Foot Health

Back-to-school shoe shopping guide

As the time for school reopening is fast approaching, parents are busy buying and checking off school items from their shopping lists. But it is imperative that parents remember that school shoes are one of the most important purchases they must make for children this school year.

Properly constructed, supportive and well-fitting shoes can drastically reduce a child’s risk of injury, including blisters, tendonitis, sprains, strains and even fractures. Wearing foot-friendly shoes is paramount to keeping a child’s feet healthy during the entire school year, encourages physical activity, and decreases the likelihood of childhood obesity. If a child’s feet hurt, they are less likely to participate in sports and other activities that keep them moving and physically fit.

Shopping for school shoes can be a daunting task when you don’t know what to look for. By following these school shoe buying guidelines, parents can be confident that their children’s feet will be safe to and from school, as well as during the busy school day and that their back-to-school purchases will be easy, smart and safe because they would have bought the right school shoe for their child.

• Go shoe shopping early, but not too early! When shopping for school shoes, it is best to start early to beat the rush and stress. This gives you a much more hassle-free shopping experience, and also provides you with more choices. There is nothing worse than rushing to buy something when most shops are out of stock, which is more likely to occur if you go the week before school starts! However, make sure you don’t go too early as there is a chance your child could have a growth spurt and outgrow the shoe by the time school starts again. It is best to purchase shoes several weeks before school reopens.

• Take your child shoe shopping. Letting a child have a say in the shoe buying process promotes healthy foot habits down the road.

• Buy shoes in the afternoon. Feet tend to expand throughout the day.

• Examine the shoe, especially the heels. Children often wear through the heels of shoes faster than outgrowing the shoes themselves. Uneven heel wear can indicate a foot problem that should be checked by a podiatrist.

The shoe should have a firm heel counter (stiff material on either side of the heel), adequate cushioning of the insole, and a built-in arch. It should be flexible enough to bend where the foot bends – at the ball of the foot, not in the middle of the shoe.

• The child’s feet should be measured while he or she is standing up and fully weight-bearing. Always have both feet measured for length, and if they are two different sizes, shoes should be bought to fit the larger foot best.

• A properly fitted shoe should be approximately ½ inch longer than the longest toe. The child should be able to comfortably wiggle his or her toes in the shoe.

• Have the child walk around the store for more than a few minutes wearing the shoe with the type of socks that they will be wearing with the shoe. Ask the child if he or she feels any pressure spots in the shoe. Feel the inside of the shoe for any staples or irregularities in the glue that could cause irritation. Examine where the inside stitching hits the foot. Look for signs of irritation on the foot after the shoe is worn.

• Avoid slip-on shoes. Shoes should be held on the foot with laces, straps or Velcro fastenings.

• Heel height should be no more than 1.5 inches, and lower for younger children.

• The heel should have a broad base and be made from a shock-absorbing material.

• Natural material such as leather in the upper part of the shoe is best.

• The toe area of the shoe should be toe-shaped, and also deep enough to allow the toes to move freely and not be squashed.

• Pick shoes that do not need a “break-in” period. The shoes you purchase should be comfortable right away. If shoes are too tight, they can cause blisters, calluses or corns. This is critical especially for children with diabetes.

• If your child wears prescription orthotics – biomechanical inserts prescribed by a podiatrist – you should take them along to the shoe fitting.

• Remember the socks when shopping. Make sure to have your child try on shoes with socks or tights, if that is how they will be worn, in order to ensure a proper fit.

• For more information on foot conditions, visit www.apma.org, healthcentral.com, or email us at foothealth242@gmail.com. To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, or telephone 325-2996 for an appointment at Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Hilltop Medical, or call 394-5820 for an appointment. You can also visit Lucayan Medical Centre in Freeport, Grand Bahama, or telephone 373-7400 for an appointment.

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