With the official start of the school year at the end of the month, parents will no doubt be thinking about book lists, uniform requirements and the dreaded lunch box dilemma—healthy items their kids will actually eat! But two often overlooked areas of the back to school discussion are arguably two of the most important—what type and how they use their backpack, and what they wear on their feet.
Obesity rates amongst Australian children and adolescents have increased significantly since the 1970s, so the need to get kids physically active as part of their normal daily routine has never been more important.
Walking, skateboarding or riding to and from school is an easy, safe choice for most kids, and with appropriate backpacks and school shoes, their journey will be even easier.
The Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Paediatric Group Chair, Julianne Pegler, says kids are more likely to want to be active at school if they’re comfortable. “Sedentary habits aren’t likely to be broken unless there are easy, attractive ways for kids and teens to be regularly active. One easy thing parents can do is ensure that their kids’ school bags and shoes fit properly, so that their travel to and from school is not uncomfortable.”
Julianne’s advice to help ensure children start the school year in comfort is:
Choose a backpack with wide shoulder straps that sit well on the shoulder.
Ensure waist and chest straps help transfer some of the load to the hips and pelvis.
A padded back-support will allow the pack to fit ‘snugly’ on the back.
Ensure the backpack fits the child; don’t buy a big pack to ‘grow’ into—the pack should not extend higher than the child’s shoulders when sitting.
Be aware that moderately weighted backpacks are not detrimental to kids’ back health.
Avoid swinging backpacks around.
The average child wears their school shoes for over 1500 hours per year—that’s a lot of running, jumping, kicking and playing on hard surfaces—so it’s important that school shoes support kids’ feet. Some tips to look out for include:
Make sure the shoe has a firm heel counter, which is designed to hold the foot in place. Without a firm support around the ankle, the shoe isn’t able to support the foot properly.
Make sure the shoe has good torsional stability. Hold both ends of the shoe and twist in opposite directions. There should be minimal movement. Torsional stability protects the foot from rolling in or out too far.
Make sure the shoe bends in the right place. Squeeze both ends of the shoe together; it should bend at the toes where the foot naturally bends. If it bends in the middle it can cause extra stress underneath the foot.
Make sure the shoe fits correctly – too much or too little space will affect comfort and potentially cause blisters or the foot to move too much within the shoe.
To help take away the element of uncertainty when parents are looking to purchase appropriate back to school products for kids, the Australian Physiotherapy Association can recommend two companies whose products it officially endorses.
Ascent Footwear has a range of school shoes available exclusively through The Athlete’s Foot stores, and Spartan School Supplies Primary Physio Pak and Physio Pak backpacks are available via its website.
In order to receive APA endorsement, products are reviewed for any current evidence or research based on their use and TGA certification. Once this is established, a specialist physiotherapist will review and test the product against the supplied information to ensure compliance and provide a report. A favourable report will result in official endorsement.
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