Growing up Feet: Make Sure the Shoe Fits

I used to read my kids a book called Growing Up Feet, by Beverly Cleary. It’s a sweet story about a couple of preschool twins whose mother takes them to the shoe store because she thinks they’ve outgrown their old shoes. The store owner, Mr. Markel, being an honest man, tells them their feet haven’t grown enough to warrant new ones. Imagine!

Growing Up Feet

So instead, the twins tromp out of the store in new red rubber boots, and on the story goes.

Kids spend a lot of time on their feet. So when it came to buying shoes for our four kids, the decision was easy. We didn’t have a Mr. Markel, but we had a Mr. and Mrs. Brown. And they helped our kids find the perfect fit for many, many years.

Going to the Brown’s shoe store was a big deal. We’d buckle the kids in their seat belts and take off in the station wagon on a Saturday morning. It was a long drive, about two hours one way, and we always made a day trip of it.

What’s that you’re thinking?  You say you can’t afford good kids’ shoes? They’ll outgrow them in nothing flat? Think again. It’s more than laces and soles you’re buying. It’s an investment in healthy feet and self-confidence.

I recently saw a TV news story on education. The information is lost to me now, but I remember the image of a little girl seated at her desk. She was wearing flip-flops.

Now flip-flops are great for the beach or backyard, but it’s my contention that having solid shoes on their feet makes a child feel more confident, more like participating and being active, just like good nutrition in their bellies gives them more energy and a longer attention span. It just helps them do better.

If money’s tight, you especially can’t afford cheap shoes. A pair from Pay Less will fall apart under hard play in less than a month. Add up what it will cost to replace them throughout the school year. Is that efficient use of your money? Or would it be better to get them a pair that fits well, lasts much longer, and that they can actually play in?

While Mrs. Brown sized up one child with the Brannock device – that gizmo they use to measure feet – Mr. Brown waited on another. They kept records of the kids’ sizes and the brands we bought in a file box. My husband used to joke that every time we made a trip to their store we had to stop and get a bank loan. We didn’t, really. But we did have to save up. Sturdy shoes for all four kids came to over $200, even in the 1980s.

Old-fashioned “mom and pop” shoe stores have become a dying breed. The Browns were already advanced in age. When Bob, their only salesman, passed away, and they couldn’t find a buyer, they decided to close their doors. And I still had two little girls to shop for.

Their store was in a tiny strip mall set back off the road, not in a big shopping center. They took pride in helping their customers save money by ordering close-outs in addition to the latest styles. They passed the savings along to their customers because they wanted to help parents afford quality shoes for their kids. To them, good shoes mattered.

Sturdy and properly fitting shoes helped our children forget about themselves while they went about the business of being kids. They had the freedom to explore and do daring things, ride bikes and chase around the yard and back in the hills. And we didn’t have to worry about smashed toes.

And, all of our children grew up free of foot problems – except for the occasional twisted ankle from some crazy skateboard stunt.

Kids’ shoes should be wide enough. Not everyone wears a medium width, which is largely what shoe stores and department stores carry. Make sure the toe box gives them enough wiggle room. And make sure there is arch support.

If you think you can’t afford good kids’ shoes, look around and see how you can fit them into the budget next time. Can you cut back on something else?  Forego the brand name jeans and tees? You can shop Good Will if you have to. But don’t scrimp on your kids’ feet. There isn’t a lot that is this important when it comes to dressing your kids. Make the decision to take them to a quality-fit shoe store ahead of time and set the money aside.

If you’re at the other end of the financial spectrum, you still need to make sure you’re doing your kids justice. Just because shoes are trendy doesn’t mean they’re good-fitting.

To me, putting sturdy shoes on kids’ feet is a way of showing love. Teach them to tie the laces for themselves and they’ll go far. Just make sure the shoe fits.  FFG

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