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Ask an Expert - Passed Down Shoes

Should shoes be passed down from one sibling to the next?

By Bryan Christensen,
Associate Professor, Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences, NDSU

The answer to this question depends on what the shoes are going to be used for, such as general use or more specific athletic/sport activities. If your child or adolescent is just going to use the shoes for general use, such as everyday activities, playing in the yard, etc, then passing shoes down is not a problem as long as the sibling who will receive the shoes has similar-sized feet and the shoes are not too worn out. If the shoes have holes or are coming apart, a new pair is necessary.

However, if the shoes are going to be used for athletic or sport activities, especially activities that involve a lot of running on hard surfaces, you need to be more careful when passing down shoes. There are a couple of reasons why this is true. The first is that shoes tend to lose their cushioning ability. After about 300 to 500 miles of wear, a pair of shoes will lose their cushioning ability due to the use they have been put through. Even if they have not been worn for several hundred miles, the shoes still will lose some of their cushioning ability due to the aging of the materials in the shoe. As the materials age, they lose the ability to cushion the feet properly.

Another possible reason to avoid passing shoes down for sport-related activities is that having shoes that fit properly and are designed to match the gait pattern of the foot is more important.The majority of people have a normal gait pattern. However, some people have “flat feet,” which means they have little or no arch. When looking for running shoes, remember that runners who have "flat" feet need shoes that are designed with motion control features and a straight last. Some people have "high arches" and walk or run mainly on the outside edge of their feet. The people with these types of foot patterns need running shoes designed with a curved last and extra cushioning.

You may have a child or adolescent with shoes designed for flat feet, but the sibling to receive the shoes has high arches or vice versa. In that case, the shoes should not be used by the second sibling. The shoes probably will not be comfortable to the second sibling receiving the shoes and that sibling is more likely to have overuse injuries to the feet, knees and possibly hips.

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