Get the 411 From Our Foot Experts Before Buying Kids Back to School Shoes

Tips for buying back to school shoes

Do they glow, and can they flash in the dark? Do they have wheels? Would Beyoncé wear them?

Because these are among the criteria used by kids to choose their back-to-school footwear, some adult supervision is required. It’s important to provide children with shoes they like, and feel that they look good in, but some compromises must be made to preserve the health of your children’s feet. Don’t let those cute shoes that don’t fit take control of the buying experience!

The human foot has 200,000 nerve endings, 33 major muscles, 26 bones, and 19 ligaments. It is an amazing example of bio-mechanics, and literally provides a basis for almost all our physical activity. It’s important to prioritize the health of children’s feet. Worn out or ill-fitting shoes cause heel pain, Achilles tendinitis, ingrown toenails and increase the occurrence of ankle sprains and stress fractures.

A good place to start paying attention to the health of your children’s feet is with the selection of back-to-school shoes.

Kids Need Foot-shaped Shoes

Shoes wear out, so it’s a good idea to frequently inspect your children’s footwear. Over time, shoes lose their ability to absorb shocks, so check their shoes for appropriate cushioning and arch support. The widest part of the foot should correspond to the widest part of the shoe.

Check the shoes your child is wearing now for uneven wear. If you discover it, see us. It could be an indication of significant podiatric problems.

Kid’s Feet Can Grow 3 Sizes in a Year

Ill-fitting shoes will not only increase the risk of foot and ankle injuries, they will also discourage kids from physical activity, leading to an increased risk of childhood obesity.

Children’s feet can grow up to three sizes in a year, so you need to account for growth when buying back-to-school shoes. On the other hand, it’s important to avoid buying shoes that are too large, because they cause the foot to slide forward, putting too much pressure on the toes. We recommend that the space between your child’s toes and the toe of the shoes should be about the width of one of your child’s fingers.

Secure fasteners, such as laces and Velcro, are best at holding the foot firmly in place. Slip on shoes quickly lose shape, structure, and support.

Forget the myth that says ill-fitting shoes will become comfortable in the future through some sort of “breaking in” process. If they don’t feel good in the store, you can’t trust them to be comfortable later.

Take your child shoe shopping later in the day. Just as with adults, children’s feet swell after hours of walking and running, so you need to find shoes which will accommodate those inevitable changes.

Up to 50% of children suffer from flat feet. These kids need shoes with a wide toe box, increased arch support, and maximum shock absorption. Sturdy lace up shoes that have enough depth for an orthotic insert are often prescribed to alleviate flat feet.

Be sure that both feet are measured. The feet of most people are different from each other, both in size and shape. Sometimes the differences are so pronounced that shoe selection is affected.

Three Tests for Good Shoe Structure

1. Squeeze the back of the shoe’s heel. It should firmly resist pressure. If it collapses, find another pair.

2. Fold the front of the shoe, to make sure that the shoe bends exactly where your child’s foot bends, i.e., where the toes meet the foot. The shoe should be readily flexible in this area.

3. Hold the shoe at each end and twist. The shoe should be rigid in the middle. A shoe that is flexible in this area will fail to provide proper support for your child’s foot.

Hand-Me-Down Shoes Are a Bad Idea

It’s a bad idea to hand shoes down from one child to another. Children’s feet are as different as snowflakes; they vary in many significant ways from every other child’s feet. Even if the shoes once fit an older child, they are highly unlikely to fit another sibling. Also, shoes that are handed down may spread fungi like athlete’s foot and nail fungus. In any event, every child is worthy of a new pair of shoes.

Finally, Growing Pains Are Never Insignificant

Foot pain is never normal. If your child reports it, or you detect it, see us. The physicians at University Foot and Ankle Institute have decades of combined experience diagnosing and treating children’s feet. If you would like more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 475-1678 or visit us at

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