Families are busier than ever and squeezing in shoe shopping before practice or games begin is just another thing to add to the to-do list. While finding the right athletic footwear can be challenging, if you head out with a few tips in mind, it is possible to narrow down the choices to the best option for your child whether they are playing flag football, soccer or baseball.
- Measure Twice, Buy Once: Always begin by having your child’s foot measured by a professional. Measure your child’s feet when they are standing up bearing their full weight. Measure both feet in case they vary in size. Choose the shoes that fit the larger foot. Yet, you should not buy cleats any larger than a thumb width beyond your child’s big toe. This will ensure that your child’s feet will have room to grow without the cleat being too large and affect your child’s ability to run or play. If possible, shop at the end of the day when your child’s feet are at their biggest. Also, make sure you have the necessary sports socks on hand to allow for any extra thickness.
- Comfort is Key: Besides purchasing the proper size footwear for your athlete, it is equally important to consider the comfort level of each option. Avoid buying cleats that will need to be “broken in.” Take your time when it comes to trying on the cleats and ask your child to spend a few minutes walking around the store before you buy. If the cleats are too tight they will cause unnecessary foot pain; too loose and the feet will pull up during the on-field activity (known as pistoning) causing blisters. If you notice any of these signs, then you should probably keep looking to find a well-fitting cleat for your child’s sport.
- Consider the Sport: Cleats essentially vary from sport to sport due to the nature of the terrain and the individual demands of the game. It is worth knowing that while both soccer and baseball cleats provide extra stability on the field, soccer shoes for example, are designed with a slightly narrower upper to help control the ball. Also for older players in the 9-14 age range, it is important that there are multiple cleats on the heel to avoid unnecessary pressure and heel pain. If your child is playing soccer or flag football, choose a cleat made with a synthetic material on the upper portion of the shoe. Man-made materials tend to absorb less water and will keep your child’s foot dry. Also, football cleats may extend above the ankle for additional support.
- Know the Requirements: Be sure to check the equipment requirements for the program your child is participating in. Depending on the sport and your child’s age, the specifications may vary. For instance at i9 Sports®, rubber cleats are encouraged for flag football, soccer and t-ball programs, but are not required. Yet, if a program is played indoors on artificial turf, cleats may not be allowed. In addition, wearing metal cleats is not allowed in any i9 Sports® program.
Finding a well fitting cleat will ensure that your child has a happy and healthy sports season. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the in-store assistant so you understand more about the differences between the specific varieties and brands offered. Consider shopping online as well to compare product reviews from other customers. Choosing the correct athletic shoe for your child will mean that he or she can focus their full attention on playing the game and having fun!