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A lifetime of healthy feet starts in childhood

Nothing compares to the moment you first hold your baby in your arms, the door to parenthood has swung wide open and the great unknown stretches what now!? No qualifications, no instruction manual supplied and huge decisions to be made seemingly every day.

How wonderful would it be if a baby did come with step-by-step instructions, as it is the information available is often overwhelming and do you make head or tail of what you have heard or read? The answer in my case was usually paralysis or gut instinct!

Fast forward a year and the time came to buy shoes for my gorgeous little girl, I was utterly bamboozled by the options. The euphoria of seeing her take her first steps turned to worry about how to make the right choice about her first shoes.

My mum had always insisted we have our feet measured regularly and invested in good quality shoes, which in the 70's meant a trip to Clark's. So my instinct told me this was important and off to Clark's I went. I can not tell you how disappointed I was with the choice of shoes and the complete lack of guidance the salesperson was able to provide, although I realise this will not be the case in every store.

When it comes to kid's shoes there can be too many choices...some fantastic for little feet, some totally unsuitable, and some just not suitable for your child's feet, but how to tell which is which? Finding someone you can trust to guide you through the options will be an invaluable resource as your child grows.

A great first step (excuse the pun) is to search the Children's Foot Health Register, those listed here have made a commitment to uphold the highest standards and have your child's best interests at heart. All good shoe fitters will offer no obligation fitting checks, allow adequate growing room and will most certainly not sell you a pair of shoes that do not fit correctly or that you don't yet need.

Laura West of the Society of Shoe Fitters likens children's feet to bonsai trees ..."if you restrict them, they grow unnaturally and incorrectly at the point of pressure." Unfortunately the damage caused by ill-fitting shoes is often not immediately apparent. As a parent and a children's shoe fitter I feel a strong sense of responsibility to do the best I can to ensure every little pair of feet I see grows and develops into healthy adult feet that will support them in whatever they choose to do.

The biggest challenge by far comes when these little people start to develop opinions of their own about what they want to wear, watch out, it happens far sooner than expected!

My few words of wisdom to get you started:

  • Up to the age of four, children's feet should be measured every 6-8 weeks. You will not need shoes every time but it's important to monitor their growth and development. From the age of four, growth slows slightly and measuring every 8-10 weeks is advised

  • The shoes children wear the majority of the time need to be well-fitted, offer appropriate support and be suited to their stage of development. Wearing a pair of shoes occasionally, for a short period of time, is unlikely to damage the foot, such as sparkly party shoes

  • Unless they are taking part in sports/activities that require specialist footwear, young children really only need one pair of shoes at a time, plus perhaps a pair of wellies for wet days once they are confident on their feet

  • Don't be a follower of fashion... children's feet are a different shape to an adults, therefore a mini version of the latest footwear trend is unlikely to be good for their feet. Choose shoe specifically designed for children.

  • Shoes should hold the foot firmly at the heel and around the ankle, without gaping, and provide wriggle room for the toes, without being too wide or too long. Slip-on shoes and flip-flops are not suitable for children's feet, as they will use their toes to grip

A lifetime of healthy feet starts in childhood. Buying shoes is not a one-off, there will be many of these decisions to be made over the years, but always take your time, don't be rushed and don't buy until you are confident the fit is right!

If you have any questions at all about your children's feet or footwear, please just ask #theshoelady

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