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If the Shoe Fits...
Choosing the Correct 'Back to School" Shoe

Kids shoes & sneakersShopping for new school shoes is a chore that parents everywhere share when they are preparing their children to go back to school.

Many remember their own new first day of school shoes and school shopping, in particular shoe shopping, and the wonder of a pair of brand new sneakers. Somehow, the experience is very different when, as a parent, you need to worry about size and budget instead of style and color!

"All parents face the same challenges when shopping for shoes for their kids," said John Haugh, chief marketing officer and senior vice president of business development for Payless ShoeSource, Inc.

Are the shoes made with quality materials?

Do they fit well?

Do the kids want to wear them?

Does the store carry a good selection?

Will the right shoes be in stock?

Sorting out the shoe confusion

It's no surprise that kids want to be like other kids and wear what their friends are wearing. Even in preschool, style is important. Still, from mom and dad's point of view, there is more to shoes than looking good. Podiatrists at Boston Medical Center offer the following tips to take some of the confusion out of this important purchase.

"Shoes need to be flexible and be able to sustain extreme activity. They should also provide support and cushioning and be breathable to allow body heat and moisture to escape," said Geoffrey Habershaw, DPM, clinical director, Foot Specialist, Boston Medical Center (BMC).

"However, a bad fit can negate all the benefits of a good shoe, finding the right size is essential," he stressed. A foot can be sized with either a Brannick or Ritz-Stick measure which are available at many shoe stores.

"A good fit will allow about a half-inch of space in the width and length of the shoe."

Since shoe sizes tend to vary by manufacturer, Habershaw advises that an accurate fit can only be assured once the foot is inside the shoe. A good fit will allow about a half-inch of space in the width and length of the shoe.

A tip for making sure that the shoe size fits- measure the distance between the second toe and the end of the shoe. The second toe is usually the longest. One mom also recommends placing the child's foot securely at the back of the shoe. Her young daughter would move her foot inside the shoe to make it look like it fit - to get the pair she liked best - regardless of the fit!

Have your child walk around in the shoes to make sure that they don't hit the ankle bones or have seams that rub against the foot. A hint for those with hard to fit feet is buying some instant shoe stretching liquid. Most shoe stores and shoe makers have it in stock. Apply it to the shoe while it's being worn and the leather shapes to the foot.

Though it may seem children quickly outgrow their shoes, Habershaw cautions against buying shoes that are too big. "A loose fit can cause painful calluses and sores by allowing too much movement in the shoe," he added. On the other hand, shoes that are too small can cause an abnormal gait that can misalign growing bones in the feet.

Payless advises that because children's feet grow so rapidly -- often as much as two to three sizes in a year -- the medical community recommends shoe fittings for children every three months, beginning at about 12 months of age.

It may be time to get a new pair of shoes if your child begins to complain about shoes that are uncomfortable, but beware... trend conscious youngsters have been known to "need" new shoes because of what the others kids are wearing. Shoes can put a dent in any household budget, so make sure that the shoes fit when you buy them and before you buy a bigger pair of shoes, check the size with a professional measure.

If your budget allows, Habershaw recommends getting your child a second pair of shoes and rotating them every day. If you can't manage a second pair of shoes or sneakers at the start of school, try to pick up a second pair within a few weeks. "Doing this will allow your shoes to last as long as three pairs," he added.

About The Author... The Editorial Staff

Sources... Boston University News Release, Payless ShoeSource News Release

More about buying back to school shoes around the Web:

Essential Tips for Kids' Shoe Shopping

Finding Back to School Shoes That Fit

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