Temple Times Online Edition
    AUGUST 4, 2005
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Find the right shoes for kids at
back-to-school time

It's time for back-to-school shopping, and that means new shoes! Should you succumb to the style demands of your children? Or should you insist on more practical shoes?

According to John Walter, a podiatrist at the School of Podiatric Medicine, because children's feet continue to grow and develop into the teen years, good, supportive shoes are critical for foot health. He suggests that parents look for sturdy shoes with good heel strength and support that will withstand the wear and tear children typically inflict.

"A lot of the sneakers out now are really quite good as long as they fit well," he said. "The only problem is that kids don't like to tie them for style's sake. But for support and to keep dirt and foreign objects from entering the shoe, children's sneakers and shoes should be tied. This will also help prevent kids from coming out of their shoes and spraining an ankle."

Walter offered the following tips for parents when shopping for children's shoes:

Make sure the shoe fits properly. There should be a thumb's width between the end of the big toe and the end of the shoe.

Because of growth spurts, children's shoes should be checked every four to six months for proper fit. You can tell your child has outgrown a shoe when it's harder to get on.       

The suggestion to buy shoes in the afternoon or evening, when the feet have swollen, applies to children as well as adults.

The shoe has to be the proper length and width. You can get greater width with greater length. Also, shoes can be stretched by a shoe tree or shoe maker.

A good supportive sock, such as cotton, is important for a bit of cushion and moisture absorption.

In addition, the American Podiatric Medicine Association recommends that you "limit the time children wear platform or heeled shoes and alternate with good quality sneakers or flat shoes."

If needed for extra support, inexpensive foot insoles or inserts, available at drugstores, grocery stores and athletic stores, can be added to any children's shoe.

When over-the-counter shoe inserts don't suffice, however, children's feet should be evaluated by a specialist. Foot problems, such as "toeing in" or "toeing out," or walking on the tiptoes, could indicate a more serious condition that might not be seen as significant if you don't get to the right doctor. Podiatrists can identify such problems and design custom orthotics, or shoe inserts. Other remedies include braces, casts and special shoes.

Children's foot health has long-term implications.

"Often, the painful knee and hip problems we see in adults have developed over several decades of poor foot and postural mechanics that were never addressed with the proper shoes or orthotics," Walter said.

- By Eryn Jelesiewicz