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Purchasing Shoes for Your Younger Child

As a pediatric physical therapist, a very common question that is asked by many parents is, “What shoe should I purchase for my child?” This can be a complex answer because there are many factors to consider.

First, consider what stage of mobility your child is in. If your child is crawling as a means of movement, then a shoe that is very soft or flexible and is the same shape of his/her foot is highly recommended. The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) states, “Shoe selection for children should be based on the barefoot model.” The purpose of a shoe for a pre-walking child is for warmth and protection. Avoid heavy shoes with hard rubber soles. It is also very important to observe the width and thickness of your child’s foot.

Once your child begins to walk with assistance, your child will need a shoe that is still lightweight but has more of a non-slip rubber sole that is flexible to bend. Purchasing a shoe with laces that tie will ensure a more custom, secure fit versus shoes that slip on and off easily. The shoe should also have a flat heel. If the shoe has a heel, even some gym shoes can have more cushion and heel built up, it will shift the weight of the child onto the front part of his/her foot instead of being evenly distributed.

As your child continues to develop more mature walking and running abilities, it is recommended to purchase a shoe that has good shock absorption and rubber soles.

The next factor to consider is the size and width of the shoes. The greatest change in foot growth occurs in the first 3 years of life. It’s important to get your child’s foot measured at least once every three months to ensure that their shoes fit properly. Shoes that are too small can deform the toes, damage the foot and prevent muscle development. Children’s feet grow in spurts and they require new shoes every three to four months, but after the age of 4, the shoes should fit for almost a year. Here are a few tips on how to measure your child’s foot for the correct size shoes.

As with many clothing items, one size does not fit all. It will be important to try a few different styles and sizes on your child’s feet. If you are uncertain or concerned about the development of your child’s feet and gross motor skills, please consider consulting with a physical therapist to further assess your child’s needs.

Stay tuned for more specific details on shoe styles, brands and shoes to accommodate the special needs of your child’s feet.

– Kerry Verme, PT