Happy feet: Tips for back-to-school shoe shopping

If you’re back-to-school shoe shopping, you may be surprised to hear the advice from foot experts. They say you should “think big” when it comes to little feet, and if you think you know how to tie a shoe, a lesson from a local doctor may throw you for a loop.

“We worry about kids a bit little more in terms of  as they’re growing, that more force is across the growth plates —  the area where the foot grows — the muscles around the foot can strengthen at a level faster than the growth plates are sort of closing, and then you can get injuries,” said Dr. Jeffrey Baker, a podiatrist at Weil Foot & Ankle Institute.

The first step in keeping kids’ feet healthy: take the time to have a proper fitting.

“The time that it takes to get a proper shoe for the proper foot type decreases their chance for injury, and if you are in the proper shoe it can make that shoe last longer,” Baker said.

“There are different levels of deformity that may be within the foot in terms of high arch, flat foot or a neutral foot, and those feet deserve different shoes.” Baker said. “It’s really going through a fit process at a reputable store where they go through a process with the child to make sure they are in the right shoe.”

And the right shoe is one that leaves a little extra space to grow.

“The first thing parents are always going to worry about is buying the shoe and then having to keep buying shoes over and over again,” Baker said. “You want a little bit of room to not only let the child’s foot grow — so shoes can last a bit longer — but also prevent injury around the toe area.”

The extra room up front may cause the heel to slip out the back, but the proper tying technique will keep it in.

“How you lace the shoe can hold the foot in the shoe better,” Baker said.

It’s a simple lesson Baker says kids and adults should learn.

The same rules apply for dress shoes: proper fit and support are critical. And beware of going barefoot — always make sure your children are wearing proper foot wear when riding a bike or playing outside.

This report was shot at New Balance Chicago in Lincoln Park.

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