Monday, 28 September 2015

What and When? - Understanding Shoes

Shoes for kids are really tricky business. When they are super small, they are more than a fashion accessory than anything, and then one day you wake up and boom – they own more than you do! I’m a girl who loves her footwear, and choosing a cute pair that goes with an outfit can sometimes be more fashion than function for adults. Not so with kids! You have to really consider what they will be using those babies for before dishing out the big bucks. Don’t forget, they won’t last long on those growing feet!

Since there’s been a steep learning curve in my own understanding of children’s shoes, I thought I’d put together the information I’ve acquired so far, along with some theories to consider, about age appropriate shoes for your little mover. I've spoken with shoe fitters, pedorthists, and even read a little on anatomy to learn all I could about those all important piggies!

What: Robees, Moccasins, and Slipper-like Shoes

When:  Your baby is not very mobile, or for travel

For babies that are not yet walking, this is the ideal footwear in my opinion. While you mostly won’t need shoes for the most part, they are fashionable, and serve some other purposes; keeping your little one’s feet warm, protection while crawling and playing, comfort for long car or plane rides, or just aiding you in keeping those socks in place! Look for a brand that has some stretch to allow for growth, but nothing so large as to trip them up. These shoes usually come in month ranges to give you a guideline, but they were never accurate for my tall boy. Try them on your baby if you can, or buy big. They will continue to grow!

What: Sneakers and Sandals

When: Your baby is toddling and needs a more sturdy surface

Walkers will need a functional pair of daily shoes (or a couple), just as you would. There are tons of cute bows and action heros to consider now, so the shelves at your local big box store can be a little overwhelming. Shoes mostly come in single digit sizes now, and it's difficult to know what that number represents. Infant sizes are usually 4 and under, while 5-8 are meant for toddlers. Shoes then go 9-13, before going in to adult sizes. 

For these shoes, fit is very important to avoid tripping or hindering their walking development. Ideally, you will want to try these on your child. Make sure they are easy to slip on, with a sturdy closure. This is more for your benefit than theirs, since it’s you that will be taking them on and off. If your little one won’t stand for it, trace their foot on to a piece of paper before you leave, so you at least pick the right size! 

Sandals are great for summer, but not the best for the inexperienced. They should have a strap behind the ankle, as well as over the top of the foot unless your child is a very experienced walker. Even then, flip flops are better for the beach. Be sure to still give your baby lots of barefoot walking time, when possible. It helps them with balance and stability to be more connected to the floor!

What: Rain and Winter Boots

When: Weather requires it (or for super cute photoshoots!)

Despite kids seeming to downright love boots, they impact their natural range of motion when they don’t fit correctly. For younger babies, something with a strap to tighten might help to hold their feet in place, as well as allow for some room for rapid growth spurts! Toddlers need a strong base, and good control. Stay away from products with removable insoles at this stage. School aged children who will be putting on their own boots might benefit from a style that includes a tab or handles like these! Look for ones that dry easily, and have good insulation. The same principles apply to the sizing of things like snowboard/ski boots and ice skates. Support and comfort are important. Make sure little toes don't get crunched up it at the front, but don't leave too much room to grow either. 

If you're still concerned about shoe sizing and how your child walks, a professional sizer at a reputable store can help you pick out something. A foot doctor, such as a podiatrist or a chiropodist, can also help if you're worried about your child's gait, or they are experiencing a lot of pain. Beware of locations looking to sell orthotics and custom insole products: children's feet grow quickly, and their bones don't form fully until they are in their teens. I had two separate location tell me they only sell inserts to people with good insurance. Sounds like a bit of a scam to me...

Don't forget, little feet grow fast, so shoes are almost always outgrown before they're worn out! Second hand stores, mom swaps, and auctions are a great place to score a deal on footwear in perfect condition! Sell the ones your little one has outgrown to offset the cost even more!

Do you find shoe shopping overwhelming? What brands do you like? 
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