Kids Footwear – Why are Properly Fitted Shoes So Important?

kids feet wearing black and orange runners

It is estimated that over half of Australian children are wearing shoes that are the wrong size or wrong style. While it is not recommended that people of any age wear ill-fitting shoes, it is especially critical for little feet to wear appropriate footwear, fitted to their individual needs. The Walking Clinic is the foot clinic Belconnen, Kingston and Lyneham families trust for expert podiatric care and advice. Many parents don’t realise the detrimental affects the wrong footwear can have on the healthy development of their children’s feet. Read on to find out why the right shoes are so important for your child’s overall health and wellbeing.

Why Must Shoes Fit Properly?

The bones in children’s feet are very pliable due to the fact that they are made up of soft, spongy cartilage and they don’t fully ossify until they reach 16-19 years of age. Tight shoes and tight socks as a baby or infant grows can effect bone growth and overall development of the feet, as well as cause a wide range of both short term and long term podiatry issues.

What are Some of the Problems Ill-fitting Shoes Can Cause?

Squeezing little feet into shoes that are too tight or wearing shoes with too much room and little support can impact a child’ foot development and may cause a variety of health risks including:

  • Blisters, cuts, skin irritation and other minor but uncomfortable foot ailments
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Hammertoes, calluses, corns, bunions and other foot deformities
  • Nerve damage that causes numbness, tingling, muscle weakness or unusual pain
  • Prolonged use of ill-fitting and unsupportive footwear can increase the risk of developing arthritis or joint pain later in life

What Type of Shoes Should My Child Wear?

Babies and infants – pre-walking infants only require soft booties or socks. Rigid, tight shoes can hinder an infant’s ability to stretch their feet and feel different surfaces required for proper sensory development.

Toddlers – when indoors, toddlers should go barefoot as this will strengthen the muscles around their ankles and develop arches. When outdoors, toddlers should wear lightweight shoes with flexible, soft soles that encourage natural foot movement.

Children 4 years old over – shoes should be supportive, and provide a snug fit in the midfoot and heel yet allow plenty of room around the toes. There should be half-inch clearance between the front end of the shoe and the outermost tip of the toes. Shoes should also be made from breathable materials such as leather, suede and canvas to allow for air circulation.

Tips for Buying the Correct Size Shoes

Most children’s shoe stores provide a professional fitting service that which you should take advantage. If buying without assistance you should follow the below guide:

  • Buy according to the longer foot – children rarely have both feet that are the same length. In fact, a difference of up to half an inch is normal. Always go by the longer foot when buying shoes.
  • Don’t rely on the label –  there is no mandatory industry standard for shoe sizing, so sizing can vary across brands. Shoes should always be tried on.
  • Allow room around the toes – at least half an inch of additional room is ideal; this ensures toe are not squeezed in and allows for foot proper movement.
  • Wear appropriate socks – children should wear appropriate socks, especially when buying sports shoes.
  • Re-measure and re-fit shoes regularly – every child develops differently, it is best to measure the length of your child’s growing feet around every 3 months and frequently check for signs that your child’s shoes might be getting too tight.

Ill-fitting shoes in children may have short and long term implications that can significantly affect their overall health and development. Having your child’s feet professionally measured and fitted for appropriate footwear can set them in good stead for life. For expert advice on children’s footwear or if you have any concerns regarding the health or development of your child’s feet, speak to your local children’s podiatrist at the Walking Clinic. The family podiatrist Canberra residents rely on, we have children’s podiatrists in 4 convenient locations – Belconnen, Lyneham, Woden and Kingston. Book an appointment now.