School is out. Remote education has wrapped up. Summer is here!
Of course, this isn’t exactly quite like any normal summer any of us have experienced before, as our communities continue to deal with the current pandemic.
But while we of course encourage you to do what you need to do to keep yourself and your family safe, getting lots of outdoor exercise is still highly recommended, especially for kids. And with the glorious weather and sudden increase in free time, you can bet they’ll take advantage of it!
That means, though, that you’ll need to make sure they have some good pairs of shoes to keep their growing feet safe and well supported. Are you up to the task?
Here are a few guidelines to consider:
Shoes Should Always Fit (and Be Comfortable)!
Children’s feet grow extremely fast, and that makes it tricky to keep them in shoes that are the right size!
Always make sure that, when you buy, there’s about half an inch of “wiggle space” between the longest toe and the front of the shoe. Then, check their shoes regularly (every couple of weeks or so) to make sure they aren’t starting to feel constricted.
One common mistake parents make is buying an extra-large shoe that their child can “grow into.” While we understand the thought process, shoes that are too big can be just as detrimental to foot health as shoes that are too small.
Another common mistake is expecting kids to “break in” shoes that are brand new. If the shoes are uncomfortable to wear even when trying them on for the first time and walking around a bit, chances are that they don’t fit and likely never will.
No Hand-Me-Downs or Shoe Sharing
We get it—kids are expensive, and picking up used shoes for cheap (or free) seems like it would be an efficient use of resources. Unfortunately, used shoes are almost never a good idea, unless your child is so young that they aren’t even walking yet.
The downsides of hand-me-downs are numerous:
- Cushioning and support may already be partially (or completely) worn out.
- Previously worn shoes often “conform” to the foot shape of the original owner, which can create painful pressure and friction spots when worn by a different set of feet.
- Sharing shoes can easily spread infections like athlete’s foot and warts from kid to kid.
Although we sympathize with parents who have to buy shoes three or four times (or more) per year to keep up with a growth spurt, buying new is always the way to go if you want to protect your little one’s feet.
Summer Shoes Need to Breathe … But Don’t Give Up That Support!
Especially during the hotter months, you want to make sure your child’s feet stay as cool and dry as possible. That way, they’re less likely to develop problems like blisters, athlete’s foot, and foul odor.
For closed toed shoes, look for fabric uppers that are made from more breathable materials like mesh, leather, or canvas.
Of course, in summertime many kids and adults prefer sandals. That’s totally fine! However, you should not sacrifice support and comfort. The best sandals have good built-in arch support, thick soles, and a comfortable adjustable strap for the back of the heel. Flimsy flip flops will just hurt your child’s feet and may even make them more prone to injury.
Keep an Eye on The Shoes—and Your Kids!
Earlier, we said that you should be checking the fit of your child’s shoes every couple of weeks. It’s worth re-iterating!
Be proactive about this—don’t necessarily wait for your little one to tell you that their shoes feel tight! In addition to feeling for the toes with your fingers, other obvious signs of a shoe that’s too small or doesn’t fit include:
- Bulging sides
- Stressed seams
- Worn down soles (or uneven wear)
- A toe box that appears bent upward
- Your child constantly trying to pull their shoes off
- Your child’s feet appearing reddish and irritated
Shop Later in the Day (and Other Quick Tips)
Here’s a handy tip that might surprise you.
Feet don’t actually stay exactly the same size from sunup to sundown. Typically, they swell a little bit from the day’s activities and reach their largest size sometime in the evening, before “shrinking” back down overnight.
Obviously, you want to make sure your child’s shoes fit nicely all day long, and not just in the morning! Shopping in the late afternoon or evening, when feet are a little larger than normal, can help ensure that this is the case.
Some other quick shopping tips:
- Your child should always participate in the shopping experience—it’s extremely important that they have the chance to try the fit for themselves. Just because a shoe is the “right size” doesn’t mean it fits.
- The thickness of your child’s socks will affect the fit. Shoes should always be tested with the same style of socks that will be worn with those shoes regularly.
- Measure both feet. It’s common for one to be a little larger than the other. Buy a pair that will fit the larger of the two.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help!
Armed with these tips, we hope that finding shoes for your little ones this summer will be a smooth process—or at least as smooth as it can be, given the unusual circumstances we find ourselves in.
That being said, simply finding a good pair of shoes may not always be enough to prevent or mitigate a source of foot and ankle pain. When kids have problems with their feet, it’s important to get them the help that they need promptly, so that they don’t continue to hurt themselves—and so that, if there are more serious underlying issues, they can be addressed before causing consequences later in life.
We love working with kids, and provide comprehensive care for many pediatric foot and ankle conditions. If your child is in pain, let us help! Whether they need professional treatment or just a better pair of shoes, we’ll be sure to get you the proper guidance you need.