'Tis the season for flip-flops, sandals, and other warm-weather shoes. But this summer, keep a check on your child's feet, and make sure your children are outfitted with proper gear for safety, comfort, and good foot health.
1. Start young.
Physicians and foot experts have recommendations even for even the littlest of feet. When crawlers become walkers, it is time to put them in a good pair of shoes, though not shoes that are too supportive, points out Kuanyan Huang, a California-based physical therapist.
"Children's feet at this stage are still developing in strength and flexibility, so walking on sand and grass (with supervision) is good for them."
How well the shoe fits, and not necessarily increased cost, is most important when purchasing shoes for your new little walker. WebMD has a list of suggestions for parents to consider, including open toed vs. closed shoes, new vs. used, and sneakers vs. boots.
2. Be aware of safety concerns with open-toed shoes.
Will children live if they wear flip-flops and crocs? Probably. But with all the running, jumping, and creek-wading, unprotected feet are more likely to get stubbed, scratched, and bruised, and yes, sunburned.
3. Match the shoe with the sport.
T-ball, baseball, soccer, basketball, tennis: sports camps, team games, and pre-season practice are examples of activities where the right pair of shoes is especially important. For guidelines on the kind of shoes children need for certain sports, check out Sport-Specific Footwear Give Kids a Boost from The American Podiatric Medical Association. Huang advises parents to put function before fashion, and take into consideration both the type of sport or activity, and also where children will be playing.
"First consider what the shoes are going to be used for, and what surfaces they will be used on, such as sand, concrete, or grass."
4. Ensure a proper fit.
Make sure to take into account several factors including: wiggle room, how your child walks in the shoes, materials used to make the shoe. Huang suggests parents have children's feet measured at a shoe store for both length and width.
5. Don't forget shoes for water play.
Wading in the creek? Canoeing down the river? These popular warm-weather activities call for shoes that can get wet while protecting feet from unnecessary cuts and bruises. Check out your favorite shoe shop for recommendations on shoes that can take the heat and the wet.
6. Model (as always) proper shoes yourself.
No flip-flops while bike-riding with the kiddos, and for goodness' sake, don't hike in heels. Shoe companies are now striving to make ergonomically-designed shoes that help protect knees and joints and lower impact while walking. Make sure your shoes are comfortable and provide enough stability to keep up with your children — regardless of the activity.