Style and price are not nearly as important as fit when it comes to choosing a good children’s shoe. In fact, the best shoe for a child is often no shoe at all, according to Carol Frey, associate clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery.
Frey has just compiled a list of shoe-buying tips for the American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society.
“Shoes are not necessary for support or development of the arch, they only protect the feet from the environment,” said Fry, who routinely treats foot deformities caused by ill-fitting shoes.
Babies and crawlers need only wear socks or booties to keep their feet warm, she said.
Toddlers, too, should be allowed to go sans shoes whenever they are in a protected environment.
Going barefoot helps children develop stronger and more coordinated foot muscles, Frey explained.
Studies also show that barefoot children learn to walk more quickly and have fewer falls.
Up until age 11, children will outgrow their shoes as often as three times a year, making proper fit a must.
Poorly fitting shoes can lead to bunions, calluses and foot deformities that will plague a child into adulthood, Frey said.
To get a proper fit, measure both feet while a child is standing and fit shoes to the biggest foot.
Make sure there is at least half an inch (approximately a thumb’s width) from the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe, and that the heel fits snugly and doesn’t slide.
If the shoes fit, a child should be able to freely wiggle all toes while standing.
“Shoes should be immediately comfortable. There should be no break-in period,” Frey emphasized.
It also helps for a child to be wearing the same socks that he or she would ordinarily wear with the shoes. Forget fancy names and snazzy styles when shoe shopping.
An inexpensive canvas or leather-top sneaker will work just as well as its pricier counterpart so long as it fits properly and leaves room for growth.
“Just because a shoe is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better for the foot,” Frey said.