By Christina Elston
Have you checked out your kids’ feet lately? Really?
Sure, you might have taken a peek to make sure they had shoes on before heading out the door, but do those shoes fit properly? Does your child have ingrown toenails, athlete’s foot, blisters or bunions?
“Just look,” urges podiatrist Ron Raducanu, president of the American College of Foot & Ankle Pediatrics. “Most parents don’t.”
“When you’re putting the socks on, squeeze the foot a little bit and see if the child reacts,” he adds. This is the best way to spot foot problems, because most kids – especially those under age 8 – won’t otherwise complain of foot pain.
How to Choose Shoes
One of the most important times to look at your child’s feet is when you’re buying him or her a new pair of shoes. Because there’s no sizing standard for footwear in the United States, the dimensions of any particular size can vary from maker to maker. And a Swiss study presented to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons this past February found that 90 percent of the shoes children were wearing were too small. Here are
Raducanu’s tips for getting a good fit:
1. Look late. Because kid feet – like adult feet – swell late in the day, late afternoon is the best time to choose shoes.
2. Seek out the sturdy. “Little children’s shoes shouldn’t be overly flexible,” says Raducanu. New walkers need support, so you shouldn’t be able to bend the shoe in half. Also, take a look at the baby-toe edge of the shoe from toe to heel, called the “last.” It should be almost straight, not curving toward the big toe like a “c.”
3. Get sole to sole. Flip the shoe over and press the sole of the shoe to the sole of your child’s foot. The foot shouldn’t spill over the edge, and when you press down to spread the toes out they shouldn’t splay over the edges of the toe box.
4. Put the shoes on your child. Ask her if the shoes feel comfortable, and whether she can wiggle her toes (she should be able to). Have her walk around and watch to see whether the shoes slide around.
5. Give them a squeeze. Feel the sides of the shoe where your child’s toes are to make sure they aren’t squashed against the sides. Squish the toe of the shoe to make sure there is room between the end of the shoe and the big toe.
The right fit is essential, because shoes can actually shape your child’s feet. “Kids’ feet are really malleable,” Raducanu says. “They’ll grow in the direction of the stress that’s put on them.” Ill-fitting shoes can even accelerate development of foot problems like bunions, which Raducanu says tend to run in families.
Shoes that don’t fit properly also increase a child’s risk of all sorts of other injuries, because they change the way the child walks and runs. Here are some other shoe-related problems:
• Too-tight or too-loose shoes can lead to friction and blisters.
• Shoes without arch support (e.g., flip-flops) can lead to foot pain and, possibly, plantar
fasciitis, an irritation of the tendon between the ball of the foot and the heel.
• Shoes with high heels result in the contraction of the Achilles tendon, which can become a permanent source of pain.
Check your child’s shoes regularly for good fit, and check more often if you notice that he’s going through a growth spurt. This could be as often as every couple of weeks if it seems that your child is “growing before your eyes,” says Raducanu. “You’ve got to be conscious about it.”