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Young athletes have an uncomplicated approach to their chosen activities – they just want to get out there and do their thing. But since their feet are still developing, letting them play without the proper shoes can cause youngsters potentially serious foot and ankle problems. Here’s how to minimize the risk.

  1. Get them into the right shoes

Choosing well-fitting shoes is important for everyone, but for younger athletes, it’s even more vital. In fact, the number one cause of foot problems with young athletes’ feet and ankles is wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.

  • Always go to a shoe store which has staff members who understand what young athletes need. Avoid discount stores where there’s no one to warn you of potential trouble.
  • Shoes need to be supportive in all the right places, so be picky. If they cause any discomfort or pinching, reject that model, even if it looks great.
  1. Make sure they prepare properly

There’s nothing more likely to end in disaster than rushing into a game without warming up. They may be lucky and get away with it a few times, but they’ll be running the risk of pulled muscles, ankle sprains or even shin splints. Over 60 percent of kids’ sports injuries happen during practice.

  • Talk to their coaches and teachers, and ask them to offer your athlete some tips on which exercises are best for their chosen sports.
  • Make sure they understand how important warming up is. A podiatrist will be able to offer advice and encouragement on how to take care of their feet.
  1. Don’t overdo it

It’s one of the hardest lessons for most young athletes to learn: that they won’t become better by working themselves into the ground. Almost half of sports-related injuries are related to overuse, including serious conditions such as stress fractures.

  • Make sure your athlete takes plenty of breaks between bouts of vigorous exercise, and varies the type of sports they play to minimize repetitive stress.
  • If they have foot pain, or symptoms such as inflammation, it’s time to stop. If the condition doesn’t improve quickly, take them to see a doctor.
  1. As responsible adults, take an active role

That doesn’t mean that you need to get out there on the field yourself, but take an interest and talk with your young athlete about what they’re doing to protect their feet and ankles. Attend practice sessions if possible, and try joining them in some of the stretching exercises.

  • Kids may not tell you everything, because they love what they do and don’t want to stop. So take note if they never mention how their feet feel after a game or session.
  • Be prepared to put your foot down if you’re worried about their feet. A trip to the podiatrist now could save them from a lot of misery later on.