Children spend around 30 hours a week in their school shoes, or more than 15,000 hours during their school years, so correctly fitted schools shoes are very important. Ill-fitting shoes can lead to problems in adulthood, such as ingrown toenails, corns and bunions, which may even require surgery later in life.
Here are some tips for making the process of buying correctly fitted school shoes easier:
What to look for in a shoe.
When it’s time to start shopping for school shoes, keep in mind the following features to help you make the right shoe choice:
1. A firm heel counter:
This is important because the heel acts as the support of the foot and must be held in a stable position so that it does not lean in (pronation) or out (supination) too much, possibly leading to pain and posture problems. If you can easily press in the sides of the heel, it is not providing enough support for the growing foot.
2. Fastening mechanism:
It is important to have laces or other fastening such as Velcro to hold the foot in place so it does not slip forward and cause the toes to scrunch and claw. This damages the front of the foot and can lead to the development of hammer-toes (where the toes buckle) and clawed toes, which can become permanent.
Soles should be flexible, but only at the ball of the foot, not at the mid-point, and with sufficient cushioning. The sole should not be rigid, but nor should you be able to roll it up into a ball or bend it in half. A supportive sole must be robust enough for walking, running and jumping.
4. Good Quality Material:
A good quality shoe is made from a strong rubber sole, good cushioning for comfort, and leather upper for support and longevity. Leather is a breathable and water-resistant material, which is important for active, sweaty feet. If feet cannot breathe, there is an increased risk of conditions such as fungal infections – not to mention a bad smell.
Expect to spend $100 plus on a well-made, properly fitted pair of shoes. They are an investment for good foot health even if children outgrow them quickly.
6. Correct Sizing:
Don’t be tempted to buy shoes that are too big in order to allow your children to ‘grow into’. Shoes that are too big wear out more quickly. Your child will drag the shoes along the ground causing the soles to wear thin. They will also be more easily scuffed as your child won’t be able to pick their feet up properly. Consequently, you will likely end up paying for new school shoes sooner than if you were to buy the correct sized shoes.
Styles to avoid
- Rubber clogs have insufficient support at the heel and can cause children to walk in an out-toed (Charlie Chaplin) position, which can cause knee and joint problems.
- Ballet flats are also too flat and often flimsy, offering insufficient support, cushioning and protection. This can lead to fatigue and aching feet, whilst the lack of support can result in toes having to clench the shoe to keep the shoe on. Other flat shoes such as plimsolls can also cause arch fatigue or arch pain, which can in turn lead to long-term flat feet and knee and back pain.
- Ugg boots should be worn as slippers only (as designed) as they offer little support.
- High heels should be avoided because of the pressure they put on growing toes. Slip-ons allow feet to slip forward, crowding the toes.
Children’s Foot/leg pain and shoes
If your child is experiencing pains in their feet or lower legs, it is highly recommended that this be assessed by a podiatrist before purchasing new shoes. Footwear can have a significant affect on the function of the feet and particular footwear may be recommended in order to address or reduce the risk of pains and conditions.
For more information on children’s foot and leg pain, see our blog on the 5 Warning Signs of Foot and Leg Pain in Children.