There’s nothing better than slipping your feet into a comfy pair of shoes, or lacing up your sneakers in anticipation of a good game. But shoes that don’t fit your young athlete’s foot properly can lead to big problems. Aside from annoying (and painful) blisters, kids with ill-fitting shoes may start to favor one foot over the other, according to Allison Phelps, M.D., of Beacon Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. That favoritism can lead to overuse injuries like an ankle sprain, effectively removing your child from the game.
Parents and children should also take care to use the right shoe for their sport, says Phelps. “Take the extra time for sport-specific shoes,” she advises, explaining that failing to wear shoes meant for basketball while on the court, or running shoes when on a turf surface, can also lead to injuries.
Kids can admittedly be rushed when shopping for shoes, says Phelps, so get them to run around inside your house once you’ve purchased a pair before letting them go outside. If the shoes don’t feel right, they’ll be sure to tell you! And when it comes to price, Phelps says you may not need those high-end, expensive shoes, especially if they are lacking the proper support. A cheaper shoe with a good orthotic insert might provide better arch or heel support than a shoe that costs you over a hundred dollars.
Time to Shop
When shopping for shoes for kids, keep these tips from the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (aofas.org) in mind:
- Try on shoes at the end of the day when your feet are at their largest
- Try on shoes with the same socks your child wears for his sport (Phelps suggests bringing two pairs to mimic shin guards)
- Be sure your child can wriggle all his toes freely when the shoes are on (there should be at least a thumb’s width of space from the big toe to the end of the shoe’s toe box)
- Lace the shoes in the store as you would when wearing them at home or on the field
- Have your child’s feet measured and remember that no shoe should need “breaking in” — it should fit right from the start