Problems with your child’s feet could become problems for life if not treated early. Foot conditions have the potential to develop into knee, hip and back pain that can have serious consequences on development and posture. Bones and joints in children are constantly growing and are not fully developed until adulthood.
It is back to school time and a great time for parents to bring their kids into Sole Podiatry for an annual foot check. Every school term there will be some kind of change in growing feet, particularly in the 8-12 age bracket. After the long summer break spent mostly barefoot or in thongs, it’s good to remeasure feet and purchase correct fitting school and sports shoes for the upcoming year.
This is also a good time to ask your kids about their feet and how they feel, to see if there are any underlying problems. A summer in thongs and bare feet may have resulted in certain growth issues to arise.
It’s also important to have the right footwear for the right activities. Kids will participate in many different sports/activities and parents may not realise they need appropriate activity based shoes.
As no child’s foot is the same, there is no single best shoe. The fit can be affected by their age, height, weight, shape, biomechanics and stage of growth development, subsequently choosing the correct shoe is imperative.
As our basic foot type is inherited, If foot problems run in the family we advise that you have your child’s growth progress checked periodically by a podiatrist. Or at the very least have them properly measured by going to a recommended shoe supplier professionally trained to measure children’s feet.
Shoe technology is advancing to mimic adult shoes. Your child could need any of the following; a motion control shoe, high stability shoes with a firm midsole or cushioned/ neutral shoes with plenty of flexibility to encourage foot motion.
It is very important for growing, impressionable feet that fashion not dictate footwear choice. Kids should not be wearing ballet flats or casual shoes for school sports because ‘it’s cool.’ It’s encouraging that some primary schools allow runners for day to day wear, however there are some shoes out there that are designed to look like a black leather school shoe and actually have the technology of a runner inside!
Tips for purchasing shoes at any age:
- Choose a store that measures foot length and width to ensure best fit
- Buy shoes in the afternoon as the foot may be larger at this time
- Always walk around in the shoes at home on the carpet, checking for comfort and tight spots – if any issues develop take them back!
- When standing you should be able to wriggle your toes
- Ensure the sole of the shoe is firm and bends across the ball of the foot
- The material breathes and is flexible/durable
Wear hand-me-down shoes with caution. An old shoe belonging to someone else will take on their shape and gait, which will not be the same as the new wearer. Buying a new shoe is recommended.
Here are five tips for healthy kids feet
- Barefoot crawlers: Babies don’t have any bones in their feet and all 26 bones present in an adult foot grow throughout childhood. Allowing babies to remain barefoot while crawling enables full contact between their skin and the ground, which promotes a faster understanding of balance and flexibility, without being constricted by shoes or socks. Of course, make sure there are no hazards around that could injure bare feet.
- Shoes for support:When your child starts to walk it’s a good idea to get professionally fitted shoes to protect the feet and support those wobbly first steps.
- Properly fitted shoes:Casual shoes and fashion shoes can have terrible effects on a child’s feet. They lack support, have very thin soles and are made of synthetic fibres that don’t allow young feet to breathe. Try to get shoes that fit both the length and width of your child’s feet, and that are made of breathable canvas or leather uppers.
- Properly fitted socks:Sock sizes should change as frequently as shoe sizes. Tiny feet without bones can be squeezed into just about anything, but with terrible repercussions for your child’s development. Make sure socks aren’t too tight and that they don’t bunch up inside shoes, causing blisters and other injuries that lead to changed walking patterns.
- Regularly measure growing feet:Little feet become big feet quickly and your child can wind up wearing tight fitting shoes before you’ve had a chance to even think about buying new ones! Measure your child’s feet regularly to be sure they are wearing shoes that fit properly. As well as causing pain and discomfort, ill-fitting shoes can cause bones and joints to develop incorrectly.
As the summer holidays draw to a close it’s an important time to think about the foot health of children. While the start of the school may bring tears and tantrums, it also means less time barefoot and more time spent in enclosed shoes.
Our podiatrists have some simple advice to help parents work through the vast array of schools shoes on the market.
- Fit (length)
The single most important factor to consider when purchasing new school shoes is the fit for the child. Not enough room and your child’s toes will soon be jammed at the end of the shoe and too much room will result in slipping at the heel and instability for the whole foot. So how much room is just right? Use the breadth of your thumb nail as a guide. About 12mms at the end of the shoe is the correct amount to allow room for growth while still providing a firm fit. Encourage your child to lift his/ her toe to touch the upper of the shoe and gently press down from above to find the most distal point. A single thumb nail should lie between the point of the toe and the end of the shoe.
- Fit (width)
Often overlooked in the fit of a school shoe is the width of the child’s foot. A simple technique used in our podiatry clinics is to remove the inner sole from the shoe and place it on the ground. Have your child stand on the inner sole and look for any part of the foot that is overhanging. This is most common at the forefoot (ball of the foot) and signifies the shoe is too narrow. If the shoe does not have a removable inner sole, apply the same principle with the foot in the shoe. Always remember to do this standing! Many shoe brands (e.g. Clarks and Ascent) now offer multiple width fittings so don’t be afraid to ask the retail assistant about this.
A school shoe with ‘good’ support is one that has a firm heel counter (the back part of the shoe), a stiff sole through the arch that only bends at the ball of the foot and some kind of adjustable fixation i.e. laces, buckles or velcro. If your child wears orthotics, another consideration may be a removable inner sole for extra room in the shoe.
Quality often comes with a price tag, but are the extra dollars justified? School shoe brands such as ‘Ascent’ combine the durable materials of a tradition school shoe, with the cushioning and support of a running shoe. They typically cost a little more than other brands but will undoubtedly last long/ wear better, saving you money in the long run. If $80 – $110 for a pair of school shoes if beyond your price range, IT IS STILL OKAY! As long as you stick to the supportive features above and ensure CORRECT FIT, your child will be running around the oval and jumping on the playground like no other! Other reputable brands to consider are Clarkes, Ecco, Harrison and Start Rite.
Still think you need more help?
Here are some of the stores we think offer the best service and advice: The Athlete’s Foot, Active Feet, Ann Lewis Shoes (in Hawthorn) and Williams Shoes.
Is an appointment with a podiatrist necessary? If you have noticed abnormal/ excessive wear patterns on your child’s shoes from the previous year, or your child is complaining of foot or ankle pain, consult one of our expert podiatrists or call 03 9939 1012 today.