5 Things You Should Know About Kids’ Foot Care

UR Medicine podiatrist talks about a key factor in foot care

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.

Pearce Sloan, board certified podiatrist for UR Medicine
Pearce Sloan, board certified podiatrist for UR Medicine

Your feet must last a lifetime. Most Americans log an amazing 75,000 miles on their feet by the time they reach age 50, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Regular foot care can make sure your feet are up to the task.

With proper detection, intervention and care, most foot and ankle problems can be lessened or prevented. As kids begin to go back to school this fall, one of the family rituals is shopping for new shoes. But they should be aware that finding quality shoes is paramount proving that substance over style is the best way to go.

“Not all shoes make the grade. And bad shoes are bad news for kids,” said Pearce Sloan, board-certified podiatrist for UR Medicine. “The wrong shoe can cause muscle and ligament problems, toe injuries, stress fractures and other issues. And all these problems can require foot fracture, toe deformity correction, or total ankle replacement surgery.”

Sloan offers five tips for back to school shoe shopping for kids to get them off on the right foot.

1. Think about fit.

Have your child’s foot measured for shoe size. They’re growing, and the shoes they wore last year needs to be replaced with a bigger size. Kids’ feet can often grow and change size every few months. in fact, if you bought cleats for your child’s spring and summer sports, they may need a larger size by the fall.

“Bring your child to the store to try on shoes. Don’t assume a shoe will fit — the size of the show varies by brand and manufacturer,” said Sloan.

He also suggests having your child try on both shoes and walk around in them. Check the toe area where there should be a thumb’s width of space between the big toe and tip of the shoe. Width is important too. You should be able to run a finger around the neck of the shoe.

“Don’t buy over-large shoes. It’s understandable that you want to buy shoes your child can “grow into,” but shoes that are too large can affect walking, cause blisters that can lead to infection, and even cause your child to trip and fall,” added Sloan.

2. Avoid pointy-toed shoes.

The National Institutes of Health sponsored a study of 3,300 people to find out how many experienced foot pain. The study found that roughly 28 percent of the population had chronic foot pain. Many times it is due to the shoes they select.

“Look for rounded or square toe boxes to give your child’s toes room to move. Your child’s feet may not grow properly if they don’t have enough room in their shoes,” said Sloan.

In addition, he advises against heels or sandals for school wear.

“Sandals don’t offer enough protection for children’s feet, and heels aren’t stable on hard school floors and can lead to falls,” he added

3. Check your child’s feet and their shoes for potential problems.

If you’re not sure when a foot problem warrants a visit to the podiatrist, you are not alone. Many people wait a lot longer than they need to before seeing one. Consider any type of foot pain a good enough reason to see a foot specialist. The same rule should apply to any unexplainable change in the aspect of your foot.

“Blisters, calluses, etc., can mean they have an issue that needs attention,” said Sloan. “Check the shoe heels for uneven wear, which can signal a foot problem. Check for bulging around the toe box area, which can mean they’ve been wearing shoes that are too small.”

4. Look for shoes that are well made and durable.

School shoes are important to get right, as our children are spending over 30 hours a week in them. With their feet continuously growing we need to make sure we buy our kids good supportive shoes to help shape their feet and prevent ongoing issues occurring.

“Good arch support is key,” said Sloan. Laces, Velcro and buckles that enable you to adjust the fit of the shoe are a plus. Buy shoes that are ready to wear right away and don’t need to be “broken in” — shoes that are stiff can cause irritation. Poor quality shoes often are rigid and won’t fit or wear well.”

5. Shop smart.

Look for these traits in a good shoe:

• Breathable material so kids’ feet stay dry even during heavy activity

• Shoes that have some “give” to accommodate movement, but still offer support in the heel and arch areas. Shoes should bend at the toe box so walking in them is comfortable, but be more solid in the arch and heel areas. Press on both sides of the back of the shoe – they shouldn’t collapse into the middle. You shouldn’t be able to twist the shoe like a rag; if you can, it won’t support the foot well enough.

• Look for shoes with textured soles for secure footing on linoleum school floors.