The Right Shoe Fit Can Prevent Spine, Back & Foot Problems

if the shoe fits

A recent study presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons showed that 52.8 percent of outdoor shoes and 61.6 percent of indoor shoes were too small for the child wearing them.

“Often parents don’t take the time to have their children’s foot properly measured,” says Cris Bremner, marketing manager for Rack Room Shoes. “Parents need to check not only the length, but width and depth as well. Just because the shoe physically fits onto the foot, doesn’t mean that it’s the right fit.”

Dr. Russell G. Volpe, a Professor at the Department of Pediatrics and Orthopedics, New York College of Podiatric Medicine/Foot Clinics of NY, says a bad fit will negate all benefits of a good shoe. He stresses that, “finding the right fit is essential.”

In addition to spine or back problems, poorly fitting shoes can cause hammer toes, ingrown toenails, calluses, bunions, abnormal gait or misalign growing bones.

“Luckily,” Volpe adds, “these problems are easily preventable.” While price is an important consideration, don’t make it the deciding factor when purchasing a shoe.

Bremner says, “Parents often think that good shoes aren’t worth spending money on because children’s feet grow so quickly.”

“Try to find the best quality shoes possible as they offer better cushioning, support and protection, which are essential,” says Volpe. “Cheap, poorly made shoes are often lacking the proper support and flexibility necessary to sustain the extreme activity of an active child.”

Suggestions when buying new shoes for your child.

  • Check for proper length, width, depth. Check the fit of the shoe with the child standing. Make sure there is approximately a thumb’s width distance between the end of the longest toe and the toe box, and room the size of a pencil between the top of the heel of the shoe and the foot.
  • Make sure there is minimal up and down slippage on the heel area.
  • Find shoes with flexible soles, not rigid ones.
  • Ensure that the shoe can “breathe.” Recommended shoe materials include leather, canvas or newer mesh materials while synthetics such as plastic for the upper are not.
  • Try to understand what kind of foot your child has. Take a look at their old shoes—do you notice that certain areas are more worn out than others? Wear on the medial (or outside) side of the heels suggests “rolling in of the ankles and a consultation with a foot specialist for possible shoe inserts or orthotics is recommended.  Children with signs of medial wear or wearing of the upper part of the shoe inward slightly off the sole area should be in shoes with stiffer back and sides. High-tops may help as well.
  • Each child creates individualized wear patterns in a shoe and inappropriate use of another child’s shoe can place undue stress on a child’s feet so hand me down shoes aren't recommended.
  • Measure your child’s feet often. Children's feet grow in spurts and they will require a size change in their footwear every three to four months.
  • Flip-flops, Crocs or sandals for sports use or heavy play activities. These shoes are fine for a day at the beach of a visit to the pool but they are not adequate or protective enough for even moderate physical activity.

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Rack Room Shoes is a member of the Deichmann Shoe Group, the largest privately owned shoe retailer in the world. Rack Room Shoes operates more than 378 stores in 26 states.  Rack Room carries a broad assortment of brand name and private label shoes for men, women, and children. Visit the company’s website at www.rackroomshoes.com for more information, store locations, and current special promotions. 

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