Your child's shoes should fit properly for both comfort and safety.

What Happens When Children Wear Shoes That Are Too Big?

by Sheryl Faber

Budget-savvy parents sometimes attempt look ahead and purchase shoes that are just a little too big for their children so the kiddos can wear them longer. This will likely backfire, as the problems associated with wearing footwear that is too large can be more troublesome or even unsafe than what the small savings are worth. Plus, the sound of too-large shoes slapping on your hard floors may be enough to drive you absolutely crazy.

1. Safety

The first and most important issue of your toddler or preschooler wearing too-large shoes is that if shoes are too large for a child's growing feet, they may be unsafe. When your youngster first begins wearing the shoes, the extra length of the footwear that he is not used to is enough to plunge him headlong down the stairs or flat on his face on uneven floor surfaces. Even as he continues to wear them, the looseness of the shoes can cause him to stumble and fall. Kristi Hayes, pedorthist and president of the Pedorthic Footwear Association, states, "I have seen parents who buy shoes way too big to allow for growth, which is equally bad as the kids struggle to keep them on, or shear back and forth in the footwear.”

2. Friction

Too-large shoes can also cause blisters, callouses and corns to form, especially on the tender heels of your child. The constant rubbing of the back of the shoe against delicate skin can be painful and annoying. These afflictions will form and, if the situation is not remedied, the area may become infected. Too-large shoes will also affect your little one's ability to grip surfaces with his feet, and he may be unable to climb and play like his friends and playmates.

3. Other Foot Problems

Be aware that one foot is often bigger than the other. If this occurs, always go with the shoe size that accommodates the larger foot. Dr. Dananberg, a Bedford, New Hampshire, podiatrist featured in "Podiatry Today" magazine advises, "“Measuring of feet can be helpful, but I caution patients that fit of shoes varies from company to company. There is value in understanding which of the two feet are larger, and then this is the shoe that needs to be fit via size.” Some parents, when it is difficult to locate wider shoes, will go with a longer shoe length. According to Dr. Sol, founder of the Walking Clinic and a practicing podiatrist in Colorado Springs, Colorado, “The blunder occurs when we ask for a half-size larger shoe just to get a little extra width. This moves the flex line of the shoe away from the flex line of the foot.”

4. Prevention

To prevent foot problems in the future, follow some simple rules. Don't allow your children to wear hand-me-downs -- the older shoes will have conformed to the feet of another child and will not be a good fit for the next one in line. Don't buy children's shoes online, unless you are very familiar with the brand sizing. Always take your children with you when you are prepared to buy shoes for them. Donna Boland, CPed, who works for Brown's Enterprises in Washington, Missouri, agrees. "We always recommend that when a parent comes in and says ‘I’m looking for shoes for my child’ that it’s best to bring in the kids,” Boland advises, continuing, “If not, bring us a tracing of the child’s feet so that we can get a better idea of what we’re looking for and measure the tracing. We also take the thickness of the foot into consideration when we do the fitting.”

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