The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

High Heels for Kids: How Soon Is Too Soon?

Posted by on Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

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This past summer, people were quick to criticize Victoria Beckham for allowing her seven-year-old daughter Harper to wear high heel shoes. Little did they know the daughter of Posh Spice had been wearing and running in heels since she was three! Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes caught similar flack for allowing their daughter Suri to wear high heels at age three.

Little girls begin expressing the desire to wear mommy’s shoes around three years of age. Obsessions at this age can be fleeting, fickle, and intense. So do you cave and buy her the princess shoes? Do you commit to “no” for her entire adolescence? Or is there a place in-between that is medically and socially acceptable? NYC podiatrists from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine weigh in on high heels for kids.

high heels for kids
Aspiring fashionistas will find a variety of dressy styles to choose from, but parents should exercise caution before encouraging a love of high heels at young ages. [Image Source: Pexels user Scott Webb]

What Is a Medically Appropriate Age for High Heels for Kids?

Here’s the bad news: girls should not be wearing high heels at any time before the age of 12 or 13. While the skeletal system in the lower extremities is largely done growing by 14, strengthening of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments take place until about age 18, so waiting until then is even better.

According to NYC podiatrists, the consequences of allowing young children to wear high heel shoes, include:

  • Foot pain and discomfort
  • Tightening of the heel cord
  • Shortened calf muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Calluses
  • Bunions and hammer toes
  • Lower back pain
  • Ingrown toenails
  • Changes in the growth plate
  • Trips, falls, and sprained ankles

Some health experts go as far to suggest the chronic inflammation caused by high heel wearing predisposes a person to different types of cancer.

“To say your child is going to end up with enormous bunions and cancer seems a bit overstated to me,” says Dr. Katherine Lai, DPM. “However, I would say that a sprained ankle, injured toenail, and distorted walking patterns are very real concerns with youngsters in heels. We’ve seen tight heel cords and growth plate disturbances on occasion.”

Purchasing High Heels for Kids

The high heel fashion trend for girls ages four to eight is more popular than you may imagine. In the UK, it is estimated up to one in 10 girls start to wear shoes with some type of heel before age six. A fifth of parents admitted they felt pressured by their little Cinderellas to invest in the latest fashions. Here in America, you can readily find child-sized heels at major department stores. Designers like Kenneth Cole and Jessica Simpson make stilettos for kids. Amiana has been making heels for tots since 1985. Some shoes are up to two inches high. The shoes come in a wide selection that mimics the styles (and often the prices) of their adult counterparts.

Introducing Your Child to High-Heel Shoes

If your child is into beauty pageants or obsessed with princesses and dressing up like mommy, here are a few tips:

  • Choose a kitten heel. It goes without saying, you want the smallest heel possible to avoid toe crowding, blister friction, and shortening of the Achilles tendon.
  • Try block heels. According to one of our podiatrists, Dr. Vera Malezhik, DPM: “A block heel distributes the ground reaction forces more equally throughout the entire foot, while a shorter heel reduces the pressure on the forefoot, decreasing the risk of getting injured.”
  • Look for shoes with velcro straps. A velcro strap locks your child in like a seatbelt, so there isn’t as much chafing or sliding.
  • Limit time. You might know what it feels like to wear heels all day. Kids are tough, but try to limit them to no more than two to three hours in a day. Avoid heels every day.
  • Get professionally fitted. Look for a retail store that fits kids. Consider width, as well as length. One thing to consider is shoe shopping at the end of the day when the feet are often the most swollen. This helps in purchasing shoes that will be comfortable throughout the day.

Consult an NYC Podiatrist

Regardless of whether you decide to allow your child to wear heels at a young age or not, the doctors at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine recommend taking the proper precautions to ensure your child’s feet stay healthy well into their adult years. Contact us with any concerns regarding foot health as it pertains to wearing high-heel shoes.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.