Choosing the correct sports shoe

What should the runners of tomorrow be wearing on their feet? The children’s shoe market is a multi-million-pound industry, yet many experts believe that the majority of these shoes are bad for kids’ feet – which can lead to serious problems down the road.

Any good lifestyle shoe for kids – and, indeed, adults – should satisfy three criteria.

  • It should be flexible: you should be able to fold it in half.
  • It should have a wide toe box, rather than a tapered one like most shoes, so your toes can splay.
  • It should be lightweight, unlike lots of children’s shoes, which can weigh about 10 per cent of their body weight.’

A heavy, bulky shoe can often cause children to fall more regularly, as it dampens their proprioception [the sense we have of our body in relation to the space around us].

Most kids in the Western world enter adulthood with extremely weak, deformed feet, mainly as a result of the footwear they’ve been wearing.

The human foot at birth is not a miniature version of an adult foot. Not all of the foot bones are formed at birth, and many are made of tough but flexible cartilage. Over several years, this cartilage ossifies to become the 26 bones that comprise the adult foot. Therefore, it’s crucial that footwear is well chosen during the time the foot is developing.

You want to allow a kid’s foot to develop naturally. A kid’s foot is not fully formed until their teenage years. The bones take a long time to calcify, so it’s extremely malleable. Yet 90 per cent of kids are putting their feet into a non-foot-shaped shoes from a very early age.

The consequences of wearing ill-fitting shoes are issues such as hammer toes and tailor’s bunion (which forms on the outside of the little toe). These, in turn, can often lead to problems such as callouses and corns. At that point, finding shoes that are comfortable can be a challenge. So it’s better to prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.

The big toe, four times thicker and stronger than its smaller counterparts, is the star of any healthy foot. Your big toe is designed to be your pivot and anchor. If a kid is spending most of the day running around with their big toe being pushed against their other toes, and being pushed up into the air so that they can’t properly use it, it gets weak. And you pay for it up the kinetic chain – whether that’s your calf, hip or lower back.

So, what should a healthy foot look like and be able to do? We’re looking for feet that can move in all directions and toes that can splay. says Byrne. It should be possible to wiggle individual toes, the same way we can wiggle individual fingers, although that sounds like Ninja-level toe skills.

Other than choice of footwear, what can foot-conscious parents do to ensure their kids’ feet are developing in the best way? Encourage parents to keep their children in bare feet as much as possible especially indoors. That includes in the buggy – if you take off their shoes while they’re in it, you’ll see they’re often wiggling their toes, practising using these muscles. But it’s also about encouraging as much movement as possible – running, climbing, just being kids.

Also, think about their other clothing. Making these items as unrestrictive as possible is important. I always counsel against baby grows or onesies, which can shrink and then pull babies’ toes upwards at an unnatural angle. If you are going to use one, think about cutting it off at the ankles.


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