Eric Banks acquired his first pair of walking shoes just after his first birthday...

Eric Banks acquired his first pair of walking shoes just after his first birthday.

His mother, Tamika Morris, took him to Joel's Stride Rite at Easton Town Center for the big milestone. Morris said she sought a pair of good quality, well-fitting shoes to help his feet develop correctly.

"Your feet are very important," said Morris, a Columbus resident. "When you're playing, you need a good pair of shoes on because you might slip, fall or scratch your toes."
Shoes that fit well are a must for young children.

"Ninety percent of the shoes that are out there for children are miniature versions of adult shoes," said Elizabeth Hand, manager of the independently owned Joel's Stride Rite.
"Kids' gait patterns are completely different," Hand said. "If you watch a baby walk, it's completely different. Those shoes need to flex and bend, and be softer or harder in completely different places than adult shoes do."

Hand recommends well-fitting leather shoes over plastic shoes, which don't allow feet to breathe.

Here's the reason why: Children's feet sweat three times more than adult feet. So children may develop moisture blisters caused by sweat being held against the feet.
But fashion doesn't need to be sacrificed for the sake of hygiene and comfort.

"You can find the light-up and the sparkly and the Star Wars and things in a shoe that has good support," Hand said. "The main thing, though, is having a shoe fitted properly. You can put the best shoe in the world on a child and if it's not the right size, it's going to fall apart."

Until they're about nearly 3 years old, Hand said, tots should have their feet checked every three to four months. Stumbling is a sign that shoes are too snug.

Dr. Scot Bertolo of Urban Podiatry in Columbus said he occasionally sees children as young as 3 for pain or overuse injuries stemming from lack of support.

"The traditional flat flip-flop is essentially nothing," Bertolo said. "They cause more problems than they do good."

He said sandals that cover the front of the foot and heel and have contoured foot beds are a better choice.

Bertolo does not recommend going barefoot outdoors because of the risk of injury.

Lights and Velcro closures don't affect safety, Bertolo said. If shoes have laces, however, make sure children use them.

"They're there for a reason," he said. "They're there to provide the support and stability of the foot."