For many Canadian children, summer means weeks of long, hot, carefree days spent in flip flops at camps, cottages and parks. While the fresh air and unstructured play can be excellent for a child’s development, weeks of roaming in ill-fitting, light weight flip flops may cause children serious harm.
Well fitting, supportive shoes are essential for the healthy growth and development of children’s feet and although, like all things, shoe rules can slacken a bit in the summer they shouldn’t be completely forgotten. Basic, flimsy flip flops don’t provide the support, motion control and cushioning children need when they are running, jumping and playing which can lead to foot, ankle and knee injuries. Worse yet, children often wear flip flops that are too big or too small, increasing the risk of injury.
When it comes to summer footwear, let your child wear flip flops at the beach and by the pool. However, for daily play a pair of lightweight, supportive sandals is essential. There are lots of fun, fashionable choices available. Here are some tips to help you find appropriate summer footwear for your child:

  • Look for shoes that have sturdy heel counters (back of the heel) and soles that don’t bend easily if you twist them from side to side or from toe to heel.
  • Make sure the base of the footwear matches the length and shape of your child’s feet. If his/her feet are too wide or his/her heel or toes hang over the edge, they are not right for them.
  • Don’t buy shoes “with room to grow”. Shoes that are too long or too wide may cause or aggravate underlying foot problems.
  • Never pass shoes down from child to child as the wear patterns created by the first child will not properly support the next child’s unique foot shape and needs.
  • If your child insists on flip flops, steer clear of the bargain basement brands. Look for ones that have supportive footbeds, adjustable straps, thicker soles and deep heel cups.

Children’s summer footwear should balance ease with comfort and support. During the summer kids are always on the go so they like shoes they can quickly take on and off. If your child doesn’t want to spend time tying laces, look for sandals with Velcro straps. They are quick and easy to get into and provide the same support benefit as laces. Once your child is outfitted in a pair of supportive summer shoes, he can enjoy the freedom of summer without risking the long term health of his feet and lower limbs.
By Shawn Duench, C. Ped (C), Waterloo , Ontario