You know the return to school means putting something more substantial on your child’s feet than flip-flops or Crocs. But what? Finding shoes that fit properly isn’t just a back-to-school task; it’s a challenge all year long, say the experts at the American Podiatric Medical Association. Here are some things they suggest you keep in mind as you step into a shoe store:
• Take your child shoe shopping. Every shoe fits differently. Letting your child have a say in the shoe-buying process will make it more likely that new shoes get worn once they are home.
• Proper fit is key. Always measure your child’s feet before trying shoes on. Don’t assume you know the correct size based on your last purchase, even if it was just last month (or even last week). Children go through growth spurts that can make feet jump up in size. When your child tries on a pair of shoes (and yes, wear both shoes), watch him or her walk in them. Do the shoes slip down on the heel? Do they appear too tight? Watch for signs of potential irritation.
• Bigger is generally better. Consider buying for the larger foot. Feet are seldom precisely the same size. Make sure you check both feet and select the larger size. It’s easier to deal with a shoe that is slightly too big than one that is too small. Also, make sure your child tries on shoes with socks of the thickness he or she will be wearing with the shoes.
• Patience isn’t a virtue when it comes to shoes. Do not buy shoes that need a “break-in” period or that your child needs to grow into. Shoes should be fit properly and comfortably from the start. How long would you be willing to wear shoes that gave you blisters, made you walk awkwardly, or that were uncomfortable after just 15 minutes of wear? Don’t ask that of your child, either.
• Buy something solid. Look for a stiff heel; it shouldn’t collapse when you press on the back of the shoe. Also, footwear should have a reasonably rigid middle so it doesn’t twist. Finally, check for toe flexibility. The shoe should bend with your child’s toes.
• Skip hand-me-downs. Even if the shoes your cousin gave you seem to still have a lot of wear left, never hand down footwear. Just because a shoe fit one child comfortably doesn’t mean it will fit another. Sharing shoes can also spread athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
• Be prepared to go shopping again soon. Shoe and sock sizes may change every few months as a child’s feet grow. Don’t expect your purchase to last for months on end.