Bloomington / Normal, IL

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The Highlight of Back-to-School Shopping


By Melissa Lockwood, DPM, Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates

I love back-to-school shopping. When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to get the list and check off every item. It was the one time of the year that I got a brand-new pack of crayons — and oh how I treasured them!  The highlight of back-to-school purchases was a new pair of shoes.

Unlike a two-dollar pack of crayons, shoes aren’t cheap. While kids just want shoes that they like — whether it’s the color or the style or the brand — it’s important for parents to purchase quality shoes that fit properly. Appropriate shoes are crucial to keeping feet pain-free, healthy, and to reduce the chances of injury from falls, sprains, blisters, corns, tendonitis, etc. Luckily, it’s not difficult to find shoes that satisfy the requirements of both parents and kids.

Back in the old days — aka, before the internet and online shopping — parents would take their kids to the store, peruse the choices, the salesperson would measure their feet, bring out the proper size, check for fit, and you’d be on your way. Despite the convenience of online shopping, I like the experience of actually shopping for shoes together rather than clicking around on the computer. I also think it’s important to shop local whenever possible. No matter where you purchase shoes, here are some shoe shopping tips to start the school year off on the right foot.

  • One easy way to determine if a child’s shoe is foot-friendly is to perform the “1,2,3 test.” First, press on both sides of the back of the shoe’s heel. Make sure that it does not collapse when pushed on. Second, check toe flexibility. The shoe should bend with your child’s toes, but should not be too stiff or bend too much in the toe box area. Third, grab the shoe by the front and back and twist gently. A foot-friendly shoe should never twist easily in the middle.
  • Never buy a child shoes without first trying them on. If you purchase them online, make sure your child tries them on right away so that you can send them back if they don’t fit. You don’t want shoes to be too big, but you want them big enough to allow room in the toe area. Use the rule of thumb: when standing, you should be able to fit a thumb’s width between the end of the shoe and the tips of your child’s big or second toes.
  • Try on shoes at the end of the day when feet have naturally swelled a bit.
  • Try on shoes with socks or tights, if that is how they will be worn, in order to ensure a proper fit.
  • Buy shoes appropriate for their activity. It’s equally important that soccer cleats or running shoes fit properly. Even just an hour of running in shoes that don’t fit properly can cause foot problems.
  • Have your children’s feet measured at least every six months. Children’s feet can grow quickly and too-tight shoes can lead to ingrown toenails.
  • Examine the heels of their old shoes. Uneven heel wear can indicate a foot problem that should be checked by a

  • Avoid hand-me-down shoes. You don’t want your child’s foot to be forced to adapt to a different child’s wear pattern. It’s probably okay to share shoes if they are dress shoes that won’t be worn very much. However, make sure that you wipe down the inside to be sure to eliminate any fungus that may be present.

Don’t rely on your child to tell you if a shoe fits and is comfortable. If they really like a shoe, they may say they are comfortable, even if they aren’t! Quality shoes can be expensive, so you want to be sure that they not only fit, but will last longer than a few months. The right fit can be tricky to determine yourself, which is why all the staff members at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates are happy to assess your children’s shoe gear and make recommendations.

To ask a question, make an appointment, or get more information on any foot or ankle problem, contact Dr. Lockwood at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, 309-661-9975, or visit their website at Their office is located at 10 Heartland Dr., Suite B in Bloomington.