Selecting the right shoe for your child - at the right time.
Buying your young child their first pair of shoes is an exciting step.
The choice we make when selecting what shoe they will wear first, has the potential to significantly impact your child’s development. The requirements of the developing foot differ a lot to those of a teenager or adult. Below are some considerations I take into account when giving advice to parents at The Biomechanics Lab on what footwear is best for their child.
- Think flexible- the primary goal of footwear for the new walker should be to provide protection for the foot. We want to promote natural foot movement allowing the resulting forces to promote muscle and bone development. Footwear that is overly stiff can alters these forces and may therefore, alter their development.
- Not too heavy. A common issue I see in kids presenting at The Biomechanics Lab are shoes which are too heavy. They have not yet had the opportunity to form the leg and foot muscles or sensory and movement skills required to move in heavy shoes. It often causes clumsiness, tripping & difficulty walking. This has the potential to cause injury or delay the development of movement related skills.
- A pinky is perfect- A shoe that is too small will place added pressure on the developing foot, too big and it may allow the foot to move around promoting instability and clumsiness. Important to check your child’s feet for sizing regularly and replace shoes as required. A good guide is to use the width of your little (pinkie) finger- not a thumb like we use! After the first few wears of a new shoe check your childs feet for red marks or indents- if they don’t disappear after 10 minutes its a sign the shoes are not a good fit and likley uncomfortable.
- Remember their feet grow quickly (sometimes 1-2 sizes every 3 months) so it is important that we regularly check the fit of the shoe. Shoes too small can cause skin and nail injuries such as blisters potentially discouraging them from walking and play.
- Time to transition when you can’t keep up. Once kids start running and playing sport (around 4-5 yrs) it is time to transition them into a more structured shoe. It is at this time that the impact on their feet increases due to their increased body mass and activity type. The bone structure of the foot is beginning to take shape and now needs some protection from accidents and injury.
If in doubt seek out the recommendations of a podiatrist. I always review my paediatric clients every 6-12 months depending on individual needs. A footwear review is always included in my lower limb developmental assessments to ensure correct shoe is being is use. Don’t be afraid because your child isn’t showing signs of pain or developmental delay to seek out a regular Podiatry review.
Rob Parish, Senior Podiatrist
The Biomechanics Lab