Children's Footwear. Written by Kath Miller, Podiatrist

Hands up if your children grow out of their shoes every couple of months. And keep your hands up if you feel tempted to buy discounted shoes for next season or grab a deal for children’s shoes online, without trying on the shoes or getting them properly fitted?

As a mother of two toddlers myself, I know it is extremely tempting to buy shoes online & sometimes in advance of the next season. Unfortunately during our extended lockdowns buying kids shoes online has been the only option. But now as Melbourne opens up to COVID normal, I want to stress the importance of booking an appointment at your children’s shoe stores to get those little feet measured up properly to ensure that you get the right fit.

Children’s shoes do not necessarily have to be an expensive brand – but the features and the fit are very important to ensure your kids are getting the support and comfort they need without potential damage from ill-fitting or inappropriate shoes.

The bones in children’s feet take years to mature and the bones to ossify (go hard) so poor footwear choices can potentially impact the normal shape of the foot and can lead to longer term foot issues.

An expensive shoe doesn’t guarantee it’s a good shoe. In fact, there are some cheaper shoes that have great features and if fitted properly, are a fantastic option for your child. So whether you buy a “brand name” shoe or a cheaper shoe, there are important fitting elements and footwear features to ensure your children’s feet are happy and healthy (and most of these apply to adult’s shoes too!).

1. Ensure you have a measurement of the length of both feet and the width of both too as it’s common they aren’t exactly the same left to right. Too often we only measure the length of one foot or don’t get a width measurement. We then fit to the longer foot and get a shoe that is wide, standard or narrow fit to suit.

2. When we newly fit a shoe, there should be approximately a thumb width (12-16mm) of room between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe (see the photo). Note, the “big toe” might not be the longest toe.

3. The shape of the front of the shoe should be foot shaped – our feet aren’t pointy. All toes should be able to move freely and not be squashed into a shoe (causing rubbing, corns, blisters, pain).

4. The heel cup/counter should be firm and not something you can squash down with your fingers – we want it to hold the foot straight and give support.

5. Shoes should fit exactly around the heel – we suggest you should be able to just slide one finger into the shoe around the ankle when it’s on otherwise it’s too sloppy and likely to cause slippage, contribute to tripping or allow abnormal rolling in the shoe.

6. Shoes should be able to be tightened up with laces, Velcro, straps. Avoid slip ons as they don’t hold the shoe on the foot, can cause the foot and toes to try to grip the shoe and increase the chances of falling.

7. Try to get shoes made of natural material uppers such as leather. They breathe fewer sweaty feet issues including tinea (and stinky feet!).

8. We do not recommend children wearing any shoes with a high heel.

9. It’s also important if you have a toddler, that they have some barefoot time on a safe surface to help the little muscles in the feet develop and to help their proprioception.

If you are concerned about your children’s foot shape, foot posture (e.g. feet are flat or rolling in), or they have any other common childhood foot conditions including ‘growing pains’, heel pain (Severs disease), ingrown toenails or warts, book an appointment with a podiatrist who is experienced with treating children.

Kathryn Miller (B.Pod)

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