It’s time for back-to-school shopping, and parents around the country are preparing to help their children put their best foot forward with new shoes.

The American Podiatric Medical Association advises parents wading through the countless styles and fashion trends in children’s footwear to remember that comfort should always come first. The APMA offers parents the following shoe-shopping tips.

* Shop later in the day. Feet expand when bearing weight, so they tend to swell throughout the day. Therefore, it’s best to buy shoes in the afternoon or evening, when your children’s feet have already increased in size.

* Always measure the feet. Every shoe fits differently, and sizes tend to vary by style and brand.

* Take socks. If your children aren’t wearing socks already, take a spare pair. It’s important that your children try on shoes with the same type of socks or stockings they’ll wear with the shoes.

* Examine the shoes for quality. First, check the heel to make sure it is stiff. Press on both sides of the heel; it should not collapse. Then, check toe flexibility. The shoes should bend with the toes; they shouldn’t be too stiff or bend too much. Finally, look to see if the shoe is rigid in the middle. It should not twist.

* Buy for the larger foot. It is common for one foot to be larger than the other, so be sure the shoes fit both feet comfortably.

* Choose shoes that do not need a “break in” period. The shoes you buy should be comfortable immediately. If the shoes are too tight or pinch the toes, your children could wind up with corns, calluses or blisters.

The APMA advises against handing down footwear from an older sibling. Just because a pair of shoes fits one child comfortably doesn’t mean it will fit another child the same way. Furthermore, hand-me-down shoes can spread athlete’s foot and other fungi.

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