Supporting kids isn’t just about cheering from the sidelines, it’s also about making sure they’ve got the right gear to back up their active lifestyles. The sports that are popular for our kids like netball, football (of all kinds), hockey, tennis and general running and jumping around the playground can be tough on little bodies.
Choosing the best shoe for your child can be challenging, but good quality footwear can make all the difference to keep your child comfortable and protect their growing feet and bodies. We spoke to Podiatrist Cameron Palmer of Auckland Sports Podiatry and ASICS NZ to get some tips to make sure your little athletes are well looked after while out there giving it their best.
Choosing the Right Sports Shoe for Your Child
Focus on Fit
Finding the proper shoe fit is incredibly important for comfort, performance and preventing injuries.
It may be tempting to go for a shoe your child can grow into but keep in mind your child is likely to wear them out before they outgrow them. A good fit leaves a thumbnail’s space between the big toe and shoe. The heel should be snug and secure. Bring along the socks your child will be playing in to further ensure they’re the right fit.
It’s also a good idea to visit the shoe store towards the end of the day when feet are naturally slightly swollen. Podiatrist Cameron Palmer advises on the importance of fit.
A perfectly fitted shoe is even more important for a child than an adult. This is due to the foot being under a near constant state of growth and change. If a shoe does not fit well, it can place stress on the growth plates and bones, leading to possible foot issues.
Avoid Injury and Pain
Aside from sprains and strains children can also encounter pain related to their growth plates. Growth plates in a child’s body are much weaker than the surrounding bone and require more protection.
As the sports season starts it is not uncommon for active children to develop pain in their heels from sports activity. Girls aged 8 to 10 and boys 10 to 12 years old are particularly prone to this pain especially in sports such as running, football, rugby and netball.
A lack of good support along with poor cushioning found in football boots puts stress on the growth plate in the heel causing it to become inflamed and painful. Their favourite sports become difficult and they will need to take a break to give them time to heal.
Undoubtedly the most common issue we see in children is Sever’s Disease, this is not actually a disease but an irritation to the growth plate of the heel bone.
Palmer goes on to explain, “this occurs when the heel bone is in an active phase of growth and is either bruised from below or pulled on by the calf/Achilles tendons. Harder grounds at the beginning and end of sports season often bring out a flurry of Sever’s cases.”
To avoid Sever’s Disease look for shoes with a strong heel counter, firm support in the midsole and plenty of cushioning under the heel for good shock-absorbency.
All ASICS kids shoes have a heel gradient designed to stop the stress on the Achilles by removing the pulling on the back of the heel. The GEL Cushioning System helps absorb shock and softens repetitive forces that occur during activities. These components are also effective in assisting the prevention of shin splints and stress fractures.
No parent wants to see their child’s season cut short due to any of these problems. Shoes chosen specifically for your child’s foot, have been fitted properly and are designed for their sport, will make a world of difference in helping to prevent unnecessary injuries. Be sure to visit a specialist shoe store for help and see a podiatrist if your child is experiencing any ongoing discomfort or problems with footwear.
Kids shoes need to put up with some tough conditions over the course of a season. There are a few features to look for that are signs of a good quality shoe designed to last:
- A solid midsole (not hollow) to maintain support
- Durable rubber outsole to stand up to tough surfaces like concrete
- Stitching around the toe bumper to stop it from coming away
- A removable sock liner for washing which also improves fit
ASICS kids shoes utilise the same technology as their adult’s range along with features designed specifically for children. Growing feet require good cushioning, stability and protection during everyday activities but especially for running, jumping and sports manoeuvres.
Properly gauge your child’s need and ensure they excel at their sport by following these guidelines for selecting the right shoe for different sports.
Choosing the Right Sports Shoe for Different Sports
Choosing a football specific boot will help your child’s game progress and provide them with a better ability to handle the demands of the game. They’ll be able to grip the pitch far more effectively and get better traction.
When looking at the fit it’s all about snugness. The boot should fit close to the end of the foot but not touch the toes. A thumb width of space is the maximum – any more will allow too much movement causing friction and leading to blisters. Don’t forget to bring along your child’s match socks to ensure a good fit.
- Look for a strong heel counter which provides control and stability when changing direction laterally.
- Give the boot a twist, make sure it’s strong through the midfoot, the boot should not bend in the middle.
- Check the studs – they should all engage the ground to balance a child’s weight evenly on impact. This is key for proper grip on the field.
- Be sure there’s good padding over the top of the boot specifically in the toe area in order to prevent injury from being stepped on.
Football boots traditionally didn’t have any incline from heel to toe – feet rested almost completely flat. ASICS have changed that and put in a 10mm heel raise in all football boots. This HG10mm heel does a few things:
- Cuts down the strain on the lower leg with less pressure placed on the Achilles tendon. This is especially important in young people playing on hard ground due to the risks of Sever’s disease as outlined above.
- Helps the player take off and run faster as their feet are angled slightly forwards.
- Provides cushioning and shock absorbency.
Netball is a high impact sport often played on hard and slippery courts making it punishing on both footwear and young bodies. With constant changes of direction and the need to stop quickly the risk of injury runs high. It’s even higher with the wrong footwear. ASICS has led the way in specifically designing netball shoes to provide a stable platform supporting sideways movement and to minimise the stress the sport can put on the body.
Bracing the foot for lateral movement is one important element of netball shoes and a main difference from running shoes which are designed for forward motion – meaning less support for the side of the foot. Running in netball is done in short, quick bursts and athletes are required to stop suddenly, jump and pivot. Features you will find in a good quality netball shoe:
- Cushioning: Those sudden stops to shoot or pass along with landing applies significant force to your child’s feet and legs. The shock absorbency and cushioning throughout ASICS Gel Netburner range makes it the most recommended shoe for any netball player.
- Look for a firm heel counter that cups the foot and prevents any unwanted movement. This will give the ankle more support and stabilise landing by keeping the back of the foot locked in place.
- Give the shoe a twist test. Be sure there’s minimal flex through the midfoot or arch of the shoe. Make sure it doesn’t bend or buckle through that area.
- A wrapped outsole ensures the shoe lasts longer, provides better grip and offers more stability during side to side movements. Rounded edges minimise the chance of a potential ankle sprain.
- Another thing to look for is multi-directional tread which assists with pivoting and easier change of direction.
Learn more about netball shoe technology here.
Finding a good pair of kids’ running shoes doesn’t have to require a lot of hunting if you turn to those with the right technology. Help them hit the ground running by looking for features that support three key components: protection, function, and durability.
- A real running midsole is one of the most important parts as it provides the cushioning and stability layer. Many so-called running shoes for kids have soles that are too hard and stiff for comfortable running. A good EVA foam midsole is best which ASICS provides across their range.
- Check for flexibility but be certain the shoe flexes right behind the toes and not in the arch area. Your foot doesn’t bend there and neither should your shoe. The ASICS Trusstic System aids in bracing the midfoot and provides support for the shoe by supporting the arches of the feet.
- Another key feature to look for is good cushioning to minimise shock and with support through the middle of the sole to enhance support and stability. ASICS uses High Abrasion Resistant rubber on the outsole which cuts down on excessive wear.
- Kids feet sweat twice as much as an adult’s so look for a mesh upper which helps a lot to provide breathability and keep feet cooler.
Hockey: There are various details to be on the lookout for when buying other sports shoes for your child. A good hockey shoe has a sole covered in small rubber lugs for a strong grip on the pitch aiding in quick direction changes. Be sure to take into account their shin guards and make sure they have enough room around their ankles. Check for a tough upper that offers protection against sticks and being stepped on. A waterproof coating will keep your child’s feet dry in wet conditions.
Tennis: When buying tennis shoes it’s important to take the playing surface into consideration. A player will benefit from more traction on a soft court and better durability for a hard court. A rubber sole with a herringbone pattern provides good slip resistance. High Abrasion Rubber in the outsole of ASICS can manage excessive wear making the shoe more durable. Cushioning to absorb sudden starts and stops will ensure your child’s feet remain comfortable throughout repeated impacts.
Cricket: If shopping for cricket shoes look for a moulded rubber outsole for superior grip during bursts of movement. A strong heel counter provides stability and ankle support. For those long games plenty of cushioning will keep their feet feeling good.
This post was brought to you by ASICS New Zealand. ASICS’ has always been focussed on helping kids reach the finish line the best way they can by continually developing the latest shoe technology and designs to help active kids stay supported and get the best performance out of their footwear. Check out their range of kids shoes here.