Get rid of those old shoes - footwear hand me downs are bad for kids

At every season of the year, it seems like your kids need new shoes. In the summer, maybe you bought your oldest child a new pair of sandals or water shoes. Come fall? Back to school sneakers are hitting the shopping cart. Is it Houston winter? Maybe you're grabbing warmer kicks or even winter boots. (For those rare chilly days we need them.) 

I know, that's a lot of shopping. And that alone can be frustrating. But the problem often gets worse. Because kids' feet grow quickly. So they often need new shoes well before the changing seasons. In fact, they seem to outgrow pairs that still look brand-new! And that's when us parents can get into trouble. 

You see, I get it, I really do. (I've got three kids of my own, after all.) You're looking at these expensive, barely worn shoes, thinking about all that money you spent on them. And maybe you’re thinking of putting away those shoes for your younger child to grow into later. Stop. Please don’t. This common practice could badly interfere with your child’s foot development. And I'll explain how in this post. 

Kids Growing Feet: A Constant Challenge

First of all, I have to tell you again. I completely understand why you’d want your kids to reuse shoes! Like I said, with three children of my own, and I know first-hand how quickly kiddos outgrow their footwear. I also know how ridiculously expensive it can be to buy a new pair every few months. But that doesn't mean I can embrace the practice of hand-me-down sneakers. 

Here's what your Houston podiatrist needs you to understand about this practice. Even if your children wear their shoes a few time, those shoes mold to their unique foot structure. So, if you put another child's foot into a shoe built for a friend or sibling? Their still-developing feet could be impacted in dangerous ways. 

Hand-Me-Down Shoes and Developing Feet

 At birth, your child’s foot contains 22 partially developed bones. Like the rest of their little bodies, those bones will grow and change for years. Now, their most critical development period happens during the toddler years. (That's why most kids' flat feet improve around the time they start school.) But toddler-hood isn't the end of your child's foot bone growth. 

In fact, those foot bones actually continue to grow until about the age of 18. What does that mean when it comes to shoe purchases? With that understanding, you need to realize the problem with pre-owned shoes. 

When you put developing feet into shoes that have already been shaped to a different child’s foot? That closed-off shape can alter or impede your child's personal foot growth. I mean, think about it. What if your older child has wide feet that wear away at some of the shoes' exterior support. 

Now, you put your narrow-footed second child into those same shoes. But there's less support for his or her arches. All of a sudden, that second child's foot may roll inward (pronate.) And his or her foot growth trajectory could change while wearing those kicks. Then, if you keep putting your child in more and more hand-me-down shoes? Those changes could be permanent. So I'm sure, for this reason, you now understand why used or hand-me-down shoes are a really bad idea.

Better Ways to Save on Kids' Shoes kids running together

I hope you aren’t upset because of your new knowledge; like you, I want the best for your kids (and their feet). But I also want the best for your wallets, I really do. 

First of all, I more than encourage you to save every sweater, polo short and pair of jeans you want for your other kids to wear again. But once one child has outgrown his or her shoes, toss the pair away. Then follow these tips for getting more for your money on kids' shoes. 

Let's start with this rule: stop buying shoes for kids online. Instead, take them to a shoe store and have a sales representative measure their feet. This will ensure a proper fit with the pair you ultimately buy. And getting a good fit right away can help shoes last a little longer. 

Now, let's talk which pairs you buy. My rules for kids shoes are simple. They should be brand new. They should leave a little wiggle room for the toes, and should have a bit of give in the mid-sole. Plus, they need to feel good on the very first try. Let's throw out that breaking-in period, shall we? 

That's it. Those are my only rules. I don't need you to throw out money on bells and whistles like Air Max support or or Ultraboost tech. And I really don't care which ball player made your kids' shoes. (Though they'll probably have an opinion in that area. Which is something I can't help you with. But I wish you could have helped me when I was in the thick of those fights!) 

Children's Podiatrist in Houston, TX

So, yes, I do need you to always buy kids brand-new shoes. But I don't need you to go broke doing so. Or buy them multiple pairs of dress shoes and athletic shoes. Instead, buy one brand-new pair of supportive athletic shoes every time your child outgrows or wears out an older pair. 

You may spend a little more on footwear this way upfront. But your children’s pain-free, healthily developing feet should make you feel good about that decision. And, if you're having trouble finding the right fit? Or knowing when kids' need new shoes, or help for non-shoe-related foot pain? Schedule an appointment in the office right away. Foot pain is not a normal part of growing up. It's something I can deal with quickly. So your child can walk and run comfortably in those brand new shoes.