Are Your Child’s Feet Ready to Go Back to School?
Hear those bells ringing?
Monday was the first day of school for thousands of kids in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, which serves the area around our office in Mission Viejo. Kids in Irvine have been going since last week Thursday.
All around Orange County, kids are filing into classrooms, cracking the books, packing the playgrounds at recess, and trying out for their fall sports teams—football, cross country, volleyball, tennis, field hockey and more.
No doubt you’ve gotten your little ones all the pencils and pens, trapper keepers, and other basic school supplies they need to succeed.
But what about their feet?
This fall, take a little time to make sure your child is well prepared to handle the challenges a new school year will place on their lower limbs.
Does the Shoe Fit?
It’s important to keep an eye on how your child’s shoes are fitting and make sure you replace them before they get too tight. Poorly fitting shoes can cause pain, blisters, or ingrown nails (to mention just a few examples), and may also increase the likelihood that your child will develop deformities or abnormalities in their feet and gait later in life.
That said, finding shoes that fit your little guy can be a challenge! Depending on their age and when they hit their growth spurts, children can outgrow their old shoes as often as 3-4 times per year. We feel your pain, but this isn’t something you can ignore
Signs that your child needs new shoes include:
- The toes are hitting the front of the shoes. (Ideally here should be about half an inch or so of space in front of the longest toe.)
- The shoes are beginning to bulge at the sides.
- Your child’s foot appears red or swollen.
- Your child complains of pain. (This is not always a reliable indicator for children under age 5 or so, since the nerve endings in their feet may not have developed enough to feel pain from a tight shoe.)
- Your child constantly pulls his or her shoes off at every opportunity.
Get the Right Sports Gear
Middle and high schoolers across the area are getting back into their fall school sports seasons. Sports have many benefits, of course, including improving physical fitness, developing teamwork skills, and learning how to win (or lose) with grace. But training and playing can also lead to accidental injuries.
One of the best ways to protect your child’s feet and ankles from sports injuries is ensuring they have all the proper safety gear they need. And that very much includes their shoes or cleats, as well.
Kids who play organized sports should have footwear specific to those sports. Don’t assume that the same pair of everyday athletic shoes can be used for basketball, running, tennis, golf, or whatever it is your child plays.
Different sports place different kinds of stresses on different areas of the feet and ankles, so you child needs to have shoes that offer the specific kind of shock absorption, stability, and protection that his or her sport requires.
Shoe Shopping Tips
When your little ones outgrow their footwear, here’s how to replace them:
- Don’t use hand-me-downs or buy used shoes. They save money up front, sure—but they can hurt your child’s feet. A used shoe may have worn out its shock absorption ability, and is already “molded” to another set of feet. This can create painful pressure points and even blisters.
- Always take your child shopping with you. Let them participate in the shoe-buying process.
- Always measure both of your child’s feet at the shoe store.
- Let your child walk in the shoes before you buy them. They should feel comfortable right away, and not too big or too small. Do not expect a child’s shoes to “break in”—they won’t.
Don’t Ignore the Signs of Pain
Pain is, obviously, never a good sign. But far too often, those signs go unnoticed, or aren’t acted upon. Kids may be told by their parents or coaches to “walk it off” even though they really need professional care. Or they may not tell the adults about their pain at all, afraid that it’ll mean the end of their playtime or sports season.
If your child does mention that their feet or heels are hurting after play or a long day at school, take them seriously—especially if it seems to be a pattern. Overuse injuries in kids, such as Sever’s disease, are usually fairly simple to treat, but can develop into much more significant problems over time if not addressed.
Also, take note whether your child is showing any of the following signs:
- Suddenly losing interest in physical activities they used to enjoy
- Limping or walking gingerly
- Not being able to keep up with their friends during play
- Frequently asking to be carried
Although these examples aren’t a guarantee that your child is experiencing foot pain, they should trigger some follow-up questions for your child, and continued observation.
If your child is in pain or shows any signs of discomfort or deformity with his or her feet or ankles, please take them in to see the caring children’s foot care experts at Southern California Foot & Ankle Specialists.
You can schedule by calling (949) 364-9255.