Fit Should Trump Fashion When Selecting Shoes for Back to School

Fit Should Trump Fashion When Selecting Shoes for Back to School


As families head out to take advantage of the numerous Labor Day weekend sales, at the top of many shopping lists will be a cool pair of new shoes for back to school.  However, the latest cool fashion footwear trends may not be best for young feet that are still developing, according to podiatric foot and ankle specialist Adam Howard, DPM.

“Often, parents simply do not realize the many health problems that ill-fitting footwear can cause their children,” said Dr. Howard, President of the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA)

“It can take up to twenty-years for the bones in the feet (where a quarter of all the bones in the human body are located), muscles and ligaments to fully form and set,” Dr. Howard continued.  “So, trying to squeeze a child’s foot into a shoe that is too small, or ones that are too big with the belief that the child ‘will grow into them’ can result in a lifetime of health problems, from painful blisters, rub-spots, pressure sores, corns and ingrown toenails in the near term, to foot deformities, knee, hip, back and neck problems in the future.”

A podiatric physician and surgeon, Dr. Howard offers the following tips for buying shoes for back to school:

• “Purchase children’s shoes in store, rather than online, so that their feet can be properly measured.

• “Since feet swell throughout the day, shop for shoes in the afternoon or evening.

• “Don’t simply go by the size printed on the label; a 5 from one manufacturer might be a 6 from another. Measure both feet with the child standing and wearing the type of stocks they will wear with the shoes for a more comfortable fit. And, since feet are rarely the exact same size; buy for the large foot.

• “Have the child walk around the store in both shoes. 

• “Check the length of space between the big toe and the end of the shoes by pressing on the tip of the shoe. A half-inch is a good distance between the two, which will allow the toe to spread out for more comfort and better stability.

• “Press the outside of the shoe next to the little toe.  If the toe is pressing against the wall of the shoe, the shoe is too tight.  There should be space to wiggle the small toe. 

• “Check the heel, too, make sure that it is not to tight (which can cause blisters), or too loose, (which could cause the shoes to come off and pose a tripping threat).

• “Have the child flex his/her feet up-and-down and from side to side to check to see if the shoes rub against the ankles—again a source of discomfort, blisters and rub-spots.

• “Check the inside of the shoe to make sure that there is adequate support for the arch.

• “Slip-on and backless shoes offer little protection or support.  Make sure that your child’s shoes have some type of fastener – laces, buckles, Velcro, clasps, etc.

• “Look for shoes made with quality breathable materials such as leather or canvas, which provide better air circulation. Also, check to make sure the soles are flexible and textured to help prevent slips and falls and for more stability on uneven surfaces.

• “Remember to check your child’s school’s dress code policies to make sure that the school will allow the type/style of shoe.

• “Allow your child to have some input as to the style and color of the shoe.  If they don’t like them, they won’t want to wear them.  And, who needs the headache every school day arguing over wearing the new shoes?

• “Don’t be pennywise and pound foolish. Kids can be hard on shoes. A well-made pair of shoes might cost a bit more upfront, but they are apt to last significantly longer.

• “Finally, be vigilant about your child’s foot health.  Check their shoes regularly for wear patterns like excessive wear on the instep, outside, heel or ball of the shoe.  Such wear patterns could be a sign of developing a foot disorder.  See a podiatric foot and ankle specialist to have your child’s feet properly examined and evaluated.”

Dr. Howard is in private practice with offices in Los Gatos and San Jose, CA.

To find a local licensed California doctor of podiatric medicine go to CalPMA.org

CPMA - Doctors Dedicated to Keeping Californians on Their FEET!

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading professional organization for California’s licensed doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their rigorous education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.