One of the simplest investments in our children’s health is proper footwear.
Sometimes the cutest shoes offer the worst support for your growing child’s feet. The struggle is in finding supportive shoes that are also kid-approved.
Next time you shop for shoes, keep these tips in mind:
- Children’s feet change with age. Infants do not need shoes and being in bare feet or socks allows their foot to develop. Your infant’s foot contains more cartilage than bone.
- The foot is made up of 26 bones designed to support the entire body, adapt to uneven surfaces and absorb shock with each step. The structure develops fully by age 2, but the bones don’t finish hardening until 18 years of age.
- Never use hand-me-down footwear. Each child has a different “wear pattern” for their shoes, and can cause problems or be uncomfortable for the second or third wearer.
- Examine the sole of the shoe. Children can wear through the heels or toes of their shoes more quickly than they outgrow them. Uneven wear patterns may indicate a foot alignment that needs to be addressed by orthotic supports.
- Include your child in shoe shopping. Present them with viable options and have them try them on to walk around, run, jump, etc to make sure they feel good. Make sure to pack their regular socks.
- The AAP recommends a flexible, non-skid or skid-resistant sole known as a “pre-walking shoe.” The main focus here is warmth and protection. Remember to allow your child plenty of barefoot time to develop the intrinsic muscles of the foot.
- Since more energy goes into this stage of walking, choose a light weight shoe made of a sturdy material that can be fastened on easily. It should accommodate varying widths of feet as well. If you have concerns about your child’s foot alignment, talk to your pediatrician or physical therapist.
- The focus at this stage is shock absorption, support and protection. Choosing the right type of shoe for the right activity is important. A flip flop is fine for a trip to the pool, but sneakers are a better fit for the playground or a soccer game. Look for something flexible, with ventilation, room to grow and a small arch support.