Why proper footwear is critical for happy, healthy kids

Expert advice to understand the best shoe for your age and stage

Runners aren’t the only ones who need quality footwear appropriate to their activity. As children and teens grow – sometimes rapidly – the right shoes support healthy development of bones, joints and muscles, and give them the tools to pursue the activities they enjoy.

Here’s what you – and they – need to know about their shoes.

The right shoe for age and development

Growth spurts mean children and teens will outgrow some shoes quickly and wear others longer than expected, says Andy Ronald, owner of Courtenay’s Extreme Runners. But because growth – even rapid growth – happens gradually, they may not realize their shoes no longer fit, and neither will parents.

Children’s shoes are typically less expensive than adults,’ but choosing the shoe that provides the right support for their developmental stage is key.

Low-quality children’s shoes tend to be rigid and inflexible … at the exact time their muscles require more flexibility for proper development, explains Andy, who also worked for many years in orthotics.

Conversely, lower-quality shoes for older teens and adults tend to be extremely flimsy, at the very time they need support.

The right shoe for your foot

All shoes are not created equal. Length, width and support vary between brand and shoe, which makes a proper fitting vital.

“If you’re measuring your child’s feet at the store and their toe is on the size 6 line, their toe will touch the end of a size 6 shoe. They’ll need a size 6 ½ or 7,” Andy explains. “I recommend a finger’s width of space in the shoe but make sure the laces are securing your foot into the heelcup so the finger’s width is at the front end of the shoe. The best way to achieve that is to tap your foot into the heel before you lace up.”

The way our bodies move, or biomechanics, also determines the right shoe. Extreme Runners’ free gait analysis helps determine issues such as overpronation, where the foot rolls inward, which in a shoe without the right support can cause issues like knee pain.

The right shoe for the situation

OK, even flip-flops popular among teens are fine for a short walk to the sand. Problems arise when they’re worn for hours on end. “If you can twist the shoes, they’re not giving any support,” Andy says. “Choose your footwear based on what you’re going to do for the day.”

Similarly, while many skate shoes are fine for daily wear, they won’t provide the stability and flexibility for sports. “When you get into gym class, you need a shoe that’s going to perform.”

And for more serious athletes, a better-quality shoe, selected for their sport, will help them get the performance they need.

“It’s important to have those discussions when shopping, to ensure you get the right shoe for both your feet and your activity.”

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Extreme Runners serves walkers, runners and other fitness enthusiasts in downtown Courtenay.

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