Healthy Footwear

Barefoot people have the healthiest feet, but children do need some protection to keep out the cold and ward off injuries. A child needs a flexible, soft shoe that allows freedom for the feet to develop normally. Fashion is not nearly as important as healthy feet, so parents should make sure a child's shoes meet the following guidelines:

• Good fit It is better for a shoe to be too large rather than too small. Shoes should be bought at least a half-inch longer than the child's feet, because children's feet grow quickly and because the toes need enough room to move.

• Flexibility Shoes with soles that are too stiff limit movement, which is necessary to develop strong legs, ankles, and feet.

• Protection A child's foot needs to be safe from cold and sharp objects, yet still move freely.

• Good soles A flat, rubber sole wears well and may prevent falls.

• Soft material Shoes should be made of soft materials that can "breathe," such as leather and canvas. This is especially important in hot weather.

• Avoid Shoes with pointed toes and heels over 3/8" high are poor choices. (See also bowed legs; pigeon toe; toe-walking; knock-knees.)

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