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6/15/11blog post

flip flop frenzy! how to choose the best shoes this summer.

By: Dana Gifford PT

As a mom, it’s hard not to buy all of the cute shoes that are out for summer! They call to you from the aisles and at prices as cheap as 2 for $5 how can you resist? However, not all them are great for your child’s feet! Learn how to make the best decision when it comes to choosing your child’s footwear this summer!

Flip-flops, sandals and Crocs are adorable footwear for kids, but are they practical?

It depends; below are some tips on how to make the best choice in footwear!

  • Have a back strap: In order to prevent tripping and maintain good contact with the footbed of the shoe to improve support, it is best to avoid flip-flops. If you can’t pass them up, the styles with the back strap will at least offer more support than a slide-on style.
  • Go sporty: Sport style sandals offer more coverage and support than flip-flops and are also a better choice than open-toed sandals for balance and support.
  • Have a snug fit: Crocs tend to be worn loose on the foot and therefore offer less support and stability. However, when they fit snug, they do offer good flex of the sole as well as being closed-toe and having a back strap.

Should little ones be toddling off in flip-flops or sandals that expose their toes?

Toddlers benefit from closed-toe shoes that are relatively close-fitting (don’t allow a lot of wiggle room side to side). Open toed shoes do not provide the amount of stability that a closed-toe shoe does. They are learning many new gross motor skills and require good support for all of the challenging new balance activities…as well as learning to walk in the grass, mulch, or sand!
What is the proper way to fit a child’s foot for a pair of shoes?

Many kids will have feet that are slightly different sizes. The shoe size must accommodate their larger foot.

  • Measure their feet once they’re standing as their foot’s position in the shoe will change substantially from when they are sitting.
  • Allow 3/8-1/2” of growth room at the end of the shoe. Some shoe brands tend to run wider than others. Your child’s foot should not slip within the shoe when walking, nor should it be pushed against the sides of the shoe. Some shoe lines also offer narrow or wide options (New Balance is one example).

What signs should parents look for in the proper fit and make of shoe?

  • Flexible: Most toddlers/new walkers have developmentally appropriate flat feet therefore they do not require arch support from a shoe. However, the shoe should have a substantial amount of flex for it to allow their feet to move freely.
  • Support/cushioning: As kids move towards school age, their activity level increases and they require a little more support/cushioning for the many surfaces they encounter, while still allowing flexibility at the ball of the foot. Pre-teen’s/teenager’s feet are nearing maturity.
  • Sports: Those that play sports may require more specific support in their shoe depending on their foot type.
  • Arch: Some may have a tendency towards a high arched foot while others have a flat foot, which will change the style of shoe they should wear: people with high arches require additional cushioning in their shoe and those with flat feet require a shoe marketed as “stability” or “motion control”.
  • Heel: Also, girls shoes that have a raised heel of any type place more force through the ball of the foot and change the way a person walks, which can lead to injury. They should be avoided if possible.

What shoes should be worn at the playground, school and waterparks?
Closed toe shoes are best—open toe shoes can easily catch on the ground, causing the child to trip. It is also best if there is a heel strap and a midfoot strap in order to provide better control and support. There are many sport sandal styles out right now that offer these options.

Should kids wear hand-me down shoes?
No. Just like adults, each child has their own foot type and wear pattern. Putting a child into a shoe that already has a wear pattern can be uncomfortable or not support the child’s foot in the proper place. Also, the materials in the shoe will be more broken down and may not provide enough cushioning.

Dana Gifford is a physical therapist and has been working at Dayton Children’s in the Rehab department since 2002. She is the mother of two.

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