Shoes Have a Limited Shelf Life
Of course, it’s not just that shoes change shape to accommodate the original owner. They also just wear down, period. Midsoles and insoles get compressed, soles lose their traction, and the shoes just can’t provide the level of cushioning and support that your little one needs.
Although kids might sometimes outgrow their shoes before they wear them down completely, the younger child getting the hand-me-down is still getting compromised footwear that may not be able to protect their feet properly for the full length of time that they’ll be wearing them.
Shoes Can Harbor Fungi, Viruses, and Bacteria
Feet aren’t exactly known for being the cleanest body parts, especially for hyperactive kids. Because shoes tend to be dark, warm, and moist, they make a tempting environment for the kinds of microorganisms that cause athlete’s foot, warts, foul odor, and other skin and nail irritations you’d rather not be introducing to your little ones!
When you pass hand-me-down shoes from one kid to another, you put the younger child at increased risk of these irritating and unpleasant infections. This is true even if the older child has no obvious foot problems, as different kids can react differently to exposure for various reasons (including whether or not they have any breaks in the skin for a wart-causing virus to enter).
The Exception: Baby Shoes
Baby shoes may be exempt from the “no hand-me-down” rule, since they generally aren’t able to run around and break down footwear as much as older kids. So, if a pair of baby shoes is in good condition, shows no signs of forming to another child’s feet, and is clean, you can pass them on if you’d like.
For toddler shoes, exercise good judgment. Often for kids just learning to walk, we recommend that they go barefoot indoors (to help with foot development) and only wear shoes for outdoor protection. So they may outgrow their shoes with very little wear and tear.
Otherwise, you should ditch old shoes once their previous owner has outgrown them, or if they start to show signs of use.
Finding the Perfect Shoes for Your Child
Now that you know when to get rid of those old shoes, it’s time to take your child shoe shopping. Here are some things to take into consideration when looking for the perfect pair of shoes for your son or daughter:
- If your child is old enough, take them shoe shopping with you. It’s always better to let them try shoes out and make sure they feel comfortable before you buy. Plus, your child may appreciate being involved in the decision-making process.
- Leave about a thumb’s width of wiggle room between the front of the shoe and the longest toe.
- Slide your index finger down to the second knuckle between the heel and the back of the shoe. If it’s too tight, they are not the right fit.
- Buy shoes that offer plenty of arch support and heel cushioning.
- Consider the specific activities your child will be engaging in. You can ask a shoe store employee to help you find the best fit for your child’s sports of choice.
- NEVER buy shoes that are too big for your child’s feet. You may think you’re being smart by getting shoes they can “grow into,” but the truth is that shoes that are too big can be just as damaging as those that are too small.
And if you have any questions about your child’s foot health, or need more guidance on how to find the best pair of shoes for your little one, you can count on our team of experts at Patel Podiatry to steer you in the right direction.