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Fit Your Kids for Success - Proper Shoe-fitting to Prevent Injuries

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To help busy parents with shoe choices, McFarland Clinic foot and ankle surgeons recommend some simple guidelines to prevent or minimize possible foot problems that can occur from improperly fitted shoes.

What Issues are Caused by Shoes That Don't Fit?

Tight-fitting shoes can cause issues such as:

  • Ingrown toenails
  • Heel pain and blisters
  • Flat Feet
  • Blisters, corns, and calluses on the toes 

“Never buy shoes that feel tight and uncomfortable in the store. Don’t assume they will stretch or break in overtime,” advises David Cain, DPM, MS, with McFarland Clinic Foot & Ankle Surgery and Podiatry at McFarland Clinic.

Dr. Cain adds that snug shoes put pressure on the toes, causing ingrown nails.

According to, the consumer website of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS), foot infection can occur when an ingrown nail breaks through the skin.

“If there’s pain, redness, and fluid draining from the area, it’s probably infected,” says Dr. Cain. “The ingrown nail can be removed in a simple, in-office procedure."

Dr. Cain advises, “Do not try to remove a child’s ingrown nail at home; this can cause the condition to worsen.”

Shoes that are too loose can cause problems, too. “If a shoe is too loose, the foot slides forward and puts excessive pressure on the toes.”

Dr. Cain warns, "If a child keeps wearing worn-out or non-supportive dress or athletic shoes, it elevates the risk for developing heel pain, Achilles tendonitis, and even ankle sprains and stress fractures.”

What to Look for When Shopping for Shoes

“When selecting kids’ shoes, size and shock absorption are key considerations, especially if your child has flat feet that can worsen from improper fitting or worn-out shoes,” says Dr. Cain. “A child’s foot can grow a size or two within six months, so it’s critical to allow room for growth in the toe box - about a finger’s width from the longest toe.”

Dr. Cain recommends that parents carefully inspect both new and old shoes to check for proper cushioning and arch support.

“Shoes lose their shock absorption over time, and wear and tear around the edges of the sole usually indicates that the shoe is worn out and should be replaced."

A good tip for parents when buying new shoes: The toe box should flex easily and the shoe shouldn’t bend in the middle of the sole.

For children with flat feet, Dr. Cain recommends shoes that address pronation or have extra depth to accommodate an orthotic.

“Kids with flat feet need shoes with a wide toe box and maximum arch support and shock absorption."

For more information about childhood foot care, contact the McFarland Clinic Foot & Ankle Surgery/Podiatry department.

Tagged As: Children's Health Parenting

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