• American Podiatric Medical Association at www.apma.org.
• American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society at www.aofas.org.
Finding a good pair of athletic shoes that comfortably fits your kids’ feet, activity level and household budget isn’t difficult. "I recommend shoes in the range of $50-75. Beyond this range can be excess and below is sacrifice," says Dr. Gary Wasiak, a fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgery.
According to Wasiak, one out of every three foot and ankle patients make the most common athletic shoe mistake: they buy too small. The problems from incorrectly sized shoes can go beyond mere discomfort—they can cause gait problems, stress factures and muscle and tendon fatigue and damage.
Wasiak recommends the following:
The arch of the foot is the center area of the foot bottom. People with high arches need extra shock absorption in the heels. For flatter feet, look for shoes that are stiff in the middle and have a supportive interior liner.
Measure the length of your child’s foot by beginning at the heel to their longest toe. Since shoe sizes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, double check the fit when trying on a new pair of shoes by using the "rule of thumb"—the distance from the tip of the shoe to the longest toe should be no more or less than a thumbnail.
Resist the urge to buy a size bigger. While kids do grow fast and shoes are expensive, wearing shoes that are too big can cause children to trip or fall.
Do your feet or your child’s feet feel squished? If you can see toe indentations on the tops of the shoes, shoes made for wide feet may be needed. Wasiak often recommends New Balance shoes for patients with wide feet. For narrow feet, the doctor suggests styles made by Nike and Adidas.
Move your ankles and foot up and down and side to side to check your flexibility. "If you have a lot of motion in your ankles, then you don’t need shoes that have extensive shock absorption," says Wasiak. If you notice tightness in your calf muscles or Achilles tendon, shoes with more heel elevation are the best option.
Are your kids famous for smelly shoes? Buying shoes that provide good ventilation is critical to comfort. "Shoes with a leather upper are the best," he says, adding that some microfibers will also give feet a breather.
Bring your child’s old shoes along when you’re shopping for new ones. Good shoe personnel will be able to see how they "wear" shoes and consider the individual fit and style when making a recommendation for a new pair.