Courtney's Corner Physical Therapy

Courtney’s Corner: Back to School Shoe Shopping

As the kids head back to school, new shoes often top the shopping list. With the cost of new shoes sometimes reaching upwards of $100, we want to pass on some basics regarding shoe selection from a physical therapist’s perspective.
First, shoes for early walkers are primarily for protection. Shoes are not required to learn to walk nor are they needed to form an arch. Actually, time spent walking without shoes is far more important for balance, strength and development of the feet.
As children become more adept walkers, shoes become primarily a fashion statement. The most important thing to remember is to buy shoes that are economical enough to throw them out as soon as they are outgrown. A properly sized shoe is far more important than a “supportive” shoe or a trendy shoe. For the 2-3 year old child, shoes do not need large arch supports, as the arch isn’t developed yet. Since the arch is not yet developed, most toddlers have a wide foot. With this in mind, most toddler-sized shoes are already wide.
If your child does seem to have a very wide foot, discount shoe stores generally have wider shoes available (and at a bargain price!). If your child seems to have a very flat foot, discuss it with your physician and consider having their feet evaluated by a physical therapist. Excessively flat feet can cause long term hip and knee pain. Some children with NF1 also develop a “progressive flat foot” which can require surgery. Shoe orthotics can help align the foot properly, hopefully decreasing the risk of pain in the teen and adult years.
Having a pair of sturdy tennis shoes is a must. While trendy, flip-flops, clogs and loose fitting sandals are a trip-and-fall hazard. Tennis shoes with snuggly tied laces or Velcro straps provide additional stability when playing soccer, riding a bicycle or chasing a Frisbee.