A new school year is a great time for new shoes. We turned to podiatrist Pedram Aslmand, DPM, at Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach for some advice on finding the right fit.
What do parents need to know about choosing a shoe?
When kids are just starting to walk, you want a pair of shoes that is soft, basically a minimalist shoe. At that age, kids want to be able to feel the ground.
After age 3 or 4, you want to have a little bit more sturdiness to the sole of the shoe.
Unfortunately, now, a lot of people buy shoes online. It’s very important to take children to stores and make sure they try the shoes on. You want to have at least one thumb width from the end of the toe to the end of the shoe. The width of the shoe has to match the foot.
When they put a shoe on, it should fit and feel right. If a shoe feels funny at first, don’t think that a month later they’re going to break it in and it’s going to feel comfortable. The other important thing is to watch the kid walk back and forth and look for any gait abnormalities.
Sometimes, parents think a bigger shoe is better because kids grow really rapidly. But kids are rough on their shoes. In three months, those shoes are gone and they still haven’t grown into them.
What types of problems can be caused by shoes that don’t fit correctly?
I’ve had patients come into my office literally wearing shoes that were two sizes too small for them, causing the toes to contract. That could cause a lot of damage with joints, tendons, ligaments.
On the other hand, if the shoes are too loose and ill fitting, you can have not enough support for the tendons and cause exaggeration of joints that needed the support. That can cause tendon damage and tendonitis.
As kids mature and the growth plates are closing in the heel bone, we see a lot of kids that are wearing shoes that don’t have enough support, don’t have enough cushion. When kids this age get heel pain or complain about leg pain, ankle pain, a lot of people just call it growing pains. But it can make a huge, dramatic impact if you get them into the right shoes.
Are there any styles of shoe that you wish parents wouldn’t buy?
Flip-flops are terrible. In order to stabilize them, you’re using a lot of muscle and gripping on your toes, which is bad for the foot.
Also, high heels. Heels change the whole biomechanics of the foot. The gait is completely different, your hips thrust forward, your knees have to be pushed back. So, I’m against any kind of heel for kids.
Once they turn 15 or 16, going to parties and events, the lower and more chunky the heel you can get, the better.