The start of a new school year brings many “to dos,” including back-to-school shoe shopping. It’s important to find the right shoes for your child at different stages in their lives. Foot and ankle surgeons, often referred to as foot physicians or podiatrists, recommend shopping wisely for the proper shoes to help minimize foot problems caused by poorly-fitting shoes and help you address any foot issues your child may have.
Use these tips from the foot and ankle surgeons of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) in your quest for school shoes for your children.
1. Shoes should fit. Your child’s feet can grow up to two sizes in six months, so account for growth when shopping. This doesn’t mean you should buy shoes that are too big -- oversized shoes can cause the foot to slide forward, putting excessive pressure on the toes.
“A good fit is about a finger’s width from the end of the shoe to the tip of the big toe,” says Dr. Brett Sachs, DPM, FACFAS, a foot and ankle surgeon and Fellow Member of ACFAS.
Dr. Sachs warns that tight shoes can cause blisters, corns and calluses on your child’s toes, blisters on the back of their heels, or worse, ingrown nails, which can become infected. Signs of infection from ingrown nails include pain, redness or fluid draining from the area. If you notice any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with a foot and ankle surgeon, who can perform a simple, safe in-office procedure to remove the nail.
2. Shoes wear out. Shoes lose shock absorption over time, so inspect new and old shoes for proper cushioning and arch support. Foot and ankle surgeons caution that worn-out shoes elevate the risk for heel pain, Achilles tendonitis and even ankle sprains and stress fractures. Replace any shoes with wear and tear around the edges of the sole. When buying shoes, check to see that the toe box flexes easily and the shoe doesn’t bend in the middle of the sole.
3. Children with flat feet. Children with flat feet need shoes with a wide toe box, maximum arch support and shock absorption. The best options are oxford, lace-up shoes that have enough depth for an orthotic insert, if necessary.
4. Children who play sports. Athletic shoes can wear down and become uneven on the bottom, causing the ankle to tilt because the foot can’t lie flat. If your child plays sports, use the start of the season to acquire new shoes designed for the sport. For example, don’t mix baseball cleats with football shoes.
5. Pay attention. While many pediatric foot problems resolve themselves with growth, there are clear signs that tell parents when children need medical help. Common pediatric foot problems can range from pediatric flat foot, toe walking, in-toeing and flat or high arches to tarsal coalitions (abnormal connection between the tarsal bones in the back of the foot) and extra bone growth. Many of these conditions share common signs:
• Pain, swelling and redness that doesn’t subside
• Development of thick calluses in one area of the foot
• Problems with the way your child walks
• Shins or thighbones that appear to turn inward
• Ankles that are weak or easily give out
“Bring up any concerns or symptoms at your child’s routine physical. Foot and ankle surgeons and your child’s pediatricians can work together to help ensure these conditions don’t affect your child’s overall growth and development,” says Dr. Sachs.
For more pediatric foot facts, visit FootHealthFacts.org, the patient education website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
With properly fitting shoes and regular check-ups, you can help keep your child’s feet healthy this back-to-school season and beyond.
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