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Do Kids Need Supportive Shoes for Spine and Joint Health?

POSTED BY: Florida Hospital

Spine and joint health is important to foster in children as they grow, but do they need special shoes to ensure that it happens? With so many shoe choices on the market today, it can be confusing to know how to choose the right pairs for all your kids’ different activities. We turned to our own Dr. Raymund Woo, M.D., board-certified pediatric orthopaedic surgeon for advice.

Monitor Kids’ Discomfort

Do you need to invest in expensive, specialized shoes and inserts? “The short answer is no,” said Dr. Woo. “The longer answer is sometimes, if they’re needed. The most important thing is to have the right shoes for the activity and to make sure they fit correctly,” explained Dr. Woo.

“Humans were made to walk barefoot. Most of the time when a patient comes to me with pain or discomfort in the legs and back it’s due to improper footwear,” says Dr. Woo. “First thing I do is I check their shoes and nine out of ten times their shoes are worn out.”

When to Replace Your Shoes

“The reason that the vast majority of shoe sponsorships go to basketball players is because they wear so many of them. Ideally, basketball players should rotate four or five pair of basketball shoes because one pair with regular use generally only lasts about a week,” says Dr. Woo.

“In general, shoes wear out long before people stop wearing them. If your shoe has a permanent imprint from your foot on the insole, it’s time to get a new pair. Or if the heal is permanently creased, they’re also done and it’s time to get new ones,” explains Dr. Woo.

The Right Shoes for the Job

“Other times when I see patients that are complaining of leg and back pain and their shoes are in good shape it’s because they’re not wearing the right shoes for the activities they’re involved in,” Dr. Woo explained. “Running shoes are great for running but wearing them to play basketball or lift weights or stand on your feet all day will lead to trouble.”

“If you’re at the gym and doing cardio on the treadmill but then go to lift weights, you should always change your shoes. Running shoes don’t offer the hard-soled, no arch support style for balance while lifting weights. And if you’re standing in place for long periods of time like a line cook, salesclerk or a surgeon you should wear a clog type shoe that has arch support, rocker-bottom soles, and heel elevation that eases strain on leg and back muscles,” says Dr. Woo.

Find Out Your True Size

Dr. Woo explained that taking the time to find the best shoe size and width for you will help prevent problems and discomfort down the road. “A problem I see a lot is patients not wearing the right size shoes. When you’re at the shoe store, get the metal foot measurer and find out what your proper size is,” he said.

“I see a lot of people that have wide feet but don’t have wide shoes. More troubling are the companies that advertise as being a wide shoe but all they’ve done is add more fabric or leather to the sides but not made the sole any bigger. Nike, Reebok and Adidas are all guilty of this. If you have wide feet you should really go with New Balance, Asics, Saucony or another brand that specifically makes wide shoes for wide feet,” says Dr Woo.

Dr. Woo went on to explain that it’s not only your foot size that matters when choosing a shoe, it’s also the intended activity. “Runners should buy a half size up from their actual measurement to allow for toe spread while running. Otherwise, everyone should be buying their correct size. But watch out, some shoe companies artificially inflate their sizing. You may be a size 9 but the Nike that fits you may be a size 10.5.”

Next Steps

For more information about proper footwear or if you’re experiencing leg or lower back pain, please visit Florida Hospital for Children or call 407-303-KIDS to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.