Back-to-School Shoe Buying Basics for Healthy Shoes for Children

Back-to-School Shoe Buying Basics for Healthy Shoes for Children


As parents and children begin the annual ritual of back to school shopping, healthy shoes should top the “must have” list for reasons more important than just a fashionable new look.  According to the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA), well fitting shoes not only reduce the instance of foot and ankle injuries in kids, but they also encourage physical activity, and help to decrease the likelihood of childhood obesity.

“If a child’s feet hurt, they will be far less likely to participate in outdoor sports and other activities that keep them moving and physically fit,” said CPMA President Carolyn McAloon, DPM, a podiatric physician and surgeon in private practice in Castro Valley, California.

“With childhood obesity considered an epidemic today, it is vital that parents take just a few moments during this busy back-to-school shopping season to select a shoe that provides adequate support and fits properly. It is one of the easiest ways to keep a child pain-free and healthy.” Dr. McAloon continued.

As First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign continues to bring the fight against childhood obesity into the public eye, parents are encouraged more than ever to only purchase foot-friendly shoes that keep a child’s feet safe at home and on the playground.

Shopping for healthy shoes can be a daunting task without knowing what to look for, but the following CPMA tips can make any back-to-school shoe purchase an easy, smart, and safe one:

  • Buy shoes in the afternoon.  Feet tend to expand throughout the day.
  • Examine the shoe itself. It should have a firm heel counter (stiff material on either side of the heel), adequate cushioning of the insole, and a built-in arch. It should be flexible enough to bend where the foot bends—at the ball of the foot, not in the middle of the shoe.
  • The child’s foot should be sized while he or she is standing up and fully weight-bearing.
  • Always have both feet measured for length, and if they are two different sizes, shoes should be chosen that fit the larger foot best.
  • Ask if the shoe salesperson is a trained shoe fitter.
  • A newly fitted shoe should be approximately ½ inch longer than the longest toe.  The child should be able to comfortably wiggle his or her toes in the shoe.
  • Have the child walk around the store for more than just a few minutes wearing the shoe with the type of sock that they will be wearing with the shoe. Ask the child if he or she feels any pressure spots in the shoe.   Feel the inside of the shoe for any staples or irregularities in the glue that could cause irritation. Examine where the inside stitching hits the foot. Look for signs of irritation on the foot after the shoe is worn.
  • Avoid slip-on shoes. Shoes should be held on the foot with laces, straps or Velcro fastenings.
  • Heel height should be no more than 1.5 inches, and lower for younger children.
  • The heel should have a broad base and be made from a shock-absorbing material.
  • Natural material uppers are best, i.e. leather.
  • The toe area of the shoe should be toe-shaped, and also deep enough to allow the toes to move freely and not be squashed.
  • Pick shoes that do not need a "break-in" period. The shoes you purchase should be comfortable right away. If shoes are too tight, they can cause blisters, calluses or corns. This is critical for children with diabetes.
  • If a child wears prescription orthotics - biomechanical inserts prescribed by a podiatric physician - they should be taken along for the shoe fitting.

To help ensure proper foot development in children and the proper footwear for developing feet visit a podiatric physician for an examination and evaluation.  To find a local licensed podiatric physicians visit

Founded in 1912, the California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) is the leading and recognized professional organization for California’s doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs). DPMs are podiatric physicians and surgeons, also known as podiatrists, qualified by their long and rigorous education, training and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle and structures of the leg.

CPMA, keeping Californians on their Feet – Healthy, Active and Productive