size every four to six months 
  • Seventy percent of children wear shoes with D and E widths.  Most boys wear E width and most girls wear D width. A tie-fastened shoe can accommodate most widths.
  • You should examine the depth of the shoe to make sure the top of the shoe doesn’t press on the toes or the toenails. Look for shoes with rounded toe boxes to give the toes more room for movement. 

Paramount when shoe shopping for kids is getting measured every time.  All feet tend to swell a little as the day goes on so plan shopping accordingly and go later in the day to be sure shoes are roomy enough.  Feet are not precisely the same so be sure to fit the “larger” foot.  Look for a stiff heel cup for support.  The shoe should bend with your child’s toes.  It shouldn’t be too stiff or bend too much in the toe box area.  Finally, select a shoe that’s rigid in the middle.  The shoe shouldn’t twist in this area.  Please note that flexibility and stiffness do not apply to toddlers.  Toddler shoes should be as flexible as possible.

An apple a day…

Dr. Napolitano is a double board-certified podiatrist and wound care specialist physician. (CWSP). He specializes in medicine, surgery and wound care of the foot, ankle and lower leg. He was the first podiatrist in the state of Ohio to earn the board certification Certified Wound Specialist Physician (CWSP).

“I strive to educate my patients thoroughly about their problem and offer a comprehensive and holistic treatment plan both medical and surgical. I believe healthy feet are the foundation for healthy living and will do my very best at all times to keep you active and moving along life’s journey—whatever your interests and wherever your feet may take you.”

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