From the time we take our first steps, walking provides numerous health benefits including weight loss and maintenance, reduced cholesterol, stronger bones and reduced stress. When it comes to kids, a study of 13- to 18-year-old students by the University of Granada published in “Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine” notes that walking improves learning. However, walking comes with its own risks for children, and the right shoes can help developing bones and muscles avoid injury.
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Risky Shoe Business
Of course you want to get the most wear you can out of a pair of shoes, but you should avoid buying those that are too big. They can cause tripping, leading to scraped elbows and knees, bumped heads or worse. When children wear shoes that are too small, they risk foot deformities. Additionally, shoes that are too tight or otherwise uncomfortable could deter your child from walking. Other consequences of walking in shoes that don’t fit include blisters, bunions, curling toes, pinched nerves and ingrown toenails.
Ensure the Right Fit
To ensure the correct fit, take your children to a store that specializes in children’s shoes. There, knowledgeable staff will measure both feet to determine the best size. Then, have your child give the shoes a test run -- or walk --around the store. Be sure they’re wearing the same socks they’ll wear when you hit the trails. It may serve you best to shop toward the end of the day, when feet are at their largest.
Features to Explore
Kids’ athletic shoes come in all styles and colors, from light-up sneakers with their favorite cartoon characters to those labeled as orthopedic. They come in hard soles and soft soles, open-toed and closed, and buckles, velcro or laces. Which options are best when you’re taking a family fitness walk? Several experts agree that the closer to barefoot you can get, the healthier it is for developing feet. For general walking, a flexible soft-soled shoe is better, but a hard-soled shoe is more appropriate for walking on rough surfaces. Other features that provide better support include a solid back and laces or buckles. Finally, try to avoid plastic shoes, opting instead for leather, suede or canvas.
Buying Hiking Shoes
If you’re planning on hitting off-road trails for a hike, you’ll need a shoe that provides extra ankle support for the varied terrains you’ll encounter. As with other shoes, fit is the most important detail, but material and tread also are important. Mark Anders writes in "Boys’ Life" magazine that leather boots provide support and durability, but synthetic materials are lighter weight and easier to walk in.