Sports shoes: Can they hurt growing feet?

My 10-year-old daughter uses cleats in soccer. She and many or her teammates complain of sore ankles. Is there an age where it is not advisable to wear cleats in your shoes during sport?

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Robert Steele

Robert W. Steele, MD, is a board certified pediatrician at St. John's Regional Health Center in Springfield, MO. He graduated from medical... Read more

When it comes to sports, there are almost innumerable possibilities for specialized footwear. When it comes to individual sports, it is often good to ask the coach what seems to work best for that particular sport. However, there are a few guiding principles you can use to help decide on these types of shoes.

  1. Have your child's feet measured. The feet should be measured every time shoes are bought. Even when the feet seem to have stopped growing there can be a slight change in size.
  2. Try on both shoes for comfort. Go with the size of shoe that fits the larger foot. Allow about one-half inch space at the end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe. Make sure the heel doesn't slip with normal walking, but the snugness of the shoe should still allow for all the toes to wiggle freely within the shoe.
  3. Try the shoes on at the end of the day, preferably after sports activity when the feet will be the biggest.
  4. When trying on the shoes, wear the same socks that are planned to be worn during that sport.
  5. Put the shoe on with the laces off and then lace them up. This will allow for the shoe to best conform to the foot when trying them on.
  6. A sport specific shoe is probably not required unless that activity is done at least three times a week.
  7. Having a "break-in" period for a shoe is a myth. If they are not comfortable from the time they are put on, don't buy them.

There is nothing about the cleats themselves that should cause any particular problems with the feet or ankles. If the sore ankles have anything to do with the footwear, it would be most likely due to the fit of the shoe, rather than the cleats.

On the other hand, soccer is a tough sport on the legs, ankles and feet. Soreness in these areas is common with soccer and may be due to an "over-use" syndrome. Over-use syndromes are caused by repeated motions of specific joints, combined with inadequate strength and flexibility in those joints. If the soreness does not go away with adequate stretching and exercise, it would be helpful to have it examined by her doctor.

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