How to buy running shoes for your kids

Shoes with flashing lights. Shoes with squeakers. Shoes with superheroes splashed on their sides. Fancy brands. No-name brands. Velcro closures. Laces.

Finding the right running shoes for your kids isn’t always easy.

But if you want your child to become a runner, the right shoes are important, say experts.

Buying shoes for teens is generally pretty simple. Sure, you may have to deal with style and label issues for picky teens, but they have many options because they fit into widely available adult sizes.

But uncovering decent athletic footwear for children under 12 isn’t quite so simple. You have to consider how and when the child will wear the shoes. Then there’s the fit and, last but definitely not least, your budget.

“Finding stores that even sell quality runners for younger kids is hard,” says Jackie Crooks, a spokesperson for the Alberta Medical Association Youth Run Club. “There are so many different options out there. I would never recommend just one.”

There are, however, lots of points to consider the next time you need to find footwear for your kids who are under 12, she says.

First, keep in mind a kid can’t run well in boots or sandals. That may sound like common sense, but Crooks, who is also the Alberta projects coordinator for Ever Active Schools and Healthy School Communities, says she’s seen it before. A child needs running shoes to run.

“And make sure they fit properly — a thumbnail’s space between the big toe and shoe. Tie them properly, and make sure they’re wearing socks that won’t fall down, or they can cause blisters,” she says.

John Stanton, owner and founder of The Running Room, says his stores offer technical running shoes for children, but it isn’t something that staff encourage for most consumers.

“Affordability is something you have to consider,” Stanton says. “The retail value is almost the same as buying an adult shoe.”

Consider how much your child will be running, seriously running, he advises, adding, “They should have a shoe that suits what they’ll be doing the most. Most children just need what we call ‘foot coverings’, non-technical running shoes. That’s for short distances on grass, or short cross-country runs.”

If a kid wants to go farther, perhaps try longer runs or track and field, Stanton says. “They can run in what I call a moderate running shoe.”

He points out that a child that is overweight may need a shoe with more cushioning for extra comfort.

But Stanton doesn’t recommend barefoot-style shoes for any kids, whatever the child’s weight or interest. He cites new studies that show barefoot running can lead to a range of injuries. “Common sense has to prevail,” he maintains.

Instead, ask at a reputable store or two, and keep asking until you find what suits your child’s needs, and what fits within your budget.

“They should have a shoe that suits what they’ll be doing the most.”

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