We put on our shoes every morning without a second thought but for toddlers and children, shoes play a big role in their development. Dr Stef Penkala, Advisor for Podiatric Medicine at the University of Western Sydney explains how to get off on the right foot, when it comes to shoes for little ones.
“Essentially, shoes are for protection from the environment” says Dr Penkala. “There is no designated age when a child should start to wear them”. For young children especially, it’s best to balance the time they spend with shoes on and off. “Allowing children to go barefoot in safe environments helps the foot to develop around different surfaces, assisting with balance and strengthening muscles”.
There’s no doubt fashion plays a big role in shoe choices – even for kids! But with developing feet, Dr Penkala says you don’t want to fall slave to the trends. “Some shoes can restrict the normal function of the foot. Shoes need to fit the child’s foot appropriately with room for the toes; normally up to one centimetre”. For little feet especially, shoes need to be soft.
A professional fitting is the best way to make sure your children are always wearing shoes that fit. Every three to four months is best for toddlers and about twice a year for school aged children.
Sometimes, when children become inactive or withdraw, Dr Penkala says it could be their shoes. “If your child walks more awkwardly in shoes than when barefoot, you may like to seek advice from a podiatrist, other health care worker or a trained footwear fitter”.