child putting on dad's shoes

How to Choose the Right Shoes For Your Child

The Importance of Choosing the Right Shoes for Your Child

Buying children’s shoes can feel overwhelming. There are so many options and, if you don’t know a lot about kids’ shoe gear, it can even feel almost like a scam. Surely there can’t be that much difference between sneakers? And let’s not forget that a growth spurt always seems to happen right after we buy our kids a pair of shoes. But healthy feet often depend on wearing high-quality shoes.

The Benefits of Wearing Good Shoe Gear

One of the first things you can do to protect your child’s foot health is make sure they have quality, supportive footwear.

Dr. Mikkel Jarman consulting with the parents of a young patient about the importance of quality footwear
Dr. Mikkel Jarman consulting with the parents of a young patient about the importance of quality footwear.

Your child’s feet are still growing, which increases their risk of sports-related injuries like ankle sprains and fractures. Low-quality shoes that don’t offer proper support may also cause blisters, toenail injuries, and heel pain.

Dr. Jarman is a big advocate of proper showear for kids, and shares that many of the conditions he treats “can be significantly improved or resolved with custom orthotics, but they must be placed into a good pair of shoes.”

Features to Look for in a Child's Shoe

For children aged 4 and up, look for shoes with the following features:

  • Firm sole: The shoe should bend at the toe. It should NOT bend in half.
  • Solid heel counter: This holds the heel firmly in place to keep it from rocking from side to side
  • Laces: For a proper fit, your child’s shoes need laces. Avoid Velcro straps or slip-on models. Laces also allow orthotics to be fitted into the shoe.

These features are especially important for active children who play sports or heavy “ground and pound” activities (basketball, gymnastics, etc.). Even if your child does not play organized sports, you should still seriously consider a good stability shoe.

shoe worker demonstrating a good shoe bending at the toe and not in half
A good shoe should bend at the toe (and NOT in half)

How to Choose the Right Shoe

Choosing the right shoe starts with going to an actual shoe store where employees have been trained to correctly fit your child into the right size, width, and type of shoe.

Just like adult shoes, children’s shoe sizes are not absolute. A size 3 in one style may fit perfectly but be too roomy in another brand. Throw in the fact that your child’s feet are still growing and it’s doubly important to try on any pair of shoes before buying.

In addition to the right size shoe, you want the right type of shoe.

  • Walking shoes: These lightweight sneakers provide greater shock absorption at the heel and a sole that’s slightly rounded at the end. This allows your child’s weight to shift from heel to toe smoothly while still supporting the arch.
  • Running shoes: Look for models that are lightweight and flexible, with extra heel control and shock absorption. The soles should have intricate treading, which offers better traction. The extra shock absorption and support of running shoes reduces risk of shin splints, heel pain, and tendinitis.
  • Cross trainers: These all-around sneakers have a strong, stable sole, traction for great side-to-side support, and the shock absorption of a walking shoe. If your kid does a little bit of everything, this may be the perfect option.

Most children do best with shoes that provide greater support, motion control, and stability. But if your child has high arches, they may do better with a shoe that has more cushioning and a soft midsole.

Dr. Jarman showing a worn out shoe
An actual shoe that was from a patient of Pediatric Foot & Ankle who was having issues with his feet. That same young man has no more feet issues today, and his parents and him are now adamant about getting quality footwear for themselves and their family.

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