When I was a child my mum stressed the importance of proper shoes. Unfortunately these were not always the most attractive or fashionable! As children up to the age of 18 have soft cartilage in their feet these are literally the formative years where their feet are concerned. Heels over 2″ and flip flops can do damage if they are worn to excess or outside of a special occasion or on the beach. Here is some advice from a specialist in foot care. Scroll down for places to have your child fitted.
“Try to always find the best-fitting shoe possible,” says Joseph Stern, president of the Canadian Podiatric Medical Association. “You don’t have to be overly concerned about the quality of shoes that are only worn very occasionally, but toddlers all need one good pair for everyday wear.”
That one good pair should be sturdy, fitted to your child’s foot at a shoe store so it will support his foot properly, and have rubber soles to stop him from tripping. “Each shoe is designed for a specific function,” Stern explains. “For example, sandals are designed to wear to the beach or pool, not to run around in. The bones in the foot are very soft at this age. Wearing badly fitted shoes won’t deform your toddler’s feet, but if his shoes aren’t very supportive, it can advance any abnormalities that his feet may already have, such as flat feet.”
You should take your child for a professional fitting, says Stern, who recognizes that a good pair of shoes can seem pricey, considering how quickly kids grow out of them (little feet grow about 1.5 mm in length every month between the ages of one and three). “If your child needed glasses, you wouldn’t buy them off the shelf instead of going to an optician,” he says. “A more expensive shoe is going to be made of better materials, and has been designed by a manufacturer who knows about the science of children’s feet so it will better support them.”
Fit and function
Stern says that the right pair of shoes will have a toe-box that’s wide and round or square, to naturally follow the shape of the foot, with adequate room so the toes aren’t squished together. Materials should be breathable—leather or the types of mesh used in running shoes. The shoe should flex at the ball of the foot, but the heel counter at the back should be stiff to hold the shoe upright. Look for shoes that lace up or have Velcro fastenings to ensure a snug fit.
When your child gets fitted for his first pair of shoes, it’s about more than just having enough room for his toes. First, the foot is measured for length and width. Next he’ll try the shoe on, then a list of things are checked. “The width, instep, and flex point—where the sole of the shoe is most easily bent—are all important measurements,” says Linda Goulet, president of Panda Shoes, a Canadian children’s footwear retail chain. As for length, given that your child’s likely going to need two to three pairs of shoes each year until growth slows down, it can be tempting to buy shoes a size bigger. Goulet recommends you don’t. “It’s the same as it would be for adults: Are you going to be comfortable walking in shoes that are too big? No. Plus, if the shoe is too big, the flex point will be in the wrong place and won’t support or protect the foot properly.” Ill-fitting shoes may lead to slips, trips, and falls, which can cause ankle damage.
Take your time in the store so you can watch how your child walks in each pair. “If they’re on tippytoes or not walking properly, something’s hurting. Have patience in the process,” says Stern.
Local Places for Children’s Shoe Fittings:
The Bootery (Ridgewood and Closter, NJ locations) Experts in children’s footwear for 70+ years this shop offers a wide selection of dress, casual, water shoes, boots, hikers, and more.
Jay’s Shoe Box (Livingston, NJ) This shop specializes in personalized service with team members who are experts in fitting first walkers, toddlers, little kids, and big kids. The family-run shop opened in 1954 and carries over 50 brands of shoes for all ages.
Castle Bootery (Westfield, NJ) This store specializes in children only and carries the most popular children’s shoe brands, from Stride Rite and KEEN to UGG Australia and Nike
Sweet Souls (Montclair, NJ) This is the newest of shoe fitters featuring “trendy, fun shoes” for the littlest of customers and also offers a large selection of orthotics, wide and extra wide children’s shoes
Harry’s Shoes for Kids (Upper West Side NYC) Longtime resource for shoes for adults as well as children offering a wide selection of casual, sport and dress shoes.
Tip-Top Shoes (Upper West Side NYC) A family-owned mainstay on the Upper West Side for almost 80 years this store offers a wide range of shoes including brands like Naturino and Robeez.