Shoe-shopping tips: Putting a healthy foot forward

August 19, 2008

A perfect fit

As children trade in their sandals for school-appropriate shoes, the latest trends may be top-of-mind, but a wrong fit could lead to foot injuries.

"Finding shoes that incorporate protection and comfort may take some shopping around, but it will pay off in the long run," said Alice Anderson, PT, MS, PCS, a clinical team leader and physical therapist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Children's Medical Center. "In order to prevent discomfort and potential injuries, a shoe must fit just right."

Shoe safety

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reminds parents that the primary purpose of shoes is to prevent injury. Shoes rarely correct deformities or alter a foot's development.

"If your child has an ongoing foot problem, have him examined by their pediatrician," Anderson said.

Guidelines when shoe-shopping:

  • Look for a soft, pliable shoe with plenty of room, such as a sneaker.
  • Be sure the toe box provides enough space for growth and that it allows the toes to wiggle.
  • Be sure there is a snug fit around the heel of the shoe.
  • For younger children who have trouble keeping their shoes on, try high-top shoes.
  • Sizes may vary among brands or styles. Have the child walk around in both shoes — wearing normal socks — prior to purchasing.
  • Feel inside the shoes for rough spots, glue, staples or anything that can cause irritation.
  • For teens insisting on wearing a higher heel or platform shoe, a one-and-a-half to two-inch chunky heel with padded insoles and plenty of room for the toes to move is the best choice. Limit the amount of time they wear higher heels, and have them alternate with flat-heeled shoes for part of the day.
  • Don't let a child sacrifice fit for fashion by buying tight shoes. There is no "break-in" period, and a tight shoe can damage the foot.
  • Check your child's feet periodically for signs of too-tight shoes, such as redness or blisters.
  • Have your child's feet measured periodically (while standing) at the shoe store to determine whether his feet have grown enough to warrant a larger pair of shoes.


Physical Therapy
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons