The shoe protects the child’s feet from its surrounding environment and is also a part of their outfit. That is why, as parents, we have to find appropriate shoes for our children.
Hard tall shoes – supportive or obstructing?
Children develop as their organs and systems grow. After a child has started walking, his/her joints, muscles and bones can bear the weight of the body. No matter the position of the ankles and arch, when a child can walk independently s/he doesn’t need any added support. As such, s/he also doesn’t need hard tight shoes. They will rather obstruct the child by preventing his/her sensory contact between the skin and the ground surface. Such contact is vital for the child’s overall development and, specifically, for the development of his/her feet muscles’ strength and coordination. Imagine if someone places a cast on both of your feet for a couple of months. You will walk very well while the cast is on. But when it is taken off you will struggle to walk because your muscles will have weakened from the lack of exercise. Of course, shoes aren’t the same as casts but children’s muscles are also not as strong as those of adults. This is why you should forget about hard tight shoes for your children.
The model and size of the shoes is important. It is vital that they fit well in terms of width and length in order not to pressure the foot. This will remove one of the common causes of sore feet. You can also place insoles, or inserts, within the shoes. The inserts will place the heel into the correct position. Shoes should have enough space for inserts, as well as provide enough stability to keep the feet correctly on top of them. Inserts don’t have a healing effect. They are prescribed when needed and treat the symptoms of flatfoot, not the condition itself.
Sneakers – fashion and functionality
As a whole, children undoubtedly prefer sneakers and sports shoes. This is not just due to aesthetic reasons or because of examples set by their idols. This type of shoe is also simply more comfortable. So much so that children ignore the increased sweating. It should be noted that sneakers are not bad for the development of a child’s feet. They are (commonly) loose, they offer enough toe room, an elastic sole and enough stability to keep the feet in the correct position.
Choosing the right model and size for children’s shoes
We leave the aesthetic preferences for shoes to the children and their parents. We can offer some advice, from a medical perspective, to make choosing a shoe easier:
- The shoe has to be wide enough, according to the width of the child’s foot. Feet are highly specific and wider ones require wider shoes. Shoes which are too wide are problematic because they don’t keep the feet stable.
- The size shouldn’t be too big. Place the foot inside the shoe and let the child “push” it as far forward as the shoe allows. There should be about 1cm of space between the heel and the back end of the shoe.
- Shoes for young children (2-5 years old) should not have narrowings and inside curves, they should be straight.
- Don’t look for shoes with an added “orthopaedic” support. Usually, those are latex or textile “things” which neither provide stability, nor help. Most often the child doesn’t even feel this support but it can get in the way of adding an actual insert.
- Shoes made of leather or natural textiles are better due to their increased moisture wicking capacity. However, don’t be fooled by complex and “important” features with high costs – they are often no necessary.
Shoes are an important, useful and beautiful part of our children’s outfit. They are not a medical or preventive tool for the foot arch.