With kids back in school after a summer of bare feet and sandals, parents are shopping for shoes for feet that seem to have grown longer in just a few months. To help busy parents with shoe choices, Thomas Marquardt, D.P.M., Mayo Clinic Health System foot and ankle surgeon at Winneshiek Medical Center recommends some simple guidelines to prevent or minimize possible foot problems from inappropriate shoes, such as painful ingrown toenails, blisters, heel pain and flat feet.
Shoe Size and Shock Absorption
“When choosing kids’ shoes, size and shock absorption are the key considerations, especially if your child has flat feet that can worsen from improper fitting or worn-out shoes,” says Dr. Marquardt. “Also, a child’s foot can grow a size or two within six months, so it’s critical to allow room for growth in the toe box—about a finger’s width from the longest toe.”
Dr. Marquardt says snug shoes put pressure on the toes, causing ingrown nails. “The nail compresses and grows down into the skin. If there’s pain, redness and fluid draining from the area, it’s probably infected.” He adds, “The ingrown nail can be removed in a simple, in-office procedure. Don’t try to remove a child’s ingrown nail at home; this can cause the condition to worsen.”
Tight-fitting shoes also cause blisters, corns and calluses on the toes and blisters on the back of the heels. “Never buy shoes that feel tight and uncomfortable in the store,” says Dr. Marquardt. “Don’t assume they will stretch or break in over time.” Conversely, he notes shoes that are too loose can cause problems, too. “If a shoe is too loose, the foot slides forward and puts excessive pressure on the toes.”
Dr. Marquardt also advises parents to carefully inspect both new and old shoes to check for proper cushioning and arch support. “Shoes lose their shock absorption over time, and wear and tear around the edges of the sole usually indicate it’s worn out and should be replaced. If a child keeps wearing worn-out or non-supportive dress or athletic shoes, it elevates the risk for developing heel pain, Achilles tendonitis and even ankle sprains and stress fractures.”
For children with flat feet, Dr. Marquardt recommends parents buy oxford, lace-up shoes that have enough depth for an orthotic insert, if necessary. “Unfortunately, there isn’t much choice for kids with flat, wide feet. They need shoes with a wide toe box and maximum arch support and shock absorption.” He adds, “Slip-on loafers aren’t right for them.”
A good tip for parents when buying new shoes
The toe box should flex easily and the shoe shouldn’t bend in the middle of the sole.
For more information about childhood foot care, make an appointment with Dr. Marquardt at Winneshiek Medical Center by calling 563-382-2911, or request an appointment online at www.winmedical.org/patient-online-services.