Already since the first steps (and in some cases already sooner) the correct development of the foot is positively but also negatively affected by the chosen footwear. You can buy on our market products in big range of colors, materials, design, but for the purpose of this article, we will evaluate the most important thing - quality and the effect of the shoe on the healthy foot development of the child. Very high percentage of shoes available in the czech market for children from 1 years to the school age do not respect the need for the foot to grow. In case of youth and adults, the anatomical shape of the foot is often not respected.
PRICE VERSUS QUALITY
Fortunately today it is possible to find such producers who are focusing with their production philosophy on the production of high quality children’s shoes. Production in these companies does not blindly focus on the lowest possible price as it is a case for example in China, and ignoring the basic physiology and anatomy of the foot in the time of growth. These producers have a goal to offer a „healthy footwear” and very high level of quality of used materials.
HOW TO ORIENT IN THE QUALITY OF THE SHOES?
Unfortunately, for people without specialized knowledge it is not easy at all. Some shoes fulfill the needs for a healthy growth of the toes and the metatarsal bones, as well as correct position of the axis of the heel bone, position of the small bones of the foot and general position of the foot compared to the calf. But how to distinguish them from the rest of the products, which could harm the developing foot of your child?
HOW TO DO DISTINGUISH HARMLESS SHOE?
When choosing the ideal footwear, search for shoe that have been tested to be harmless. Shoes that have gone through certified procedure and meet the needs of the orthopedic and hygienic requirements and are safe for usage, they will receive a certificate of being sanitarily suitable by the Czech Footwear and Leather Association. In the store you will easily identify such shoe - it is labeled with a tag and a picture of a giraffe with inscription „sanitary shoes - shoes for your child”.
Unsuitable shoes for preschoolers
Definitely do not choose shoes like moccasins or slippers. Children in a preschool age should definitely wear boots, or any shoes that are higher to the ankles, and are firm in the heel area, and at the same time shoe that can be tightened in the instep and heel area.
- Firmness/flexibility of the outsole has an effect on the unfolding of the foot.
- Practical test of the shoe quality: if you take a shoe into your hand by the toe and heel, it should easily bend in the area of the metatarsal bones (simply said in the area where you bend your foot). At the same time, the shoe should be flexible in the longitudinal axis, as if you would want to twist it into a spiral. When walking we most often hit the ground with the heel first, then outer edge of the foot and the big toe is the last part to touch the ground. The shoe should be therefore with its flexibility support this function of the foot.
- Chosen production materials should be permeable.
The most ideal is therefore textile (sneakers etc.) and leather. If you buy your child shoes that are less permeable, the foot will start to sweat and there are risks of dermatological problems (skin fungus, callus…).
- Choose an ideal cut of the shoes.
The shoe should definitely have a wider toe area in order to have sufficient space for toes and metatarsal bones. If you buy shoes with narrow toe space, the toe will be pressed to the other toes. That will affect the growth of the toe bones and metatarsal bones.
- The weight of the shoe should be as low as possible.
- Each shoe should support also the foot arches.
It is distinguishable as a smaller cushion on the side of the big toe, approximately in the middle of the insole. Generally the insole should be soft and from absorptive material. Optimal material is for example cotton.
Practical test of shoe quality: if you reach inside the shoe, more specifically into the toe area, the space for the toes should be flat or slightly elevated. The inner space of the shoe has unambiguous effect on the development of the children’s foot shape.
- It is ideal to search for shoes with firm heel produced for children in preschool age. Unfortunately some products intended for children in a preschool age do not have firm heel, even though such shoes are small.
Firm heel has an effect on the position of the heel bones.
- The heel should be as low as possible.
Straight outsole is the best.
- The options of fastening the shoes to the foot are various.
The most ideal are laces, velcro, or buckles. In any case, chose shoes where is the option of fastening them. Such shoe will hold onto the foot much firmly, it won’t slide or move in any way.
If the seller wants to measure your child’s foot, while you hold the child in your arms or while sitting, it is a warning signal for you, that this seller is not very well trained in choosing the correct shoe for children and the ideal size.
MEASURING THE SIZE OF THE SHOE
As soon as you enter into the shoe store, ask for foot measuring device, with which you can measure the foot of the child.
Practical advice: we recommend to measure the foot without a sock on, with maximal transfer of the weight on the foot. That way you can check that the child does not bend the toes and at the same time when the foot gets burdened, it get slightly bigger and you have the certainty that you are buying shoe with a correct size.
Measuring devices: each shoe store should have several measuring devices from different producers, some measuring devices do not only measure the length of the foot, but also the width. If you measure your child to have too narrow foot with low instep, it is a question whether you will find also ideal shoe responding to the length of the foot. The producers usually sew only one model of shoe as universal. Therefore if your child has a narrow and long foot, we recommend to buy shoes, which can be easily fastened to the instep. For example sandals with two straps or shoes with laces are ideal. Velcro shoes are easy for the child to learn to control, however such fastening cannot sufficiently fasten the shoe to the foot.
How to measure feet at home and how to verify the correct size of the inside of the shoe
Practical advice: on our market are already for several months freely available measuring devices, these devices can easily measure the foot of your child. The device has usually an extending part with specification in centimeters. At the same time it automatically measures the space which the foot should have inside the shoe, so that the toes would not be pressed.
This excessive space also counts with the growth of the foot in the length. In this case the additional space should be around 12 mm. After measuring the size of the foot, choose the shoe according to the measured size. Manipulation with the measuring device is very simple. We recommend to use it for selection of all shoe sizes for your child.
We often meet with the advice that if the foot of the child is completely stuffed into the shoe (we assume that you do not see into the toe space of the shoe, to see how much space the toes of the child have) and if you are able to place your finger between the heel and the shoe, the size of the shoe is correct. I would say that this is a big mistake. You may place your finger between the heel and the shoe, but you do not see whether the child does not bend the toes, which may end up with you buying too small shoes.
HOW TO CHOOSE THE SLIPPERS?
If you choose slippers for your child to walk in them in school, keep in mind that the instep should be fastened by at least 2 to 3 three straps. It is optimal if the slippers are secured with additional strap on the heel. If the slippers do not hold firmly onto the foot by themselves, it increases the activity of the short muscles on the side of the foot, as if the toes would try to hold onto the shoe itself. When wearing such shoes for longer period of time, it leads to functional shortening of the muscles and formation of orthopedic defects such as „hammer toes”.
HOW TO CHOOSE WELLINGTON BOOTS?
Choosing wellington boots is a chapter on its own, or more specifically the material used for production is. Some wellingtons of a lower quality do not have the inner space sufficiently isolated with cotton layer. When wearing such boot, the foot starts to sweat, and the sweat is not drained into the insole of the boot. PVC from which the boots are made of gets through the sweat into the body of the child. When choosing the wellington boots, closely check whether the boot has cotton cloth in the inside. Products of higher quality have the inner cotton layer removable, so that it can be easily dried.
From the above mentioned results that when choosing the shoes for children, we should not only look on the price and attractive appearance, but especially on the quality of the cut and used materials. It is necessary to realize that what we ruin by our children in their childhood, it is very likely that it would be very difficult to recover it back to normal condition in later age. The feet will carry your children for the rest of their lives,therefore we should start with the correct shoes already since the very beginning when your child will start to walk.
Published in magazine Uzlíček, no: 4/2007
Author: Mgr. Iva Bílková, FYZIOklinika fyzioterapie Ltd, Prague, Czech Republic