A shoe needs to fit the whole foot to support its healthy development, not only provide room for growth.
The question we’re asked more than any other, how long will these shoes last? It’s an impossible one to answer, as every child grows and develops at their own pace, but rest assured, a well-trained shoe fitter will make sure there’s enough room for growth in your children’s shoes.
However, focusing solely on growing room overlooks the crucial factor of how well the shoes actually fit their little feet. It doesn’t matter how much room there is to grow if the shoes are too tight or too loose elsewhere. Children’s feet need to be able to move naturally, if their shoes are inhibiting natural movement, it can have a detrimental effect on the development of their bones, muscles and posture, potentially causing discomfort and laying the groundwork for problems in the future.
It takes several months to train as a shoe fitter. Our feet are incredibly complex structures, an intricate network of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. They are our foundation and any issues affecting them will likely impact what lies above.
During our training we learn all about how the foot develops and functions, shoe construction, the effects of footwear on the feet and potential problems. We become experts in getting the fit just right. So here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re shopping for shoes for little ones.
Let’s start with the toes… while it’s essential to have ample room in front of them, there should also be space to either side to allow the toes, generally the widest part of the foot, to flex and splay. This creates a strong and stable base to aid balance and movement. Many shoes are designed with a tapering toe box, which squishes toes together, altering their natural alignment and weakening the structure and strength of the foot.
Shoes that are too narrow can lead to bunions, hammertoes, ingrown toenails, neuromas, blisters, corns and calluses. A toe box (the front of the shoe) should have plenty of wriggle room for toes to move freely, to spread sideways and move up and down. This prevents crowding, facilitates natural movement and supports healthy development.
Moving to the midfoot, footwear should be secured across the top of the foot, preferably with an adjustable fastening, such as velcro, buckles or laces. Shoes should fit closely around this mid-section, so they move with the feet without restricting them.
Slip-on shoes may seem like a convenient option, but they rely on a tight fit to stay in place. Squeezing toes together, putting pressure on developing bones and restricting natural movement. Or they will be too loose and toes will grip to keep the shoe in place, straining muscles and affecting the foot’s movement.
If your child has a high instep (the bone running from behind your big toe towards your ankle), make sure shoes are deep enough to fit comfortably, without putting pressure on this bone. Adjustable fastenings will make achieving a comfortable fit much easier!
Last but not least, the heel. Shoes should fit snugly and securely at the heel, with no gaps around the ankle. The cuff of the shoe should sit below the ankle bone, if it catches, it’s likely to be uncomfortable.
Carefully watch your child walking around in the shoes. Do they look comfortable? Are they moving as they normally would? Are they looking where they’re going or are they distracted by the shoes? Are they slipping at the heel? Stripy socks make this easier to spot!
Choosing the right shoes for your little one is more than just a fashion statement. It’s about their comfort, development, confidence and long-term foot health. Find someone whose advice you can trust, take time to get the fit just right and your child’s feet will thank you, now and in the future!