As it turns out your own mother was right and every child does need properly fitted ‘sensible’ shoes. Here’s how to win(g) the battle
Words Libby Norman
Every parent has a strange moment in a shoe shop. There you are on the other side of the fence, trying to reason with a reluctant toddler (or 12 year old) that it is very important to get shoes fitted properly – “sensible shoes” – or their feet won’t grow properly.
Yet you clearly remember sitting in the fitting hot-seat aghast as the school shoes were brought out. Even if you secretly agree that flashing lights, purple spangles and inbuilt wheels are much more fun, it’s time to toe the parental line. The good news is that you can argue this one with right on your side.
Children’s feet are malleable. In a newborn the foot is made up of soft and flexible cartilage and this only converts to bone over time, a very long time. At age five, your child has the full complement of 26 bones, says The College of Podiatry, but their feet are still vulnerable and well-fitting, properly made shoes are essential right through school, even if it’s a battle to manage what they wear out of school.
So why measure?
You may think you can spot when the shoe fits, but this is more complex than Cinderella and Prince Charming. Emma Stevenson, podiatrist and spokespeson for The College of Podiatry, says: “A professional shoe fitter will not only look at the length of a child’s foot, but also the width, which is important. Children will often not say if their shoes are too small, particularly if they like the shoes, which is why it’s worth having regular checks.”
And how often?
Children’s feet are, rather like the rest of them, miraculous. On average, they grow two sizes a year up to the age of four, one size after that. It doesn’t always work that way though – so nothing for what seems an age, then a massive growth spurt. Emma Stevenson says The College of Podiatry recommendation is to measure older children every three to four months. For children aged one to three, it’s around every eight weeks. So grit your teeth, join the queue and get the fitting done as close as you can to the start of term.
Don’t sweat it
It has to be leather all the way because, as Start-rite’s brands manager Denise Aldous points out, children are very active. Leather is
flexible and breathable, essential for growing feet and good for sweaty feet (yes, children’s feet do a lot of that too). Look for good padding on uppers and flexible soles. The College of Podiatry reminds you to check their socks fit properly too.
And the good news?
Lots of good work is being done to reduce the fitting stress. You can download devilishly clever measuring tools from Start-rite – involving digital photos and a special grid which tech-obsessed children might just enjoy. Or buy its measuring gauge for home use. Oh, and bare feet are great for foot health. So let your child run around as nature intended, wherever it’s safe to do so, sure in the knowledge you are nurturing their feet while saving a fortune on shoe leather.