Choosing the best shoes for your young athlete is key. So is the importance of proper fit. The reality is that there is no best shoe- period! I remember writing articles on the topic and the picture we used for them was a collage of numerous brands & styles. That’s the point- lots of choices! So let’s talk about what’s important.
- Make sure you’re choosing shoes that are designed for the sport.
Even though there is often over hype about every sport needing a specific shoe, for the most part its smart to stick with what’s designed with the sport’s demands in mind. Good sturdy heel counters are important as is ball of foot flexibility whatever the sport. Only running shoes have different foot type criteria- like motion control, neutral or stability designs. These are not options for other sports- although they should be!
- Stick with “name brands” with good quality
You don’t need the highest price, especially with the relentless advertising and hype for “the latest,’ but stay away from bargain brands. If your young athlete has had good success with a particular brand or style, stick with it. This is easier said than done because the brands are always changing- sports shoes are such a huge business. Hand me downs – wearing your older brother’s or sister’s shoes is never a good idea! They can cause problems, especially with running and jumping sports.
- If your young athlete has foot, ankle, lower extremity injury history, or fitting problems, get a podiatrist’s opinion.
This is a good idea regardless of history. Ask what is the best shoe for my son or daughter’s foot type or mechanics? Might orthotics be beneficial? -both good and important questions!
- Generally, do not use running shoes for other sports.
Running shoes are designed for straight ahead movement – not side to side field or court sports. You can use “cross trainers” for any of these multi-directional sports with few exceptions. They have good stability & motion control.
- Try to avoid cleats
This is an important topic. It’s a tradition for example to routinely have young soccer and baseball, softball, players in cleats. Even 5-6 yr. olds. The problem is that there are large growth centre in the heel that are susceptible to running and jumping stress that can be aggravated with the cleats. Most heel pain in kids under 12-13 yrs. old is related to this. If I’m describing your youngster- get them into a multiple nub shoe that spreads the pressure more evenly. These heel conditions called Sever’s or apophysitis are quite common especially in soccer where heel cleats sit right under the growth centre. Ball of the foot in growing children also has these growth centre and again cleats can cause problems. I would like to see no cleats before minimally adolescence but it’s a tough sell. If heel problems persist, get podiatry or medical evaluation. I’ve had great success with orthotics for these kids with chronic heel problems.
- Ensure a proper fit
Would it surprise you to know that over 50% of all of us are not wearing the right size? That of course includes our young athletes, who’s feet are still growing. Make sure that you go to reputable sports shoe stores with trained “shoe fitters”. Make sure both feet are measured for both length and width. Make sure shoes are comfortable. Sounds simple but if they don’t feel great – don’t buy them!
- Replace shoes regularly
In general, its smart to replace shoes for each season or at lease twice a year even if your kids haven’t outgrown them. We are often reluctant to do this as parents due to the huge costs and always try to get our value for money. Pay close attention to the shoes breaking down in either direction. Look at the back of the shoes sitting in front of you and check for heels rolling inward or outward. If cleats are used, check their wear pattern- if uneven- replace them.
- Skates- both figure skating and hockey bring some important criteria.
It’s one of the largest groups of kids I see. Many are already specialising at the age of 10 and 11 years old. Proper fitting of boots in figure skating and hockey is crucial and I recommend only experienced boot fitters in both sports. Again, if foot problems persist or recur, get podiatry opinion. Shoes, no matter what the price, are wearing apparel. They are not foot type, (flat feet or high arches), specific. They are not corrective. That’s where orthotics come in, something that we will discuss further in our next blog.