It’s always shoe ’o clock somewhere
It only sounds like shoe shopping for your toddler is fun – in reality there are a host of things to bear in mind, writes Yashmitha Padayachee.
For many of us, buying a new pair of shoes is an indulgence, a professing of self-love, or a little ‘go on, you deserve it’ treat. Flip that coin and you will find yourself with the daunting task of buying shoes for your toddler, because not only do we need pink shoes that are ‘fancy’ (which loosely translates into bling, glitter, rhinestones, sparkles, etc.), but we also need something comfortable and supportive that won’t hurt or damage their little feet.
Here are some key considerations when embarking on a shoe mission for your toddler.
So many shoes … so little time
A common misconception is that the introduction of shoes will direct the development of the child’s foot muscles and bone. In most situations this is not the case, and your child’s legs and feet will develop at their own pace.
If they’re not yet walking, shoes are more an aesthetic accessory than a necessity. Once your little one starts walking, shoes are helpful in preventing injury. A toddler’s foot can grow up to a size and a half every three months, and from the age of three, an average of a size a year, so there will be plenty of shoe buying in your foreseeable future.
When considering a shoe, an important feature to bear in mind is the way the shoe will be secured to your child’s foot. The choice between laces, buckles, elasticated strap or Velcro straps should be based on your child’s ability. In the early days a Velcro strap is considered a win for everyone. Your toddler can easily put on or remove their own shoes and you won’t be a glorified shoelace lady. For younger children the goal is likely to be ‘keeping the shoe on’, so laces might be the better option.
Don’t be a sucker for fashion
This is a difficult one, as it is easy to succumb to seasonal trends, but we should try to be a little more discerning with which trends we choose to follow. Many shoes that are fashionable may not necessarily provide the stability or comfort a young, developing foot might need. Your child’s development should always be the priority.
While the concept is honourable, and the economic benefits essential, hand-me-down shoes can be harmful to your toddler’s feet as shoes will take the shape of the owner’s foot quite easily and quickly. Subtle indentations could cause discomfort.
Bigger is not better
Again the economic benefit of buying your toddler a pair of shoes that are a size or two up, can unfortunately do more harm than good and will hinder the correct development of your toddler’s feet. A shoe that is too loose can also be a tripping hazard. Similarly shoes that are too tight can cause pain and discomfort and if used for long periods of time can lead to deformities.
A measured fit is best for healthy, happy feet. Most stores that cater for toddler shoes have a measurement mat to help guide you to the correct size choice. If not, measure your child’s feet (or a tracing of them) from toe to heel, and match it up to a size chart provided. Remember when measuring for, or trying on a pair of closed shoes, to carry along or wear a pair of socks, as this will provide a more accurate measurement and fit.
- For your protection – Above all else, shoes should provide adequate coverage and protection for your tot’s feet.Keep an eye out for possible safety issues like detachable decorations that could become potential choking hazards.
- Comfort zone – Your little one must feel comfortable in their shoes. Soft inner linings help cushion and support their feet. Additional insoles can be used for extra support.The outer material should be breathable and lightweight and should not restrict the natural mobility of the foot.
- Get a grip – Shoes should not have a hard plastic or smooth sole. Firm but flexible and patterned soles will provide necessary grip and stability for both new walkers and young adventurers traversing over unstable or uneven ground.
- Rule of thumb – The general rule of thumb when trying on a pair of shoes is that your finger should comfortably fit into the shoe behind the heel. Too tight or too loose will cause friction and painful blisters. You can also press down on the front and sides of the shoes to see if there is enough room for their little toes.
If you are concerned about your child’s gait or the development of their legs and feet schedule a consultation with an orthopaedic specialist or a podiatrist. And remember that Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life.