Children are not just little adults. We know this intuitively when we care for our own children but when it comes to feet, I think most shoe companies are really regressing.
I was recently out buying shoes for our three children (ages 8½, 5 and 2½) at one of the better shoe stores in Cherry Hill, N.J. I really like this store because the staff actually do know how to fit shoes properly, unlike the stores of a major brand of kids’ shoes that unfortunately do not have a clue. The people at my store actually look at the child’s foot and know which style is wider, narrower, has more padding, etc. It really is quite refreshing and being a podiatrist, I am very conscious of how they do their jobs and the selections they make. Generally, they are spot on with their recommendations.
As I started looking around, I noticed that many of the shoe companies offer the same shoes for their children’s line as for the adult line. I start questioning two things in this regard. The first is why would a child need a shoe that is designed for minimalist runners who have a midfoot strike? Along those lines, why would a child need a shoe that is designed to make running palatable to those with a very high arch and almost no inherent shock absorption? Is it that these companies are looking to score with children’s shoes on the same level as they have in the adult population without really taking the due diligence necessary?
The other question is the cost involved. My wife pointed out that maybe the minimalist shoes act as “water shoes” when parents take their children out to the lake in order to avoid having them step on sharp rocks and bottles, and avoid getting hurt. Okay, if parents want to indulge in this way, go ahead and spend $70 on a pair of “water shoes.” I guess neon colors look better when you spend $70, instead of $20 at Target for essentially the same thing.
The ultimate issue for me is there is really no company that has done any type of legitimate research on what exactly children need in a good shoe. Some of the bigger companies claim to have done some research in this vein but cannot really produce it when pressed for the data. I have shared my opinions in interviews on the best shoes for children and toddlers. These exchanges are more based on my experience with shoes. Once again, these are just my opinions.
Even the largest kids’ shoe companies in the world shy away from putting together real data. It is expensive and why should they when they can get parents to spend $70 on shoes that have no business being on a child’s foot?