How Often Do I Need to Upgrade My Child’s Shoes?
Shoe shopping for a young child can be a tricky affair, whether you’re a new parent or already raising your third or fourth!
Often, there’s a delicate balance that needs to be achieved. Err too far on one side, and your little one might not get the protection or support they need. Err on the other, though, and tiny toes get pinched in shoes that are too tight, or arches get restrained by shoes that can’t bend or flex.
Feeling lost? Don’t worry! Dr. Timothy Barry is here to help provide some clear, guiding advice on when and what to buy. With these tips, you can help keep your little one’s feet pain free and growing stronger every day!
Buying Baby’s First Pair
So, we’ll start at the beginning. When is it time to get junior his or her first pair of shoes?
Resist the urge to buy right away. For about the first year or so of life, your little one probably won’t need any shoes at all. Infants can wear very loose-fitting booties to protect them from the cold, but otherwise should go barefoot.
A child really doesn’t need shoes until they begin walking. And even once they do start walking, the shoes should mainly be restricted to outdoor activities.
The main reason is that soft bones and muscles are still hardening, tightening, and taking shape. When a child walks barefoot, they are exercising those muscles and learning to use them for balance and stability. Wearing shoes all the time can delay or impede this natural development. There’s also some evidence that the tactile feedback a toddler gets from feeling their bare feet on the ground helps them to keep their head up, maintain balance, and build confidence.
For indoor walking and play, you can get them socks with grippy rubber bottoms to protect their toes and keep them from slipping and sliding over smooth floors. For the outdoors, makes sure there is some flex in their shoes, as extremely rigid soles can restrict natural foot motion and play.
Sizing Up Your Options
Kids’ feet sure do grow fast!
How fast? During the toddler years (roughly age 1-3), a typical foot will grow about three quarters of an inch per year. From ages 3-10, the pace barely slows, at roughly half an inch per year. That translates to a new pair of shoes every 3-6 months for the youngest children, and every 4-12 months thereafter.
But, of course, your kid’s mileage may vary! Growth spurts can happen at unpredictable times, so you may notice the rate slow down, then speed up again!
Parents may be tempted to save a few dollars and buy shoes a size or two too big, and let their children “grow into” them. While we can sympathize with your plight, we strongly discourage this.
Shoes that are too tight, obviously, can restrict a child’s natural development and cause pain. But the same is true of shoes that are too big. Unfortunately, that may mean you need to replace shoes faster than you’d ideally like to—even well before the shoe wears out from use.
Just know that the occasional pain of purchasing new shoes is a much better alternative than the pain of your child developing costly foot problems!
Shoe Shopping Advice for Parents and Kids
How do you know what shoes will be best for your young one? Here are some key things to remember:
Skip the used shoes and hand-me-downs. This is another common money-saving technique parents might be tempted to employ, but it’s a very bad idea. For one, used shoes can harbor unwanted germs, fungi, and bacteria and spread problems like athlete’s foot. And two, used shoes have already “molded” to fit the unique foot shape of their original owner, and can be uncomfortable on anyone else’s feet.
Look for a stiff heel … Children’s shoes need a good, stiff heel for support and protection. If you place your fingers on both sides of the heel counter and squeeze, it shouldn’t collapse like a cheap tent in a rainstorm.
…But also a flexible sole. The bottom of the shoe needs to be able to flex and bend with your child’s feet. Shoes that are too rigid can delay foot development and make it more difficult for your child to run, balance, and play.
Shop with your child. Even if your child isn’t verbal yet, bring them along so that they can have their feet measured properly and you can test the fit in person. Older children, of course, can tell you directly whether a shoe feels comfortable or uncomfortable to wear. If possible, try to shop in the evening, since feet tend to swell slightly after a long day. (You want the shoes to still fit when feet are at their largest.)
Don’t rely on shoes “breaking in.” If a shoe is the right size and shape for your child, it should be comfortable and easy to wear right from the very start. Conversely, if the shoe is painful, it will probably continue to cause problems.
Buy activity-appropriate footwear. Your child’s “everyday” shoe can typically be a comfortable sneaker or casual shoe with good cushioning and support. However, just like with adults, kids who play certain sports and activities regularly should be fitted with a sport-specific shoe. That means, for example, running shoes for runners and basketball shoes for basketball players. All-purpose athletic sneakers are fine for gym class or general play, but probably not if your child is performing a specific sport several times per week.
Working Hard for Children’s Foot Health
At Family Foot & Ankle Care of Jasper, pediatric foot care is a core part of our practice, and a specialty of Dr. Timothy Barry. When a child experiences pain, it is a sign that further examination and care is needed. Foot problems that arise in childhood often need to be treated as soon as possible to prevent more serious complications as they grow older.
We provide a comprehensive range of pediatric treatments for children of all ages, with a special focus on conservative methods such as rest, physical therapy, and orthotic inserts. We also perform surgical procedures when necessary—and usually in-office—with the utmost care for your young one.
To set up an appointment for you and your child, give us a call today at (812) 481-7200.