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Protect your young athlete's feet

Proper footwear can mean fewer injuries on the playing field

Proper footwear can mean fewer injuries on the playing field

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, the immature bones of children are different from those of adults. The growth plates in children’s bones don’t finish closing until age 15 to 17 in boys and 13 to 15 in girls. Repetitive overuse can cause inflammation of the growth plates. When stressed, these plates are more susceptible to injury than the tendons and ligaments that support the joints. That’s why footwear is so important – to support those growing bones.

Choosing quality footwear is critical to preventing many sports-related injuries.

“All kids are athletic – they’re always jumping and running,” says Dr. Gregg Atlas of Family Footcare Group in Monticello. “Parents need to know what shoe to buy and when to change them.”


Without proper footwear, kids can suffer ankle sprains, shin splints or stress fractures – and poor-fitting shoes can make those injuries more likely to happen.


Dr. Howard Baskin, a podiatrist in Spring Valley, advises parents to watch for a poor gait, an awkward walking stance, toes pointed in or out, or if the foot rolls over inwardly or looks flat.


You may even see clues of a problem in the shoes your child has been wearing. Uneven heel wear can indicate a foot problem.


Even something small – a callous, corn or ingrown nail – can lead to something more severe if not treated.


The first line of medicine for a foot problem should be a podiatrist, says Atlas, since most pediatricians will refer patients to these specialists.


Atlas often advises parents to bring their child’s footwear to an exam so he can explain any concerns. Parents often face this problem at the beginning of the school year because that’s the time they buy new shoes.


“People try to make it easy with Crocs or slip-on shoes, and those just make for unsafe situations,” says Atlas. Be sure to purchase the proper footwear for each sport your child plays.