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Medical Edge: Smart Shoe Shopping

Posted at: 01/22/2013 6:40 PM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Parents, you know kids grow fast, especially their feet. In fact, the average toddler outgrows their shoes four times a year.

But there's no need to worry over making the right choices for healthy feet. A few simple considerations will save you worry and money.

Shoe shopping for kids can be stressful. The choices seem endless. Racks and rows of styles and materials. Once you find the perfect pair, pretty soon it's times to go shopping again.

"Yeah they just grow right out of them," said Sara Sok. She is a mother of two including 5-year-old Dara. She hopes she's going about it the right way.

"Mostly getting the right size for them so their toes aren't smooshing," said Sok.

"This is one I'm not fond of because it has a very thick sole and it's very hard and rigid," said Dr. Noelle Larson, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon.

She says the basic goal of kids' shoes is to protect the foot from trauma and the environment.

"Particularly in smaller children, to pick a very wide shoe with a wide toe box so the toes aren't being crowded in the front of the foot and also to pick a nice, flexible sole instead of a hard sole," said Dr. Larson.

She says research indicates at any time, nearly one-third of children may be wearing shoes that are too small because they've outgrown them.

"So I'd say it's better to change the shoes more frequently rather than necessarily investing in a very fancy, expensive pair of shoes," said Dr. Larson.

If your child's feet seem not to have an arch, don't worry. Dr. Larson says up to 20% of kids never will. The rest will develop arches by age 10 or 12.

When it comes to teenagers, it's suggested you watch how much they wear high heels.

Dr. Larson says girls need to be girls, but ankle sprains, bunions and to deformities could happen.

"That's one reason not to wear them on a daily basis. Puts a lot of pressure on the ball of the foot. Not a lot of people have a triangular shaped foot," said Dr. Larson.

Sok has a few years before she has to worry about that with Dara. In the meantime, every few months there's a stop at the shoe store for a new measurement.

"And pretty much every time we gotta get a new pair," said Sok.

A couple of other suggestions: allow a finger width of extra room beyond the toes will give kid's feet room to grow and still give them a good fit. For toddlers, a higher heel in the back will help keep the shoes from slipping off.