Kids will usually tell you if their feet hurt badly, but if the pain isn’t significant and the shoes they are wearing are "their favorites", they will avoid mentioning any discomfort because they don’t want to give them up. I’ve found this to be especially true with a first pair of hunting boots.
If you want your youngsters to follow in your footsteps, and plan on introducing them to hunting, remember that smaller feet and smaller bodies get cold much quicker than an adult. Insulation in kids hunting boots should be the heaviest available if you don’t want to make an early trip to the truck with a very unhappy youngster.
Beyond the growth issue, kids never seem to sit still. They are constantly running, jumping, riding bicycles and climbing, which causes their shoes to wear quickly as well as stressing seams or the weak points of their construction. Holes worn in soles are easy to spot, but also check their shoes on a regular basis for stressed seams, bulges or fabric that appears stretched out of its normal position, and most important check the toes to make sure they not cramped up and that they’re not scrunching their toes up. Holes in the toes or heels are another dead giveaway that it’s time to replace footwear.
Shoes that are too short can lead to ingrown toenails or black nail, which is caused by blood vessels breaking under the nail because of excess pressure. It’s ok to allow for some growing room in the toes (usually a half inch is sufficient), but don’t buy length without considering width. Toes shouldn’t move from side to side and the heel shouldn’t slip up and down. Never buy shoes that are more than one size larger than your child’s measured size.
Children’s feet need the same support and protection as adults, perhaps more, because their bones are still growing. Children often have weak ankles, and for this reason, hiking- type shoes are popular for the extra lateral support. Look for shoes with a firm cushion insole, well-constructed side panels and a sole that isn’t too thin. Cheaper shoes have thin soles, and while they may seem like a bargain at the checkout counter it doesn’t take long for the truth to come out. You may pay more for a better quality shoe up front, but you’ll buy at least two pairs of cheap shoes during the life of the better shoe if they’re properly cared for.
Although trying on shoes may seem like a chore, for kids it’s very important due to the speed at which they are growing. What worked last month almost certainly will not be the same this week. Here are some tips for selecting shoes that you may not have considered.
Afternoon or evening hours are the best time to shop for shoes because our feet swell during the day and they will be their largest at this time of day. Shoes that are bought in the early morning are almost certain to be too tight sooner than later.
It’s always a good idea to have children’s feet measured, just to make sure of the length as well as the width. Kids tend to say that anything feels "fine" just to get out of trying on another pair of shoes. When you have them measured, your chances of getting the right pair are increased disproportionate to their level of whining. Always have them stand while being measured so that their feet will be their normal walking and standing width.
Also, measure both feet. Most people have one foot that is longer, and often wider than the other. Naturally, you’ll want to size and purchase the shoes based on the larger foot. While it’s generally a good idea to let kids have some input into the pair of shoes they end up with, that input should limited to color of the model you select. Left to their own wiles, they’re a lot like adults who will forego comfort for style or "cool." Avoid trendy styles and the latest marketing gimmick such as the latest super hero. Manufacturers have to pay for the right to use the likeness of cartoon characters and that money may cause them to cut corners somewhere in the construction in order to be competitive.
Look for shoes made from breathable materials that will keep feet cooler and dryer. This will help prevent blisters, pain and the ultimate social faux pas - stinky feet. Also, look for a sole with a pattern or texture that will improve their traction on slippery surfaces. Thicker soles will provide additional protection from stone bruises, but make sure that the sole material is flexible enough to bend easily with their feet.
Velcro® closures are popular with youngsters (and parents as well) when they’re too young to tie their own shoes. Check the quality of construction where the Velcro is attached, to make sure it won’t come off before the shoes outlive their usefulness. At our house, we have town shoes and barn shoes. When their current "town" pair becomes too scuffed from wear and tear, they are regulated to chores, running through mud holes and stepping in manure.
Keeping shoes on kid’s feet is another issue. Short of using duct tape, I haven’t found anything that will make them wear shoes if it isn’t snowing. That’s why I love Velcro®. You can double knot them all you want, but the really clever ones will quickly figure out how to untie them or simply pull them off with the laces still tied. Still, I can’t be too harsh. Even though you’ll be picking them out, they’ll have to deal with the pain of stickers. As a child, I was barefoot most of my early years. There’s winter enough for shoes, and besides, when they’re not wearing shoes, they’re not wearing them out.
Let kids be kids until their feet are too big.
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