Get rid of those old shoes - footwear hand me downs are outSummer is here; maybe you bought your oldest child a new pair of sandals or water shoes, and maybe you’re thinking of putting away the shoes they replaced for your younger child to grow into later. Stop. Please don’t. This common practice could badly interfere with your child’s foot development.

First of all, I have to tell you that I completely understand why you’d want your kids to reuse shoes—I have three children of my own, and I know first-hand just how quickly kiddos outgrow their footwear and how ridiculously expensive it can be to buy a new pair every few months.

Now, while I understand the instinct, the Houston podiatrist in me needs to explain why it really shouldn’t happen. Used shoes have already been molded to the feet of their previous wearers. At birth, your child’s foot contains 22 partially developed bones that go through a critical development period during the toddler years, but actually continue to grow until about the age of 18. With that understanding, parents need to realize that until their kids’ foot development is complete, wearing shoes that have already been shaped to a different child’s foot can alter or impede their personal foot growth; for this reason, used or hand-me-down shoes are a really bad idea.

I hope you aren’t upset because of your new knowledge; like you, I want the best for your kids (and their feet). By all means, 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. You may spend a little more on footwear this way, but your children’s pain-free, healthily developing feet should offer sufficient consolation.

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