Keeping Up with Your Kid’s Shoes

by | Apr 12, 2018 | General Foot Care

Something you learn pretty quickly as a new parent? Your kid (and their feet) grow at a truly astounding rate. Those shoes that fit perfectly three months ago? Yeah, now they’re as cramped as a tour bus bathroom.

Keeping up with kid’s shoes can be exhausting, but the effort is worth it. Getting shoes that fit—both the feet themselves and the activities they perform—is a really critical component of a child’s foot development.

Shoes that are too big slide around and can cause painful friction and blistering. Shoes that are too small cramp, pinch, and can even impair natural foot development.

So, what can you expect? And how do you keep up?

Sizing Up Your Kids’ Shoes

For the Babies

Feet grow the absolute fastest during the first three years of life. Fortunately, you can take most of that first year off and steel yourself for the coming onslaught.

That’s because kids really shouldn’t be wearing any shoes at all until they start walking. Shoes don’t serve much of a purpose for an infant, and if they don’t fit correctly they can actually damage the feet and impair healthy growth.

“What about their feet getting cold?” we can already hear you object. If your little one needs some protection or warmth for their toes in bed or out and about, give them a pair of loose-fitting, “bootie” style socks. Even socks that are too tight can restrict and impair delicate baby feet.

Once kids start walking well enough to take the show outside, you’ll need to get them some shoes. (Let them continue to walk barefoot indoors, however).

Talkin’ Toddlers

During those terrible 2s and 3s, feet are probably going to be growing fast enough that they’ll run out of space in their shoes before physically wearing them out.

That’s why it’s so important for parents to keep checking the fit regularly and checking whether there’s still enough space for feet to fit inside without getting scrunched.

Worn out toes and heels, bulging sides, and stressed seams are all pretty obvious indicators that shoes are long past their expiration date.

You can also look for clues based on your child’s behavior. If you notice your child walking with a limp, constantly pulling his or her shoes off as soon as possible, or blisters, the shoes may be too tight.

You can expect that your little one might need as many as four new pairs per year. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is!

Children Standing

Grade School Guidelines

During the grade school years, a couple of things happen. Foot growth rate slows slightly, and kids are doing a lot more walking, running, and vigorous activity. In other words, it’s at least possible your child will wear out the shoes before they grow out of them!

Even so, you can expect to replace shoes about 2-3 times per year on average—more or less depending on the timing of growth spurts. Look for shoes with a bit more cushioning, arch support, and protection to keep their feet safe as they ramp up their activities.

Since at this age, kids will generally be putting their own shoes on, it’s even more important for parents to check in regularly to see how the fit feels.

Preteen and Teen Years

You should continue checking the fit of your child’s shoes regularly, although by this age they should be outgrowing them less and less. Expect them to need a new size every 6-12 months or so, at least until the end of puberty.

At this age, many kids are beginning to join youth and school sports leagues. They may even begin to specialize in (or at least generally prefer) a few specific sports or activities.

That means there’s a much greater need for kids in this age range to have specific shoes to meet specific needs. In addition to casual and school shoes, kids should have sport-specific shoes depending on what activities they play regularly.

Why are sport-specific shoes important? Because the associated forces, motions, and injury risks are different for each sport. If your kid tries to wear basketball shoes for your jog, or tennis shoes for basketball, they’ll not only play worse, but they’ll be more likely to hurt themselves, too.

A Few Shopping Tips

Okay, so now you have a clearer idea of how kids will be using, abusing, and growing out of their shoes for the foreseeable future. Now we’d like to offer some sage advice for how to pick their new pair.

  • Skip the hand-me-downs. We know. It can be very tempting to save some money by choosing used or hand-me-down shoes for your child—especially during those early years where shoes get outgrown before they wear out. But it’s a bad idea. Wearing someone else’s shoes can spread infection and disease (like athlete’s foot). And even a slight bit of “molding” to one set of feet can create painful pressure points for another.
  • Don’t buy shoes that are obviously too big. This is another cost-saving maneuver that some parents like to take. Again, we sympathize. But when shoes are too long, stability is compromised and kids are more likely to hurt themselves.
  • Take your child shoe-shopping after school, or in the evening. The reason? The daily grind causes feet to swell slightly later in the evening. So, if you fit shoes when feet are at their largest, they’re more likely to fit properly in all situations.
  • Measure both feet in a standing position. It’s normal for one foot to be slightly larger than another. It’s also normal for kids’ feet to flatten and widen a bit while standing, as their arch may still be fairly flexible. So, measure both feet while bearing weight, and pick shoes big enough to accommodate the larger foot.
  • Let them walk around a bit. Shoes ought to be comfortable to wear from the very beginning. Don’t expect a “breaking in” period—this is a bad idea for anyone, but especially kids. If your child isn’t comfortable, it’s the wrong pair. Period.

Keeping your kids in appropriate footwear requires constant vigilance, but it really isn’t that hard or frustrating if you know what you’re doing! If you need some help, or you observe your child struggling with foot pain or gait abnormalities, give us a call today. You can reach our Wichita office at (866) 222-5177.