Are Your Children’s Shoes Hurting or Helping?
Given the importance of the lower appendages in child development, you need to make sure that your child’s feet and ankles are protected. Knowing more about children’s shoes and how to pick out the right pair will help. This is an essential component of child foot care.
Shoe Fit Matters
There are numerous foot and ankle injuries and conditions that children can experience. Luckily, many of these issues can be prevented by simply choosing the appropriate type of shoes. Fit and function are essential! Wearing running sneakers to a track meet is probably not a good idea. Additionally, wearing shoes or sneakers that are too tight or loose can aggravate an existing issue or actually induce an injury.
Keeping that in mind, here are some things to consider when picking up new shoes for your kids:
- Bring your child with you. Depending on the stage of physical development, a child’s shoe size can increase as often as every couple of months. This makes sense when you think about feet being the base of the body, and needing to support everything growing above them! When your child outgrows his or her current shoes, bring him or her with you to the store. Shoe sizes can differ between manufacturers, and sometimes even within brands. It is crucial to have your child actually try on footwear before making a purchase.
- Fit the pair of shoes to the larger foot. Almost always, one foot is larger than the other. With this being the case, have both of your child’s feet measured. Then, pick out shoes based on the size of the larger foot.
- Check for proper fit. Using the larger foot, feel for the longest toe and its placement within the shoe. There should be roughly a thumb’s width of space between the front of the shoe and that toe when the shoe is laced (and the heel is cradled snuggly).
- Do not buy shoes and plan on a “breaking-in” period. Put simply – if a pair of shoes are not immediately comfortable for your child, do not purchase them.
- Have your child’s foot measured every time. As the base of the human body, feet develop quickly to support everything else. This means that your son or daughter’s feet have likely grown since their last pair. So enlist the help of an employee in the store or use the measuring device to determine your child’s current shoe size. Of course, be sure to keep the next tip in mind before you buy the shoes!
- A shoe size is only a guide. This is important to keep in mind because not all makes of shoes fit the same way. It is entirely possible to be a size-7 for one brand and a size-8 in another. So instead of relying on the number printed on the inside of the tongue, have your child actually try on shoes before buying them.
- Go shopping later in the day. Feet actually widen during the course of the day, which means that it is best to head to the store later (when feet are at their widest) for optimal comfort.
- Your child’s toes should be able to wiggle freely. If they can’t, he or she needs a different pair.
The right shoes can make a big difference in the health of your child’s feet, but even the best footwear cannot completely eliminate all injury risk. If your child develops a foot or ankle problem and needs expert treatment and compassionate care, reach out to Omega Medical Group so we can help.
Protecting Your Child’s Feet as They Develop
One of the most common concerns from parents—and especially new ones—is how long shoes last before a child outgrows them. Now, this matter certainly needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis, but there are some general guidelines to help you know when to head to the store for some new children’s shoes.
Here are some facts regarding growth patterns in children’s feet (which contribute to outgrown shoes):
- Feet can be expected to grow as much as 1.5mm in length every month between ages 1-3. (This adds up to roughly 18mm—three-quarters of an inch—per year.)
- On average, children’s feet grow 1mm in length per month between ages 3-6. (Approximately 12mm—half an inch—per year.)
- On average, children’s feet start to grow just a little less than 1mm in length monthly between ages 6-10.
- From ages 12-17, a girl’s foot will usually only grow an additional 2% in length, whereas a boy’s foot grows about an additional 10%.
Naturally, these growth patterns provide a general idea as to what can be expected as a child develops.
During the first year, infants can go through four shoe sizes. That said, we don’t recommend buying shoes for the first 6 months. If you do feel the need to protect your baby’s feet, you may want to opt for booties or warm, loose-fitting socks.
Even after a child is 6-months-old, we recommend waiting until he or she is actually starting to take steps before you purchase shoes. Young feet are quite delicate during the first year, but going barefoot does encourage strong, natural foot development.
In the toddler years, it will likely seem as though your child needs new shoes every few months. In fact, until a child becomes 15 months old, the size of their foot increases by about half a size every two months. Then, from 15 months to two years, this increase may be seen every two to three months. Between two and three years, the number jumps to a half-size increase every three to four months. And then the increase is half a size every four months from three to five years.
Based on the information given above, the general guideline for how often you may need to buy shoes for your child’s improved chances at healthy developing feet is the following: your son or daughter will probably go through two shoe sizes per year during the first three or four years, and then one size per year (until the feet reach physical maturity).
A big factor for shoe sizes and how often they need to be replaced is physical growth spurts. Because all children are unique, they experience growth spurts at different ages and to varying results. One five-year-old may go almost a year in the same shoe size before suddenly growing three sizes over the next six months. Another five-year-old might go through three sizes in one year before not needing any new shoes (on account of tightness) for the next six months.
If your son or daughter seems to be growing at either a slower or faster rate than the averages we discussed, don’t worry – variance is normal!
Further, toddlers the same age can wear shoes that are two or three sizes apart – and then end up wearing the same size a couple of years down the road.
Regarding your child’s shoes, what really matters (more than the size) is how his or her shoes actually fit. To make sure footwear isn’t too big or too small, keep in mind there should be roughly an adult thumb’s width of space between the longest toes and the front of the shoes.
Freshening Up Funky Footwear
Just because your teenager’s shoes are hurting his social life doesn’t mean there isn’t anything that can be done about it! We have several tips to help you eliminate shoe odor and end up with footwear that isn’t so embarrassing for your child or (more likely) you.
Some of the best practices to eliminate shoe odor include:
- Wash them. Obviously, you should check the label first, but if your child’s shoes can be machine-washed, take out the laces and insoles, put them in a pillowcase, and then close up the open end. Toss them in the washer with some detergent, and run the washer on the COLD water setting. Once the washer has stopped, run it a second time, and then allow the shoes to air dry completely before they are worn again.
- Dry them out. The bacteria responsible for the offensive odor require moisture to survive. You can deprive them of this by removing the laces, lifting the tongue up and out, and then place them in a sunny spot so they will dry faster.
- Use antifungal and antibacterial sprays and powders. Another way to address bacterial and fungal contamination is to use over-the-counter antibacterial and antifungal products. Spray or sprinkle powder in your child’s shoes before and after, they wear them to eliminate microorganisms that can cause a funky odor. Even better, this can help reduce the risk of athlete’s foot and fungal toenails as well!
- Use citrus fruit peels. Citrus fruit peels contain essential oils that produce the fragrant aromas we associate with oranges, lemons, and grapefruit. Place some fresh citrus fruit peels in a pair of shoes at night, take them out in the morning, and they should smell much better.
Comprehensive Child Foot Care at Omega Medical Group
Making sure your child has proper footwear is instrumental in keeping his or her feet safe. Contacting Omega Medical Group whenever a problem arises is also instrumental in the healthy development of your child’s feet.
Our team is ready to provide effective, yet gentle, care for your baby, toddler, child or teen of any age. For more information about child foot care, the many services and therapies we offer, or to request an appointment with either our Miami Shores or North Miami Beach offices, give us a call at (305) 514-0404. One of our team members will be happy to help!