Shoe fitting considerations for children
No two children's feet are the same, and when it comes to fitting footwear, it's important to look at the all round shape of a child's foot. It's important to remember the bones in children's feet do not fully form until around 18 years of age, which means that throughout their childhood their feet are susceptible to been mis-shaped by ill fitting footwear. Shoes that are too wide or too narrow can do as much damage to a growing foot as shoes that are too short or too long, so fitted footwear has never been so important.
All children’s feet are as individual as them and they continually change and grow. To avoid future problems it is vital that children wear the correct style and size of shoes, with regular shoe check-ups and shoe changes as their feet grow.
Just a few months in a poor fitting shoe can cause permanent malformations in the bones of the feet, leading to problems in adulthood, including problems with the ankles, knees, hips and back difficulties.
For improved foot health it is recommended that children should wear a quality leather shoe for school or an alternate quality leather shoe if they are not yet at school age, not a trainer or sports shoe. Trainers are loved by all and we should enjoy them when we wear them, but this should be kept for sports, outdoor play etc. Trainer over use can cause problems as they do not provide the correct support for growing feet and can encourage splaying (where the foot spreads wide and flat). You should also always consider that different brands and styles may fit slightly different sizes and shapes, so even after having feet professionally measured new shoes should be tried on and checked for fit before being worn.
When they do take their first unaided steps:
A 'Fitting Gauge' plays only a small role in the selection of the correct shoe and ascertaining the necessary fitting properties. It is the expertise of the Shoe Fitter which determines these factors. Gauges are calibrated to manufacturers last's and relate to their specific brand - which is why you may receive conflicting measurements - because one brand varies from another. A child may take a size four in one brand and a half size larger in another, or perhaps a different width fitting! Country of origin, manufacturing technique, brand, style etc all play a part in how a shoe fits and not what size it says on the box.
There is nothing wrong with plimsoll's or trainers being worn in the right conditions and for the right purpose. You should always “wear the right shoes for the right occasion” and then whatever the type of footwear, they will perform correctly and in accordance with their design and manufacture. Manufacturers of exercise footwear i.e. trainers, create them to be used in specific conditions for specific sports, and a tremendous amount of research goes into their design. However, because of sportswear becoming an integral part of “street fashion” and also that they appear to fit and feel comfortable instantly (due to the amount of padding inside them), their popularity has soared. It has been easy for “cheaply made / unbranded” trainers to fill any retail outlet that chooses to sell them, their accessibility increasing their popularity. The truth is that worn all day every day, they can be harmful to your feet and general health. Feet may widen and become flaccid, and should you wish to go back to wearing structured footwear, you may suffer for a while!
So when to buy new shoes
If at all possible avoid second hand shoes. Shoes mould to the feet of their owner and may not offer the correct support in the right areas for a new owner.
Children generally need new shoes anywhere from 2 to 5 times per year. Opting for quality, well fitting shoes will help to avoid future problems and offer them comfort so that they can concentrate on being children.
Obviously you can buy new shoes as often as you like but there are essential ‘new shoe’ requirement indicators:
Is the width becoming tight?
Any tightness across the width, resulting in redness on the foot etc, or if the shape of little toes is obvious on the sides of the shoe, the shoes is too small/tight and you need to replace these shoes.
Is the length becoming too short?
DO NOT wait until a child's toe is right up against the front of the shoe, there should always be a gap and when this gap between the longest toe and the end of the shoe is less than the width of your little finger you need to replace these shoes.
Does the shoe still hold its shape?
Leather always has a certain amount of stretch and as such all shoes will have a small amount of stretch in the leather or fabric; however are the shoes so stretched that they look very out of shape of gape around the foot, if they do you this need to replace these shoes.
Are the shoes showing signs of wear?
Regularly check the soles of both shoes. Worn out areas on the soles can make the shoes uneven and they may not be offering the correct support and grip. Excess wear means that the shoes need to be replaced.
Back to school advice
BACK TO SCHOOL BLISTERS? It is quite normal and usually not the fault of the 'fit', or the shoes. How can that be? Well unless you bought shoes at the start of the holidays and your child has put on a growth spurt, they are still likely to fit. None of our members would fit a shoe without socks, but chances are the child was wearing old, thin socks (especially in the heat), and will have gone back to school in lovely new fluffy socks. The extra volume in the shoes may make a difference.
We do not recommend wearing shoes all day from new. A child should be allowed to wear them indoors intermittently first, so that their feet will get used to them. In the summer children are wearing very open, soft foot coverings and bare feet i.e. flip flops, trainers, rubber clogs, and there is very little structure in this type of footwear. Feet become 'flaccid' and spread, therefore when put into a properly constructed shoe, they will feel uncomfortable for a while. As the weather is still so warm, it wont help. Take children's shoes off when they get home and let feet and shoes breathe and dry out. Wash feet in a mild salty solution to cleanse them, and dry very thoroughly between the toes. Make sure nails have been trimmed correctly. If a blister has formed then follow the above and keep clean. A plaster should suffice until the child's feet have adapted to the shoes. A shop will happily check the fitting and check the shoes to make sure there is not a problem, and in some circumstances may be able to adapt them to take the pressure off the offending area.