After seeing my son’s toes forming callouses in his brand new leather shoes, I was forced to conclude that buying children’s shoes is not as simple as selecting a hard-wearing pair from a reputable brand and expecting all to be well. In fact, there are a number of factors to consider in choosing children’s shoes, and there is more at stake than simply cost or fashion.
When to buy shoes for a child
In general, you don’t need shoes for a child who is not yet walking steadily – tempting though some of those super cute shoes can be! Putting hard-soled shoes on a baby learning to walk can be a hindrance to their normal development.
In New Zealand, we don’t have the luxury of year-round indoor warmth in a lot of homes – so if warmth is the concern, choose a very flexible, soft-soled option for a baby or toddler who doesn’t yet walk comfortably.
Once your child is steady on their feet, they’re going to want to practice their newfound skills. To keep them safe while out and about, you will need to put them in pair of shoes. When you’re at home you might want to consider allowing them to wander around shoeless, to assist them in motor skill development and to strengthen their arches.
From the early stable walking stage through to approximately age six, children are still developing the mechanics of their feet, and putting them in a solid shoe that fits well is beneficial. Check the fit of their shoes often (at least every month or two) to see whether they are still an appropriate choice for running about in.
Podiatrists recommend ASICS kids shoes more than any other brand for the protection, function, and durability they offer. ASICS infuses the same technology used in adult footwear into their kids ranges along with features designed specifically for children.
What to look for in a pair of children’s shoes
The speed of a child’s growth can make choosing the best option of shoe complex. You want to allow enough room for growth (you will still likely need to budget for at least two sizes of shoe per year for a younger child) while ensuring the shoe is firm enough to provide adequate support.
This can be hard to gauge so you may need to enlist the knowledge of a store specialising in children’s shoes. This sort of store should be able to measure your child’s foot to find out what size of shoe is best for them.
With this information, it is not safe to simply select a pair in that size and assume they will suit. Some brands of shoes fit a wider foot, others a narrower foot. Arch support, sole, type of fastening and fabric all play a part in the fit of the shoe.
It is best to select a few different shoes and have your child walk for a minute or two in each. For each step, be sure to check both feet – in general, no two feet are exactly the same!
- Between trying on types of shoe, pull off the sock and check for any signs of rubbing – this can indicate the fit wasn’t quite right. Another brand may well offer a better fit for your child
- Allowing for a centimetre or two at the top of the shoe (above the big toe) is wise – but not so much space that tripping becomes a possibility. Keep an eye on this gap over the next few months, and replace the shoes before the toes are touching the top of the shoe – you may get longer out of a leather shoe as they will accommodate a small amount of stretching
- Is there ample cushioning in the heel? Children exercise and move on such hard and unnatural surfaces, so it’s important to protect their feet from them. The developing foot has a vital growth plate in the heel bone which can be irritated by impact and pull from the calf and Achilles tendon. This pain is known as Severs Disease. A heel cushioning system will reduce impact while raising the heel and removing tension off the growth plate. All ASICS kids shoes have a heel gradient designed to stop the stress on the Achilles by reducing the pulling on the back of the heel. The GEL Cushioning System helps absorb shock and softens repetitive forces that occur during activities.
- Press down on the top of the shoe when it is well fastened. Is there any gap between the top of the shoe and your child’s foot? This probably indicates the shoe is too loose
- Check the shoe around your child’s ankles and around the heel. Does it appear supportive? Is there any indication of rubbing? Is there a gap when the shoe is well fastened? Avoid thinking ‘she’ll grow into them’ – shoes for children need to fit well from the minute they start wearing them
- Bend the sole back and forward a couple of times. t should not be too stiff, but should allow for reasonable movement and flexibility. Does there look to be enough traction provided by the sole of the shoe to prevent slips and falls?
- Press down on the areas of the shoe that are close to a toe. Can the child still wiggle their toes in the shoe? Is the shoe clearly wide enough to easily accomodate your child’s foot? Are there any obvious areas of discomfort?
- Do you want your child to be able to easily put on and take off the shoes themselves, or not? If so, you will probably want to choose velcro as it is a simple system to understand. If you would rather be the one deciding when shoes are on/off, consider another type of fastening (though there are no guarantees here!)
- Are they durable? Check for stitching in the toe bumper and for a solid rubber outsole. Both of these are key features found across ASICS kids footwear and make for a long lasting shoe capable of handling the demand placed on them by active youngsters.
A word on second hand shoes
Sometimes children grow out of their shoes very quickly and the shoes have had minimal wear. It can be very tempting to allow another child to wear those shoes. Keep the following in mind if you decide to allow your child to wear shoes that are not new:
- Are there any worn spots on the sole? Especially at the back on the inside or outside of the sole, you can find indications that the previous wearer had a less than ideal spread of weight as they walked. Avoid allowing your child to fall into such a habit themselves by wearing shoes already conditioned this way
- Is the insole marked with the shape of another child’s foot? This can cause similar problems to a worn sole
- It is a good practice to wash second hand shoes as well as possible. If they are made of fabric, they may be fine to be put on a gentle wash in your washing machine. Otherwise, give them a good wipe with a sanitiser or disinfectant to kill any lurking bugs (such as Athlete’s Foot or a verruca virus) that may be passed on to your child.
Whether second hand or brand new, ill fitting shoes can cause ongoing problems in your child’s development – including their posture, balance and spatial awareness.
A fortune doesn’t need to be spent on every pair of shoes for your child, but taking the above factors into account will allow you to choose shoes wisely. Bear in mind that allowing your child to be barefoot as much as possible is excellent for foot development.
ASICS has always been focussed on helping kids’ feet develop in the healthiest way they can by continually developing the latest shoe technology. Check out the latest childrens shoe designs stay supported and get the best performance out of their footwear. Available for children in Preschool shoe sizes [K10-3] or Grade School shoe sizes [1-7].