Help Kids Kick-Off the New School Year on the Right Foot with Proper Fitting Shoes

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"Many children are wearing shoes that are too small, which invites the risk of injury and deformity" -- California Podiatric Medical Association

California Podiatric Medical Association

California Podiatric Medical Association

Your feet shouldn't hurt

Shopping for new shoes has become a major part of the annual back-to-school ritual. During the next few weeks malls and shoe stores coast to coast will be bustling with parents and children looking for that perfect new pair of new school shoes for the first day of school. For the student, style is the most important thing. However, parents need to be concerned not only with fashion, but more importantly with the proper fit of the shoes.

California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) President Rebecca Moellmer, DPM, a board certified podiatric physician and surgeon, says, "Many children are wearing shoes that are too small, which invites the risk of injury and deformity."

As an Associate Professor of podiatric medicine, surgery and biomechanics at the California College of Podiatric Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, Dr. Moellmer notes, "The human foot is a highly complex structure, composed of 26 bones working together with dozens of muscles, ligaments, veins and joints to allow the foot to adapt to uneven walking surfaces, and acting as a shock absorber with each step. These bones are typically not hardened until one is in their early twenties, and ill-fitting shoes during this period of development can lead to life-long foot problems."

The parent of an active five-year old, Dr. Moellmer knows that kids’ shoe stores and departments can be chaotic places (especially during this time of year) and offers these easy steps to help ensure that children are outfitted with comfortable, well-fitting footwear:

  • Avoid buying shoes online. For children with growing feet it is best to buy shoes with the child present, in a store with a knowledgeable sales staff.
  • Shop for shoes in the afternoon. Feet tend to expand throughout the day.
  • Don’t buy shoes with “room to grow.” Kids’ feet grow very fast, so many parents think they can save money by buying shoes with a little extra room in them. However, this can have detrimental effects on muscle development and activity levels. There should be some room in the toes, but not an excessive amount in which to grow.
  • Avoid slip-ons and flip-flops. Choose shoes with laces, straps or Velcro fastenings, which act like a seat-belt in a car, holding the shoe onto the foot.
  • Examine the shoe itself. It should have a firm heel counter (stiff material on either side of the heel), adequate cushioning of the insole, and a built-in arch. It should be flexible enough to bend where the foot bends.
  • Always have both feet measured for length and width. Again, shoes that are the wrong size can damage a growing foot. Have the feet measured while the child is standing and fully weight-bearing.
  • Natural material uppers such as leather are best. Check inside the shoe for seams or stitching that may cause irritation.
  • The toe area of the shoe should be toe-shaped and deep enough to allow the toes to move freely and not be squashed from the top or sides.
  • Shoes should fit comfortably around the heel without being too tight or too loose.
  • Bring a pair of socks that the child will be wearing with the shoes. Have him/her try on both shoes (with the socks) and walk around the store. Ask the child if he or she feels any pressure spots in the shoe.
  • Pick shoes that do not need a "break-in" period. The shoes you purchase should be comfortable right away. If shoes are too tight, they can cause blisters, calluses or corns. This is critical for children with diabetes.
  • If a child wears prescription orthotics - biomechanical inserts prescribed by a podiatric physician - they should be taken along for the shoe fitting.

“Purchasing properly fitting shoes is the first step in helping to ensure healthy feet, not only for children, but for adults as well,” says Dr. Moellmer. In addition to properly fitting shoes, Dr Moellmer offers these easy tips to help keep children's feet healthy:

  • Inspect children’s shoes regularly for unusual wear and seek professional advice if concerned. Unusual wear may be the first indication that there is a problem with the foot, posture or general posture and should always be examined by a podiatric physician.
  • Be aware that blisters and sores may develop with new shoes.
  • Check children’s feet regularly for inflamed nails and red pressure marks on the top of the small joints of the toes, below the ankle bones and the back of the heel.
  • Remember that teenagers in particular can be secretive about foot problems and a small, easily rectified problem can be more serious if neglected.
  • Change it up. Don’t allow a child to wear the same shoes every day, rotate between two or three pair, which will also help to extend the life of the shoes.
  • Avoid hand-me-downs. While it may appear an economical solution, shoes are different than other types of clothing in that the shoes have most likely taken on the shape of the previous owner's feet.
  • Due to frequently being enclosed in a shoe, the foot is at relatively higher risk of infection compared to other parts of the body. Any blisters, cuts or abrasions should be cleaned and bandaged right away. If slow to heal, see a podiatric physician immediately. Systemic diseases such as diabetes often first manifest in the feet.”

To help ensure proper foot development in children and the proper footwear for developing feet visit a podiatric physician for an examination and evaluation. To find a local licensed podiatric physicians visit http://www.calpma.org.

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading and recognized professional organization for California’s doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their long and rigorous education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.

CPMA, keeping Californians on their Feet – Healthy, Active and Productive

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