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September CONSULT

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Proper shoes among essential gear for successful school year

Published on Sunday, September 1, 2019

By: Annie Oeth,

Foot pain, blisters and other ailments are signs that your child’s shoes aren’t fitting properly, don’t provide proper support and could be causing damage to growing feet, Children’s of Mississippi orthopaedic experts say.

Portrait of Khristinn Leitch

“The best way to avoid foot pain and other orthopaedic problems later is to wear the proper shoes now,” said Dr. Kellie Leitch, chief of pediatric orthopaedic surgery at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The best shoe for your child depends on what type of foot your child has, said Dr. Jaysson Brooks, a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon.

“Do they have a flat foot with nearly no arch? Usually kids with severe flat feet walk on the inside of their feet, and their school shoes will show increased wear on the inside of their shoes,” Brooks said. “Does your child have a high arch? Often kids with these type of feet show increased wear on the outside of their shoes.”

No matter what type of foot your child has, fit is important, Brooks said.

“Buy shoes that hug your child’s feet, which will give them the support they need.”

Portrait of Jaysson Brooks

The smart move is to get the “Goldilocks” shoe with a fit that’s not too small, not too big, but just right. The American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons recommends having about a finger’s width between the end of the shoe and the big toe.

The toe box of the shoe should flex easily, but the shoe shouldn’t bend in the middle of the sole.

Metro-area school districts require shoes to be worn at all times, and no roller shoes of any type are permitted. That leaves plenty of choices for students and their families.

While Brooks doesn’t lend his endorsement to any shoe brands, he does cite several as bad choices.

“Some types of shoes are traditionally terrible for supporting a child’s foot,” he said.

Flip-flops, plastic Crocs and Ugg-style boots are the most frequent offenders, Brooks said. He’s not alone with his concern.

“Flip-flops are not even good for walking on the beach,” said Leitch. “They don’t have any support for the heel and ankle.”

With Croc-style plastic clogs, the problems come with physical activity in a shoe with little support. Repeated wear of Uggs and similar flat-soled boots can result in fallen arches, although this can be avoided by adding an orthotic insert.

Shoes do wear out, so the start of school is a good time to inspect footwear for cushioning and arch support. According to foot and ankle surgeons, worn-out shoes increase the risk of heel pain, Achilles tendonitis and stress fractures. Any shoes with wear and tear around the soles should go.

“Pain is not normal,” said Leitch. “Students who have foot pain on a daily basis should see their primary care provider for possible pediatric orthopaedic referral.” 

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