Summer is over and that means back-to-school shopping for many parents. Time to abandon the swimsuit for pants, picnic baskets for lunch boxes, and sandals for shoes. With shoes that sparkle, flash, and even make sounds like Star Wars characters it can be difficult to figure out which shoes are good for your child's foot and fit well versus simply looking irresistible in the shoe store.
According to Barefoot shoes pioneer, Vivobarefoot, there are five things every parent should know before selecting shoes for their child:
1) Kids need foot-shaped shoes. Until a child is about 15, their bones are immature and more susceptible to injury when stressed. In a matter of weeks a child's foot development can be compromised. Anything that gets in the way of natural foot development will result in deformed, weak feet.
2) With 200,000 nerve endings, 33 major muscles, 26 bones and 19 ligaments, the human foot is a natural feat of biomechanics. With all of these nerve endings, the foot is one of the most sensitive part of the body. Children should be able to receive sensory feedback through their feet in order to know how to move and adapt.
3) Play and Splay: When a child is barefoot, with each step his toes splay outwards to help balance his stride. If a child's shoe is too narrow, his toes will not have room to splay and will subsequently lose mobility and strength. Children (and adults) can build up strength in your toes with exercises like Toe-Ga.
4) The foundation to the whole body: An unbalanced foot caused by wearing tapered, padded shoes can cause lifelong movement problems for children.
5) Kids that move more do better at school: According to the Centers for Disease Control the recommended daily 'vigorous activity' for kids is 60 minutes . Studies show that kids do better in school if they are physically active (http://iom.nationalacademies.org/Reports/2013/Educating-the-Student-Body-Taking-Physical-Activity-and-Physical-Education-to-School.aspx). If a child's shoes restrict his natural movement patterns, he is less likely to want to run, jump and play, which could have a damaging effect on their education.
To help choose a shoe that fits your child well, Vivonbarefoot recommends the following:
1) Flexibility is key. You should be able to bend the shoe in thirds. Otherwise the shoe is too rigid and will limit movement.
2) Chose a shoe with a protective yet thin sole. Thinner soles allow children to feel the terrain beneath them and develop important strength and coordination.
3) Look for shoes with a wide toe box, giving feet the space to move and grow.
4) Avoid shoes with arch support or bulky soles as much as possible.
5) Visit a store and try them on. It is always best to have shoes properly fitted by an expert to ensure a perfect fit.
Children spend a lot of time wearing shoes at school, at the playground, and the backyard. It's worth taking a bit of time to ensure a good fit.