Are your child’s shoes damaging their feet?


    More than a quarter of kids (29%) are wearing footwear which is unsuitable, according to research by the College of Podiatry

    When was the last time your got your little one’s feet measured? The College of Podiatry‘s latest study, which surveyed 2,000 parents in the UK, has revealed that 85% of us have bought our children’s shoes without having their feet measured or the shoes fitted properly. Even more worryingly, 40% of parents have put off buying a new pair of shoes for their child, even though they have complained about their feet hurting.

    Over half (55%) of UK children have suffered injuries by wearing shoes that are either too small or unsuitable for young feet, too.

    Understandably, our children’s feet grow so fast, it can seem like we’re forever buying replacement shoes. But it’s because their feet are changing at such a rapid rate that it’s important to provide shoes that offer protection and support.

    “Wearing the wrong size or shoe type in the short term causes blisters, rubbing, bruising and callouses, but in the long term it could affect foot development and result in musculoskeletal issues,” says Dr Stewart Morrison, a podiatrist from The College of Podiatry and the University of Brighton.

    “Children’s feet are still growing and are more susceptible to damage than adult feet, so it’s vital to ensure they are wearing shoes which fit them well – in width as well as length – and that are suitable for age, as well as the task they are wearing them for.”

    More than one in 10 parents admitted they had no idea what their child’s current shoe size was, and 38% admit to handing down shoes to younger children without being sure they fit properly. The survey also revealed it’s our daughters most at risk, with parents feeling the pressure to buy fashionable footwear for girls. Parents are inadvertently dressing their children in shoes which podiatrists would not recommend for everyday wear, including flip flops and ballet pumps.

    “We recommend parents have their children’s feet measured and their everyday shoes fitted by a professional,” continues Dr Morrison. “For a young child [aged 1-3 years], foot changes can happen very quickly, and parents should aim to get their feet measured every eight weeks. For older children, we would advise every three to four months. This would be particularly important during growth spurts.”

    What to look for in a children’s shoe:
    The College of Podiatry says:

    • Adequate length and width: All children’s footwear should be measured for length and width, and fitted by an appropriately trained shoe fitter. If fitting is not available, or is refused, go elsewhere.
    • Broad base of heel: This should be as wide as the heel to give stability, and be made of a shock-absorbing material.
    • Height of heel: You’re looking for a slight heel to provide sufficient shock absorption, ideally around a quarter of an inch. Completely flat shoes such as ballet pumps provide little shock absorption but heels of 2cm of higher can shorten calf muscles and place pressure on the ball of the foot.
    • Toe area shape: This should be foot shaped and not pointed, or excessively tapered.
    • Holding the foot in the shoe: It is important that the shoe is kept on the foot by laces, Velcro or T-bar, which acts like a seatbelt in a car, holding the shoe onto the foot. This helps to prevent toe deformities, as lack of support to keep the shoe on the foot can allow the foot to slide up and down in the shoe and damage the toes or cause the toes to claw to help keep the shoe on. This is a problem with the current fashion of not tying shoelaces or with ballet pump and slip on style shoes.
    • Material: Leather is the best material for kids’ shoes as it is flexible and soft, but hard wearing. It also lets air in but keeps moisture out, meaning feet stay cool and dry in most conditions. Nubuck, suede and other soft fabrics are different types of leather and share most of the benefits. Avoid shoes which are largely made of other materials (synthetics and plastics) as these are often hard, inflexible and won’t allow your children’s feet to breathe.
    • Adequate depth of toe area: This is particularly important in individuals with a big toe that curls up at the end and helps to avoid toenail problems.
    • Support: The shoe should offer sufficient support for the foot.  The shoe should not bend or crumple excessively. Plimsolls and ballet-pump shoes are examples that bend too easily.