Choosing Running Shoes for Your Active Child
Shoes that are chosen specifically for foot type and fitted properly can help keep young athletes healthy.
By Dr. Shaylon Rettig
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
A good pair of running shoes is an important piece of equipment for any athlete. Shoes that are chosen specifically for foot type and fitted properly can help keep young athletes healthy and possibly prevent injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures.
Foot Types and Shoe Qualities
- Low arched feet or flat feet are those that do not have much of a gap between the floor and the arch of the foot when standing. This foot type is very flexible and needs a shoe that can control its motion. Look for a shoe that has a rigid heel counter and more durable foam in the middle third of the midsole (often there is a change in foam color or texture in these types of shoes).
- High arched feet are those that have a large gap between the floor and the arch of the foot. This foot type tends to be rigid and needs a shoe that can absorb the shock of running. Look for a shoe that is flexible and has a thick and cushioned midsole.
- Neutral feet are those that have an arch height between high and low. This foot type can accommodate most shoe types.
Preparing for Your Trip to the Shoe Store
Go to the shoe store toward the end of the day, when your child’s feet are naturally slightly swollen.
- Bring your child’s old shoes with you. Note your child’s likes and dislikes, problems, and injuries so the salesperson can help you make an appropriate selection.
- Also, bring any orthotics/inserts, ankle braces, and socks your child normally wears during athletic activity. Fit any new shoe wearing these items to make sure the shoe works with your child’s needs.
How to Tell if It’s the Right Fit
First, make sure to try on both shoes (with socks, braces, and orthotics/inserts, if applicable) and lace them properly. Have your child wear them around for 10 minutes to make sure nothing is poking or rubbing.
Good running shoe stores actually allow you to run in them to see how the shoes feel (encourage your child to run around the store if this is an option).
Other indicators of a proper fit are:
- The shoe should bend at the ball of the foot where the toes bend. If the shoe bends farther forward or behind where the toes bend, this means the shoe is too big or small (which could result in unneeded stress occurring elsewhere on the foot).
- There should be an index finger width between the longest toe and the end of the shoe.
- The heel should be stable and should not move in and out of the heel counter.
- The foot should not slide back and forth inside the shoe when stopping or starting.
When to Replace Shoes
If your child is a runner, keep track of your mileage. Shoes should be replaced between 300 and 500 miles, depending on their training.
In general, shoes should be replaced at least once per athletic season (if not more, depending on activity).
Choosing a Shoe Store
If you are unsure how to shop for athletic shoes, specialty running shoe stores have experienced salespeople that can help you and your child find the proper fit.
Please note that not all aches and pains can be attributed solely to shoe wear. If your child has persistent problems, consult a sports medicine specialist in a timely manner before the issue becomes worse.
For more information about The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Sports Medicine program, call 210.704.4708.