For the team here at SoleScience, when we were kids, the most exciting part of the back-to-school season was new shoes. At any age, who doesn’t love a new pair of shoes? New shoes can be a great confidence booster, but they are just as important (if not more important) for foot health.
As a parent, it can be difficult to distinguish footwear that is a good fit for your child and is aesthetically pleasing to them. What is important to remember is that children spend a good percentage of their day in their shoes at school, both indoors and outdoors. The shoes provide the foundation on which they spend the majority of their day.
Things to remember when shopping for school shoes:
- Always have your child’s feet measured
Your child’s feet can change quickly, including becoming wider and/ or longer. Ensure that a proper measurement is taken each time you are looking at new shoes, or once your child mentions that their feet are no longer comfortable in their current shoes. You’ll want to be sure that both the width and length of both feet are measured, but keep in mind that each shoe will fit slightly differently.
- Take your child shoe shopping (whenever possible)
Each shoe will fit a little differently, and it’s important that your child can try on the shoes to make sure that it is a good fit. Let them walk around the store and ask them to (safely) run and jump in them (if they’ll be using them for activity or out on the playground for recess). This will help them be sure that they are a comfortable fit.
- Bring the socks or tights that your child will most often be wearing with the shoes
Purchasing shoes at the beginning of the school year often means that children are still wearing sandals or thinner socks for summer, but shoes will fit differently depending on the clothing that they choose to wear with the shoes. Bring what they will most often be wearing through the school year.
- Check the fit
The child’s feet should fit comfortably inside the shoe, leaving space at the toes so that they are not right at the end. You may find that your children’s feet are slightly different sizes, and you should always purchase shoes to fit the bigger foot. Some children’s shoes are also available in widths, and this can make all the difference for a child with slightly wider feet.
- Look at wear
Before you head to the store for a new pair of shoes, take a look at their current footwear. Are the heels worn more than the rest of the shoe? Is the outsole wearing unevenly? There are different materials and options to look for depending on your child’s mechanics.
Is the Shoe a Good Fit?
With the heel back in the heel cup, there should be room in the front of the shoe, about a thumb’s width. This ensures that the toes will not be hitting the end of the shoe.
The child’s foot should be securely within the shoe, and the upper part of the shoe should not be over the outsole. Some shoes are available in widths to provide more space within the shoe for a better overall fit.
The midfoot of the shoe should be more stable, ideally flexing very little, if at all. Optimally the shoe should not be able to twist through the middle. See photo 1 below.
Press the back of the heel, and squish it in from the sides. The heel area should be stiff so that it maintains its shape with the pressure you are applying. It should not be flexible, soft or collapse inward with pressure. See photo 2 below.
The toe box area of the shoe should bend comfortably as your child moves, but it should not bend too much or too little. Bend it at the toes (where the laces start or bottom velcro is located) and take note of the flexibility available. See photo 3 below
Laces or Velcro or Slip On?
If your child can lace up shoes comfortably, this security of fit will provide more stability overall. However, velcro is often easier, and quicker for a child to get on their feet. If your child struggles with laces, there are devices that can make this easier (like clips, etc.). Ask at your local shoe store to see if options are available.
Features for Uneven Wear
Take a look at the bottom, the sole, of your child’s shoes. If you notice more wear on one side of the sole or the other, or lots of wear in a particular area, look for shoes with a more durable outsole in these areas. Additionally, if you watch your child walk and notice that they are placing a lot of pressure through the insides of their feet (or rolling in), you may want to look at a children’s stability shoes. (For more information on children’s growing feet, check out this blog post.) These shoes incorporate a dual-density midsole (i.e. more durable), and will help the shoes last longer as well as provide more support. For example Saucony and New Balance both feature shoes with this built in stability.
We at SoleScience are happy to work with people (and feet!) of all ages. Shopping for back-to-school shoes can be a good time to have your child’s foot development analyzed/monitored if they are experiencing any foot pain. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment or contact us with questions. Together we work with parents and other medical professionals to ensure your child can play, learn, and grow without having to worry about foot-related issues.