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									Choosing good shoes for your children can be hard -- and not just because of the variety
of cartoon characters that decorate kids' shoes. The design of the shoe itself can make a
big difference to how your child's feet develop, and choosing the right shoe can make a
difference in later life as far as foot problems are concerned.

The foot develops best in people who spend their entire lives walking barefoot. There are
six advantages to walking barefoot:

      The forefoot (the front part of the foot) becomes more mobile and flexible.
      The plantar skin (the skin on the soles of the feet) becomes thicker and more
       resistant to minor cuts (although it won't protect against sharp objects, which is
       one reason people need to wear shoes in developed countries)
      The creases in the plantar skin, and the creases on the dorsum (top) of the feet,
       become deeper and more pronounced, which also improves foot flexibility.
      The phalanges (the bones in the toes) spread out more and become better aligned,
       which helps your balance.
      The arches develop as far as they need to for your height and weight. (There is no
       single good height for foot arches; the proper height depends on your body build.)
      People who always walk barefoot tend not to have corns, calluses, bunions, and
       fungal infections like athlete's foot, all of which are aggravated by the wrong kind
       of shoe.

The main reason why people wear shoes in developed countries is to protect the feet from
hazards: these include both sharp objects (nails, for example) and the surfaces we walk
on (there is no concrete in the wilderness), as well as objects that may fall on or hit our
feet. (As another example, no one in their right mind works in a hospital barefoot.) The
style issue is, or should be, secondary, but many modern shoes look like they are
designed to create foot problems. In particular, shoes that raise the heel compromise gait
and may hurt the ankle, and you are much more likely to develop corns and bunions with
pointed-toe shoes.

When shopping for children's shoes, keep these things in mind:

      The shoe upper material needs to be porous to allow air to circulate. This prevents
       excessive moisture from accumulating, which would make it easier for both fungi
       and bacteria to grow. Canvas or soft leather, or perforated leather, are good
       materials for uppers; plastic is a bad material, unless it is thoroughly-perforated
       plastic mesh.
      The heel should not be elevated (see above). The only reason for elevating a heel
       is in people who have one leg shorter than the other: in these people the shoe on
       the short-leg foot needs to raise the foot so that the wearer effectively has two
       equal-length legs. Otherwise, high-heeled shoes are A Bad Idea.
      The front part of the shoe should be wider than the heel. This matches the natural
       shape of the foot and allows the toes to spread out. As I mentioned above,
       pointed-toe shoes are also A Bad Idea (and pointed-toe, high-heeled shoes are An
       Even Worse Idea).
   There should be from 1/2 to 1-1/2 centimeters (about 1/4 to 3/4 inch) of space
    between the end of the toes and the end of the inside of the shoe. (A good measure
    of toe room is Mom's thumb: there should be one Mom's-thumb-width of room at
    the front of the shoe.)
   There should be some support behind the heel. You don't normally have heel
    support when you walk barefoot, but it does come in handy when wearing shoes.
   The sole should be flexible to allow the foot to flex.
   The shoe should be lightweight. This lessens the load on the foot as well as the
    leg and the rest of the wearer.
   The sole of the shoe should be textured or patterned to give the wearer some
    traction on slippery surfaces.

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