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How to Correctly Fit Your Kids' Shoes

Poorly fitting shoes can cause foot problems down the road. Learn what to look for in children's shoes.

Back-to-school shopping usually involves a trip down the shoe aisle, but the old trick of pinching the front of the shoe to make sure your kids’ tootsies have enough room isn’t enough to guarantee a good fit, especially if they are at an age where their feet are still growing quickly.

From barefoot babies to flat-footed kids

Babies should be left to walk barefoot or in socks, says Dr. Steven Dowshen, a pediatric endocrinologist in Wilmington, DE. In their first two years, babies’ feet need as much sensory input as possible to grow proper bone structure and develop muscles.

For the times they need to wear shoes, Dowshen suggests ones that are lightweight and flexible, not too loose or tight, and have non-skid soles.

When it comes to school-aged children, the main purpose of shoes is shock absorption and protection. Sneakers, sandals, dress or casual shoes should all meet those criteria.

Children are born with flat feet and typically develop an arch around age six, so choose structurally supportive shoes that help a developing arch instead of sandals or flip flops.

Custom fit

Vincent Flocco, co-owner of Flocco’s Shoes Clothes & Formal Wear in Conshohocken, PA has been fitting children’s shoes for decades.

“What a lot of parents want is not what’s appropriate or what’s good for the age of the kids,” Flocco says. “Many want a fashion-type shoe, but usually it doesn’t properly fit the child.

“Your child may look cool, but a shoe that is improperly fitted can cause problems down the road.”

Kids shoes shouldn’t need to be broken in, as adult shoes sometimes might, says Dr. Roman Burk, an Idaho podiatrist and graduate of Temple University School of Podiatry.

“Buy shoes that don’t need to be broken in; children’s shoes should be comfortable immediately,” Burk says.

Fit by phone

Parents who don’t live near a shoe store that can help with fitting can try a relatively new app developed by a Philadelphia company. Jenzy helps parents find shoes that fit kids up to six years old.

“It’s like a shoe store on your phone,” says Carolyn Horner, co-founder and CEO of Jenzy.

The app, which launched in 2018, asks parents to take a photo of their kid’s foot. An algorithm then calculates the foot’s measurements and recommends the best sizes from the brands offered on the app, which include Keds, Saucony and PediPed.

“Seventy percent of kids are wearing shoes that don’t fit and that could affect their foot health for a lifetime,” says Horner. “Things like bunions or curled toes may come from wearing shoes as a child that are too small or unsupportive.”

Emma Kuliczowski is a MetroKids intern and Temple University student

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