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How to Choose Footwear for Youth Athletes

Choosing the right footwear for your athlete can be frustrating and confusing given the constant foot growth, the different shoes for different sports, and the huge variety of styles and price points.

According to Dr. Michele LaBotz, TrueSport Expert and sports medicine physician, choosing the right footwear should come down to performance and protection. "We want to have the foot working hard enough that it has to stay strong and flexible. But we also want to protect the foot and the athlete," says LaBotz. Here, she is looking at some of the nuanced decisions to consider as you shoe shop.

Training on turf? Get proper shoes

If you're new to sport, you might think that turf shoes or soccer cleats for your eight-year-old feels like a bit much. But depending upon the sport and the playing surface, the appropriate shoes for the situation really do matter, and many leagues have specific rules regarding required footwear. "If you have a young athlete who's running pretty fast on grass or turf, then they should be in the right type of shoe to minimize injury risk,” says LaBotz.

No problems? No problem.

"If your athlete isn't having discomfort or foot problems, you probably don't need to spend too much time fixing their stride. If a child has good running mechanics, is a healthy weight, and is not having any issues, I don't think you have to worry about buying pricey shoes," LaBotz says. Instead, look for shoes that feel comfortable and simply get new pairs as they outgrow the old ones.

"However, if there is a pattern of injury, an evolution of injury, or some regular discomfort seems to be coming up, that's when families should really pay attention to what they're putting on a kid’s feet,” she notes.

There's no perfect shoe

Unfortunately, there's no singular shoe or shoe brand that stands out as "the best." At one time, coaches would recommend a specific shoe that all the athletes on the team should get. But now, LaBotz says, the evolution is towards a much more individualized approach to shoes. "It sounds simplistic but really the main thing to look for is comfort," she says. "After that, you want a shoe that protects potentially vulnerable areas. But comfort is top priority."

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