As the summer wanes and the school year approaches, it's time to start thinking about your child's footwear for fall sports. A quick look in the closet to see what's already there won't do, because it's very likely that your child's feet have changed since your last purchase.
Typically, a child's feet continue to grow and develop until the age of 18 to 20, at which time ossification-the formation of the bones of the feet-is complete. From ages one through five, there is an average increase of ½ size approximately every three to four months. The peak increase in foot growth takes place around ages 10 to 11. By age 12, most children have reached about 90% of their adult shoe size, which means their feet will grow an average of ½ size every 2 years until about age 18. (Learn more about how children's feet grow here).
Sizing and Fitting: Use Integrated Approach
The growth patterns described above mean that your child's feet should be measured for every new shoe purchase. For optimal fit and protection, the Institute for Preventive Foot Health (IPFH) recommends that your child wear the socks and any necessary inserts or orthotics while trying on new shoes that they will wear with the shoes. This process helps ensure that all the components work together as a system. IPFH calls the process the "integrated approach" to selecting and fitting footwear. The approach involves several steps outlined below:
- Wear sport-specific padded socks: When trying on new shoes, your child should wear padded socks made for the specific activity/shoes in which your child will participate: for example, padded socks made for cleated shoes or for running shoes. One type of padded sock has been clinically tested and shown in peer-reviewed, published studies to help protect against injuries to the skin and soft tissue of the feet. Padded socks made of acrylic or acrylic-blend fibers (rather than 100 percent wool or cotton) wick moisture away from the feet, making them less vulnerable to fungal infection, irritation and other skin damage.
- Get a proper size measurement: Have your child's feet measured with a Brannock device or other foot-measuring instrument. Your child should be standing up, in a weight-bearing position, to get an accurate measure of foot size during activity, when the feet tend to expand.
- Wear othotics: If your child wears inserts or orthotics, bring them with you and have your child wear them during the fitting process.
- Select shoes for the activity according to the measured size. If they do not fit properly, choose a different size. Shoe sizes vary according to brand, style, and manufacturing location. Fit and feel are more important than numbers. IPFH recommends shoes with uppers made of mesh or another material that wick away moisture. Leather uppers should have vents or other openings that help evacuate moisture. Shoes should have few seams or raised areas on the inside that can cause pressure points or rub the skin, and should be shaped like your child's feet (no pointed toes).
- Ensure a proper fit: With the padded socks on your child's feet, place any inserts or orthotics into the shoes you're considering buying. If the shoes come with removable inserts, replace them, if possible, with your child's inserts. Ensure there is enough room in the toe box to comfortably wiggle the toes. Have your child walk around for a few minutes, and mimic any movements he or she would normally make when participating in a specific sport or activity. Your child should not feel any rubbing, pinching or chafing. Don't buy shoes that do not feel comfortable in the hope that they'll feel better when they are "broken in."
Protect the Feet's Skin and Soft Tissue
The primary fall sports - soccer, football and field hockey - require cleated shoes for practice and games. Cleated shoes are designed more for performance than comfort. Insoles tend to be very thin and the overall design emphasizes stability while accommodating forward, backward and lateral movements, rapid changes of direction and relatively short sprints. These shoes permit minimal movement of the feet inside the shoes, and provide minimal protection against pressure, shear, and impact, the three primary forces that can cause foot injuries and less serious foot conditions such as blisters, calluses and other skin damage.
Here are a few tips for protecting your child's feet:
- Inspect your child's feet daily. Check the top, bottom and sides of the feet and between the toes.
- Tend to any lesions (cracks, cuts, blisters) by applying an antibiotic cream and a gauze bandage or Band-Aid. Make a doctor's appointment if there is any sign of infection.
- Take note of bruises, which are a sign that injury has occurred below the skin. If the bruise doesn't heal within a few days, check with your doctor.
- Check for lumps or bumps. Redness, tenderness or pain should prompt a visit to a doctor or foot health professional.
- Wash feet daily in lukewarm water and dry thoroughly, including between the toes.
- Cut toenails carefully. Trim straight across and soften the edges with an emery board to reduce the chance of developing ingrown toenails.
- Never trim calluses or corns with a sharp implement such as a razor blade, knife or nail clipper. This is a job for a foot health professional.
- Provide a fresh pair of socks daily - change socks more often on days your child is very active.
- Learn more about protecting the skin and soft tissues of the feet here.
Photos courtesy of IPFH
Posted August 10, 2015