Top Tips for Buying Back-to-School Shoes From CPMA

Top Tips for Buying Back-to-School Shoes From CPMA


In the back-to-school rush malls and shoe stores across the country are bustling with parents and children looking for that perfect new pair of shoes, which are at the top of the list of the must-haves for the new school year. For the student style is the most important thing in finding just the right shoes. Parents, however, need to be concerned not only with fashion, but also with the proper fit of the shoes.

“Many school children are wearing shoes that are too small, despite the risk of injury and deformity associated with ill-fitting shoes,” said California Podiatric Medical Association (CPMA) President Thomas Elardo, DPM, a podiatric physician and surgeon practicing in Los Gatos, CA. “Shopping for both fashionable and proper fitting shoes can be a daunting task.

“Before parents plop down a lot of cash on expensive school shoes, CPMA offers the following tips to help make back-to-school shoe purchases a bit easier and much safer:

  • Shop for shoes in the afternoon. Feet tend to expand throughout the day.
  • Avoid slip-on shoes. Choose shoes with laces, straps or Velcro fastenings, which act like a seatbelt in a car, holding the shoe onto the foot.
  • 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.
  • Always have both feet measured for length and width. Shoes that are the wrong size can damage a growing foot. Have the feet measured while the child is standing and fully weight-bearing.
  • A newly fitted shoe should be approximately 1 inch longer than the longest toe to allow for growth and extension and flexing of the foot when walking.
  • Heel height should be no more than 1 ½ inches. Lower in younger children. The heel should be broad based and be made from a shock-absorbing material.
  • Natural materials uppers such as leather are best. Check inside the shoe for seams or stitching that may cause irritation.
  • The toe area of the shoe should be toe-shaped and deep enough to allow the toes to move freely and not be squashed from the top or sides.
  • Shoes should fit comfortably around the heel without being too tight or too loose.
  • Bring a pair of socks that the child will be wearing with the shoes.  Have them try on both shoes (with the socks) and walk around the store. Ask the child if he or she feels any pressure spots in the shoe.
  • Since one foot can be slightly bigger than the other, buy for the bigger foot.
  • 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.”

The father of three daughters, Dr. Elardo says, “Purchasing properly fitting shoes is the first step in helping to ensure healthy feet, not only for children, but for adults as well. In addition to properly fitting shoes, here are some tips to help keep your child’s feet healthy in them:

  • Inspect your children’s shoes regularly for unusual wear and seek professional advice if concerned. Unusual wear may be the first indication that there is a problem with the foot, posture or general posture and should always be investigated by a podiatric physician. Normally, wear is across the back of the heel or between the back and the outside. Look for severe wear on the inside or outside of the heel. This may carry forward to the sole of the shoe. Also the heel area of the upper may be broken and bulge inside or outside.
  • Be aware that blisters and sores may develop with new shoes.
  • Inspect children’s feet regularly for inflamed nails and red pressure marks on the top of the small joints of the toes, below the ankle bones and the back of the heel.
  • Remember that teenagers in particular can be secretive about foot problems and a small, easily rectified problem can be more serious if neglected.
  • Don’t have your child wear the same shoes every day, change it up.
  • Due to being enclosed in a shoe and living close to potential sources of infection the foot is at relatively higher risk of infection compared to other parts of the body. Any blisters, cuts or abrasions should be cleaned and bandaged right away. If slow to heal see a podiatric physician immediately. Systemic diseases such as diabetes often first manifest in the feet.”

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