Back-to-School Tips

It’s back to school season, and if you’re anything like me, it means you and your spouse are running around trying to gather the school necessities based on a list the school suggested or required. Some of the items are standards – pens, pencils, calculators, binders, etc. Others are more general – sports clothing for gym or practices and locker ladders and such.

It’s likely that your child’s school also provided a list of after school programs to sign up or try out for, such as the school play, gymnastics, soccer, and dozens of other activities. It’s also likely that each of these additional selections has its own list of requirements to prepare for the season.

As a sports podiatrist, I have many parents come to me for help with finding specialty socks and activity-specific shoes for their kids in these programs. We all want our kids to perform their best, and many of us are guilty of helping our children “get an edge” by sacrificing a few things for ourselves (like dinner with the spouse or a change in household paper products) to allow us to splurge on the child’s success. While that’s all great, it doesn’t necessarily mean we bought the right stuff. We’ve all done it – we bought a subpar loose leaf notebook and it fell apart, or the lunch box broke. Or, more to the point, the shoe gave our kid a blister, and they didn’t make round 2 of tryouts because of it.

So, let’s try and help you find the right stuff!

1: The shoe has to fit. Our kids grow fast, but if you want them to perform to the best of their ability, you have to make sure the shoe actually fits. As much as we want to trust their opinion, their noncommittal answers in the store regarding the shoes’ fit don’t really help anyone. Don’t trust the salesperson who “fit” it to them, either. Check it yourself. Make sure the heel is all the way back before finding the tip of the big toe. There should never be more than ½ inch of available space. Otherwise, it’s like they’re walking in clown shoes and will potentially trip and fall. Additionally, when they have too much room in the shoe, they slide in it, producing blisters, calluses, and toenail trauma. While I know it’s tempting to buy a bigger shoe for them to grow into instead of the one that fits now which they’ll probably grow out of pretty soon, it’s safer to buy the one that fits. The more frequent purchases may be pricey, but ultimately less pricey (and painful) than the problems ultimately caused by a shoe that doesn’t fit properly.

  1. Try them on with the type of sock they will be wearing. If you have a dress sock, you can’t try on a sneaker, so make sure you bring the appropriate socks with you to the store.
  2. Timing is important – try the shoes on in the afternoon. Everyone’s feet swell as the day progresses.
  3. Get the shoe that’s made for the activity. There is a reason we have basketball shoes, tennis shoes, golf shoes, and baseball cleats, just to name a few. They all have very different properties, and rightfully so.
  4. Check the size. Don’t go based on the size of the last shoe. The plus 1 or ½ is an assumption that you can’t afford. You already know that when you try on the 16-inch neck shirt, none are actually 16 inches, and the same is true for women’s clothing. A medium in one garment might be a small in the next.
  5. Pick the proper socks. Just because one pair says athletic socks on the label doesn’t mean it has any athletic properties. Stay away from the cottons – they lock in sweat and promote rash and fungus. Instead, you want wicking socks for athletic activities. Materials with wicking properties move the moisture away from the body, minimizing moisture and heat-related problems including blisters and fungal growth.

And even though you now have the right equipment, it’s good to be attentive to any complaints your child might have while participating in these active extracurriculars. If they are having leg, foot, ankle, toe, or toenail problems, visit the podiatrist. We’re ready with advice and can help them reach their potential!

Ari Rubinstein DPM

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