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How to choose the best shoes for growing feet



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Created on Oct 29, 2023 · 6 mins read

It’s very tempting to want to buy your little one an endless supply of super cute shoes. Who wants to argue with a small child over glitter, rainbows and cartoon characters anyway? What harm could it do! But when it comes to our little one’s growing feet, there is so much more to consider. Because it is in these developing years that the foundations are set!

Understanding the growth and development of your child’s feet.

First up, it is important to remember that foot alignment begins in Utero and will develop exponentially within the first decade of their life. Their feet will then continue to grow right through to late adolescence.

At birth the foot is flexible and flat and by seven to ten, the arch has almost fully formed. Walking barefoot within a safe environment is recommended throughout childhood to help strengthen the feet, develop the arch and improve balance. However, we know that when it comes to school or sport and activities – wearing shoes is required!

65% of kids are wearing the wrong size school shoes

According to a survey, approximately 65% of kids have been identified as wearing the incorrect shoe size, equating to two thirds of our kids spending their days in potentially harmful, ill-fitting shoes. Multiply that by the amount of hours they will spend in their shoes and you will see why some will come out the other end with foot deformities and complications.

If you visit a specialist shoe store like Shoes & Sox, your child’s feet will be measured (both in length and width) by The Fit Squad, along with observing things like narrow heels, high or low arches and any other specific features of your child’s unique feet. They will also stock established brands that are trusted for its engineering, support, and durability.

Choosing the right shoes is definitely not a ‘same size size fits all’ approach, as that same size can look different based on their unique feet and be dependent on the brand. Just because they are a size 12 in one shoe, doesn’t mean they will be in another. The length and width is an important factor in this, whilst also ensuring there is enough space for growth – but not too big that the shoe is sloppy on the foot.

A simple hack you might follow is that when your child has grown out of their onesies / swimmers / uniforms etc take this as your cue to check their shoe size and width fit. If you are unsure you can always follow the guide below:

  • Until the age of three – check every one to three months
  • Up to the age of five – check every four months
  • From five years old – check every six months

Let’s look at what is best to assist with the healthy development of your child’s feet for each age.

Shoes for zero to four years old

For pre-walkers, keep little feet free of tight-fitting jumpsuits, sleeping bags and socks, ensuring they have adequate toe wiggle room. Once your little one is standing and cruising, let them explore barefoot on non-slip, soft-based surfaces to encourage proprioception, balance and strength. Avoid slippery tiles and socks, as these will reduce your child’s confidence and stability. A soft enclosed shoe with a non-slip sole, plus a thick rug or carpet will give a softer landing and better grip.

Once your little one is on the move independently, the aim is to promote a stable, heel-to-toe gait cycle in both walking and running, whilst building strength and endurance in the feet and legs. For youngsters who are finding it hard to balance, are slower to hit walking milestones, are toe walkers, or have experienced foot and leg complications (hip dysplasia or club foot), a wide, stable shoe with a slight heel is important to assist walking progress. Once your child is confidently tearing around the house, the shoe stability can be stripped back and a more flexible soled shoe can be utilised to help develop intrinsic muscle strength and further stability.

The golden rules for fitting toddler shoes:

  • Barefoot (no socks) is best to build strength and stability
  • Shoes should be worn when required for warmth and protection
  • Shoes need to be enclosed around the heel and toe
  • Shoes shouldn’t be easily slipped on / off i.e. thongs and ballet flats as this causes toe gripping
  • Well-structured sandals are best for summer
  • Shoes should be shaped with a wide toe box with enough room to let the toes spread
  • The fit of the shoe should be slightly broader and longer than the foot, without causing slipping and tripping
  • Natural, breathable materials i.e. leather, sheep skin should be utilised when possible.

Shoes for school-aged kids:

The demands placed on the feet significantly change once your child hits school age. They will be participating in structured exercise programs, playing on concrete play areas, carrying weighted school bags and potentially walking to and from school. This will mean that their requirements for shoes will change with a more structured shoe being recommended to provide adequate shock absorption, foot support and durability.

The golden rules for fitting school-age kids shoes:

  • The shoe passes the flex test by bending at the forefoot, not in the middle, and not able to be twisted
  • The shoes hold themselves on with a fastening mechanism i.e. laces or Velcro straps
  • The fit is snug around the width of the foot, not sloppy and not tight
  • The toe box shape allows for the toes to wiggle and is not tapered inwards
  • At the time of purchase there is a full thumbs width in extra length at the toe
  • There is a small heel to toe gradient, that is, the shoes aren’t dead flat
  • There is a firm heel counter to support the back of the heel
  • The shoes are replaced just before the toes are in contact with the end of the shoe
  • Opt for rubber soled school shoes that are light-weight and have a fastening mechanism such as laces or Velcro
  • Running shoes make for a great multi-sport shoe and for weekend wear
  • A sport specific shoe i.e. football boots and netball shoes are important for competitive sport

In addition, if your child is complaining of tired legs, is tripping regularly, is experiencing pain at night, during (or after any activity) then consulting with a podiatrist is recommended.

With your foresight, proactive approach and savvy shoe investment, your kids (and their feet) will thank you later.

In January get 20% off at Shoes & Sox on their wide range of school and black sport shoes and don’t forget to book your expert fit with The Fit Squad.

Visit www.emilybraidwood.com for more information.

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