As our little ones prepare to head back to school, shopping for the school year will soon be in full swing. From backpacks to footwear, parents love to use those tax-free weekends, end-of-summer sales, and back-to-school coupon codes to stock up on all the gear our kids need for the upcoming fall/winter season. One important purchase to consider before buying however is your child’s shoes. As the mom of 4 active, rambunctious little boys’ sneakers are our go-to shoe for virtually all occasions and ensuring quality, fit, and durability are key.
All About Little Feet
Our feet are complex structures made of 26 bones, 35 joints, and held together and supported by ligaments and muscle. Baby’s feet are highly flexible allowing them to comfortably move and bend when learning to walk, usually between 8-18 months old. Although many babies are flat-footed at first, their arches will develop as the muscle strength and ligament structure is developed.
Flat Foot Recommendation: Look for a shoe with a wide toe box, maximum arch support, shock absorption, and enough depth for an orthotic insert if necessary.
There are both pros and cons to little ones wearing shoes and it is often more of a personal choice when baby is young and not yet running around in public places. At home, young toddlers should be barefoot or wearing soft-soled shoes in order to develop stability and muscle strength in their feet.
Obviously in school or when visiting outdoor playgrounds, more durable shoes must be worn for safety reasons so as to protect babies’ feet from the elements and injury. Babies feet are soft and pliable therefore too much pressure, pinching, or abnormal positioning can easily cause deformities and problems.
Rather than treating shoe size for a baby or toddler as guesswork, having your child’s foot measured is important in ensuring a proper fit. Both length and width matter since many little ones have wider, fatter feet throughout toddlerhood. Although children outgrow shoes very quickly with their rapidly growing little feet, quality shoes are still necessary so as to prevent problems such as ingrown toenails, misshapen toes, limping, stiffness, tripping or leg pain.
Growth Fact: Children’s feet can grow up to two sizes in 6 months.
Quality Shoes are Essential
No matter the age of your child it is likely that if he or she is in school, athletic shoes, or at least rubber-soled, close-toed shoes are a requirement. Mainly for liability purposes, but also for the comfort of the kids at school, athletic type sneakers (or rubber-soled boots during the winter) are usually the best choice for kids, ensuring your child’s stability, agility, and traction on indoor, outdoor, and playground surfaces. Boys should not be wearing crocs or sandals, and little girls should not be dressed in slippery-soled dress shoes or flip-flops as these do not offer adequate support for a day of play. Consider your child’s day at school or on the playground the equivalent of a workout or time spent at the gym for yourself, would you be wearing heels, loafers, or rain boots during a cardio class?
So often parents are tempted to purchase inexpensive shoes for their kids from the local chain stores because children tend to be rough on their shoes and they don’t seem to last very long. Unfortunately, this is not the best plan for your child’s long-term podiatric health. Knowing our children to be active little people combined with their rapidly developing bodies, including their feet, quality shoes with superior arch support, cushioning, and shock absorption are important.
For most of our kids the same pair of shoes are worn every day (at least every weekday for school) and simply put, shoes wear out. Worn out shoes increase the risk of children experiencing heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains, and stress fractures.
Shopping Tip: Find stores with buy one get one half off sales during back-to-school and purchase shoes in the size your child wears now and one size larger. Children do not need two pairs of shoes in the exact same size as they are more likely to wear the same (most comfy and broken in) pair every day.
Additionally, tight shoes can cause blister, corns, and calluses on your child’s feet. Shoes that are too big cause the foot to slide forward placing excessive and detrimental pressure on the toes.
Size Suggestion: Children’s shoes should fit with about a finger’s width from the end of the shoe to the tip of the big toe.
Easy On, Easy Off
Although not necessarily related to how well your child’s shoes fit, it is also important to make sure your child regularly wears shoes he or she can take on and off him or herself. When at school your child’s teachers are as busy as can be with classrooms full of kids and cannot spend all day tying loose shoelaces. Also, this skill teaches independence and builds confidence in your child.
Stop worrying about whether or not your daughter’s shoes match her outfit and instead see how proud she is of her ability to accomplish the task of putting on her shoes all by herself! With so many options available whether your child can tie or not you are sure to find something he or she loves. Just remember not to be sucked into purchasing that pair of lace-up high-tops you know will cause drama and frustration every time you need to leave the house.
Raising kids is expensive, but their footwear is nowhere to cut costs. The long-term implications of improper, ill-fitting, non-supportive shoes are simply too high. Our active little people need the best so they can run, jump, and play to their hearts content setting them up for a healthier, happier, more successful future. Not only do quality shoes support proper development of your little ones’ feet, arches, ligaments, muscles, bones and all, but they also allow and encourage our children to lead healthy and active lifestyles that will benefit them in the future.
Sources: Foot Health Facts, Better Health Channel, KidsHealth
Photo Credits: Kristen Lee Creative, Munchkins and Mojitos