Now that school is back in session, youth sports are in full swing. Do you need to pick out sporting footwear for your kid, but you're not sure how to tell if the fit is right? Or even which shoe style is right for your child's sport? Well, you've come to the right place!

The fit of an athletic shoe is crucial to your child's foot health. It’s very important to pick the right shoe design for your child's sport. Plus, the fit has to be right if you hope to help your child avoid sports injuries. Finally, if you realize you've picked the wrong footwear? Don't just wait until they out grow this pair.

Instead, make this new school year the time to return unsupportive shoes and start fresh. Here's to get started.

Pick Your Shoe Type  

For active kids who play many different sports, a supportive all-purpose sneaker is the best choice. Look for styles with solid arch support. An try to find pairs that keep their heels stable. And, as long as rigid flat feet aren't a problem, rigid shoes offer ideal support.

Now, for kids who specialize in certain sports, you may need to pick out different shoe types. Track and field stars need a running shoe. If their feet are flat, look for styles with lots of stability. And for high-arched kids' feet? Pile up on padding to prevent foot pain.

Hip Hop and Dance Shoes

If kids are dancing in sneakers, not ballet shoes, you'll want a lightweight pair to help them move easily. Still, stability control matters, since lateral motion increases the risk of an ankle sprain. Plus, you'll want lots of shock absorption. That way, if jumps are in the dance routine, kids won't up their risk for stress fractures.

Sports Involving Cleats

Many youth sports make kids wear cleats to play. Now, these shoes offer stability on grass or turf. Which can help prevent slips and falls. (As well as twists and ankle sprains.)

But cleats are also rigid. Which means if they don't fit properly, they could hurt kids feet. That's why, if your chid needs to play soccer, football or baseball in cleats, it’s very important to pick out a pair that won’t harm your young athlete’s foot.

Pick a pair that's too big? Your child's foot will slip inside the cleat. And, if his or her toe hits the hard shoe, black or ingrown toenails could develop.

The height of your child's cleat aslo matters. And you have to choose that height based on your athlete's age. Why?

Because, for players under 13 years of age, cleats should be no higher than half an inch. That's the best way to avoid ankle injuries like sprains and fractures.

Then, once you’ve found cleats that are short enough, you need to focus on the concentration of the cleats. (That means how many cleats are on the shoe. And where they're placed.) Younger players need shoes that have lots of cleats on the heel of the shoe. Otherwise, without that support, the impact of the sport can cause heel pain.

Older kids can get away with more even cleat distribution. But watching out for heel support is important during the tween and early teen years. Otherwise, yoru child's heel growth plate could see strain. And Sever's disease may be a problem.

When to Pick New Pairs

Children's feet grow quickly. In fact, many kids won't last a full athlecic season in the same pair of sneakers or cleats. Which means that, even with cleat height and distribution selected, your task isn’t done.

First, don’t assume that your child will wear the same size cleat as they do for other shoes. You should have your child fitted separately for athletic shoes. Because cleats just fit differently than other shoes.

And, if cleats start hurting mid-season, check for signs of wear and tear. Then, if the shoes look good, start this fitting process all over again. Because the chances are good that your child outgrew that first pair of cleats. And it's time to size up, following our helpful cleat fitting guide.

Cleats Fitting Guide fitting cleats guide

When it comes to fitting cleats, some of the basic rules apply, but some are a little different. Here they are:

Shop at the end of the day.

That’s when your child’s feet will be the largest. Which matters, since it mimics the swelling that will occur during a sporting event

Take a stand.

Measure both your child's feet when they are standing up in case one is bigger than the other. (Which is quite common). Always fit the cleat to the bigger foot.  

Bring the right socks.

Have your child come wearing the socks he or she will wear with the cleats. Many sport-specific socks will be thinner or thicker than regular ones. And that can make a big difference in fit.

Wiggle those piggies. 

A properly fitted cleat should leave half an inch from the end of the big toe to the end of the shoe. Pressing on a cleat won’t give you a good idea of fit, since they’re firm, so ask your son or daughter to make sure every toe can wiggle.

Lace up.

For added support, use the cleat’s top eyelet. Don't tie the laces too tightly, though, as that can damage delicate nerves on the top of your child’s feet.

Look for instant gratification.

Have your child walk around the shoes in the store. They should feel comfortable right away. Check for any red spots on your child’s feet when the shoes come off, as they could indicate a bad fit due to rubbing.

Even with the proper cleats, children playing soccer or baseball this spring may experience foot or ankle pain. At the first sign of discomfort, schedule an appointment with your Houston podiatrist to avoid serious injury to your child’s developing feet. 


Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.