Summer means new ground for little feet to cover. Whether it's sand, water, dirt, or grass, kids will be busy running, swimming, climbing and jumping.
Improper foot support can lead to aches, pains, and sprains.
Shoes to avoid:
As a parent, I know it's hard not to buy all of the cute shoes that are out for summer! However, in order to prevent tripping and to maintain good contact with the footbed of the shoe to improve support, it is best to avoid flip-flop type of sandals unless they have a built in arch support.
Flip-flops can lead to problems including stubbed toes, broken toes, blisters, arch and heel pain, tendinitis, and sprained ankles.
Flip-flops do not offer kids enough protection or support for daily wear. They are fine for brief periods of time at the pool or beach. I see many children with foot pain after a long summer of walking barefoot or wearing unsupported sandals as well as injured toes and feet from sandals and flip-flops that lack protection.
Barefoot is not a good alternative! We live in a concrete jungle, and puncture wounds can really ruin a summer vacation!
Shoes to consider:
There are better alternative to your traditional flip flop. Sport-style sandals offer more coverage and support than flip-flops and are also a better choice than open-toed sandals for balance and support.
Crocs can be an option if worn correctly. Crocs tend to be worn loose on the foot and therefore offer less support and stability. However, when they fit snug, they can offer good flex of the sole as well as being closed-toe and having a back strap.
Shoes for toddlers:
Toddlers and new walkers, because at this stage in development flat feet are usually normal, do not need arch support from a shoe, but instead require a shoe that provides a substantial amount of flex to allow their feet to move freely.
Toddlers benefit from closed-toe shoes that are relatively close-fitting (don't allow a lot of wiggle room side to side). Open-toed shoes do not provide the amount of stability that a closed-toe shoe does. They are learning many new motor skills and require good support for all of the challenging new balance activities, as well as learning to walk in the grass, mulch or sand.
Shoes for older children:
School-age kids need more support and cushioning, and flexibility at the ball of the foot from their shoes. Preteens and teenagers are nearing maturity in their feet, and young athletes will require sport-specific support from their shoes.
The right fit is essential:
Once you've found the right shoe for your child's need, you need to find the right fit.
Because kids have feet that are slightly different in size, the larger foot should determine the shoe size. I recommend measuring the foot while your child is standing and allowing about a half-inch of growth room at the end of the shoe. You should allow one thumb width from the end of their toe to the end of the shoe.
Always use the store's measuring stick to obtain the length and width of their child's foot as a starting point to finding the right fit. The number may be irrelevant if the shoe company has sized them slightly off, but it is a good starting point. You may be amazed how much your child has grown!
Matching the correct shoe to each summer activity is also important in protecting growing feet.
I recommend that children wear sneakers during the summer for daily walking, running, and jumping. There are many lightweight, breathable and washable options, with proper heel cushioning, mid foot support, flexibility, good traction, and rounded edges to decrease stumbles and falls. If you do want a sandal for summer heat and splashing in the water, choose a sneaker type sandal with cutouts and mesh - a much better choice than flat, non-cushioned flip-flops.
If your child is having trouble with their feet and you know the shoe fits and is correct for their activity, request an appointment and we can take a look. Many children's foot problems are due to poor shoes, but gait problems can also occur. A short office visit may sort it out and get your child running, jumping, and playing with the other kids, pain free, this summer!