If your child isn’t a budding young fashionista, chances are back-to-school shopping in your home is met with cries of resistance. Although selecting and purchasing clothes for resistant young shoppers to try on at home is a great solution, make it clear when it comes to shoe shopping, a trip to the shoe store is non-negotiable.

Unlike adults, children’s feet are still developing which means they have specific needs and requirements and should be measured and properly fitted several times a year. A professional at a good quality children’s shoe store will fit your child to make sure their shoes are not limiting their feet from going through their normal motions. Poorly fitted or unsupportive shoes will overpower a child’s feet and block the natural motions of the joints in the feet. The professional will also check that your child’s shoes are narrow enough at the heel to hug the hind foot and prevent rubbing inside the shoe, and that the toe box is wide enough to accommodate an expanding forefoot.
For shoes to function properly they must be laced or closed properly so the type of closure you select for your child’s shoes is as important as making sure they fit well. If your child can comfortably lace his/her own shoes, laces are a great choice. However, if they cannot tie bows or tend to leave laces undone opt for Velcro until they can competently and responsibly manage laces.
Although it is wise to buy clothes your child will grow into, shoes must fit your child’s feet size right now, not in the future.  If shoes are purchased with “growing room” the natural flex points of the shoes and the feet will not align, causing your child pain and discomfort.  Also, a shoe that is too long is a tripping hazard for children who spend much of the day walking and running.
While hand-me-down clothes are perfect for school yard play, second-hand shoes are not a wise choice as the wear patterns already created from the previous child will not properly support your child’s unique foot shape and needs.
In general, children’s feet should be allowed to grow and develop naturally with the help of well fitting, supportive shoes. However if your child is expressing any discomfort or becomes unwilling to run around and play, ask your doctor if pedorthic treatment will help. Sometimes, for children over the age of seven, a Canadian Certified Pedorthist will recommend custom orthotics. Orthotics can provide children with additional support and stability for their feet and legs as they grow and make activity more comfortable.
By Graham Archer, C. Ped Tech (C), C. Ped (C), Coquitlam, BC