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7 Considerations for back-to-school shoe shopping

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

With children headed back to school, it is important that their feet receive proper support and protection. Children with proper shoes will not only have reduced occurrences of foot and ankle injuries, but will also have a decreased likelihood of childhood obesity since children with feet that hurt or are uncomfortable tend to not participate in sports and activities.

American Podiatric Medical Association has several suggestions to consider when shoe shopping.

1. Children’s feet change with age.

A child’s feet may change size every few months, so keep in mind your child’s ever-growing feet.

2. Children’s shoes that do not fit will aggravate feet.

Make sure to measure your child’s feet when trying on shoes, and watch for irritation during the shoe-shopping process.

3. Do not hand down shoes.

Just like their personalities differ, your children’s feet are not the same. Hand-me-down shoes will not fit the next child the same, which may cause discomfort, and while avoiding new shoes may save money, it will help fungi to spread – a reality every parent wants to avoid.

4. Watch the heels of your child’s shoes.

Most of the time we think that the toe will wear through before any other part of a shoe, but it’s possible for the heel to wear away before the toe, and you may notice the heel wearing away before your child outgrows that cool pair of shoes. If the heel is worn, it’s time to go shopping.

Also, watch for uneven ware of the sole, which may be a sign that your child’s foot needs the attention of a podiatrist.

5. Have your child with you when shoe shopping.

You know Johnny’s shoe size, and you know he really likes one’s that blink, so wouldn’t it be easier to leave him at home? Maybe. But don’t do it.

Bringing your child along for the shopping trip helps him find a pair that fits correctly. You’ve seen the shoe store. With hundreds – maybe thousands – of shoes to choose from, you need your child around to tell you that pair A feels funny in the toe, pair B squeezes his foot too much, and pair C, well, pair C fits just right.

Don’t neglect the benefit of teaching good habits for when your child is older. Eventually, you won’t be helping your child pick out his next pair of shoes (we hope), and the more pairs he tries on the better.

6. Buy shoes that fit the larger foot.

Larger foot? Yes, you read that right. Our bodies are not symmetrical, and you want a pair that will fit comfortably for as long as possible. Scrunched toes are unhappy toes, and remember that poorly fitting shoes lead to decreased physical activity.

7. No break-in shoes.

Shoes should not need to be “broken-in” to be comfortable, and be sure to bring a pair of socks/tights that your child wears on a regular basis. If you feel the words “They’ll feel better after you’ve worn them for awhile” about to come out of your mouth, stop yourself and look for a different pair because the right pair does exist.


The American Podiatric Medical Association has the “1, 2, 3 Test” to making sure that shoes are sturdy enough for your child to wear.

  1. Squeeze the side of the heel to make sure that it does not collapse inward with pressure.
  2. Bend the toe of the shoe. It should not be too stiff or too flexible.
  3. Choose a shoe with a rigid middle that cannot be twisted.

Certain shoe companies also come with the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval. Pediped, Reebok, and Tsukihoshi have received the approval for foot health.

Do you have a favorite shoe brand or store? Any other tips that people should know about? If so, please share in the comments.

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Dr. Kelly John is a podiatric surgeon for Rockford Orthopedic with a special interest in revision foot surgery. She''s also an avid skier, which she enjoys with her husband Jeff and their two children.


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