Buying shoes for school

Buying shoes for school

Buying shoes for school

If you’re a parent, you’ll know from experience that buying shoes for school can be hard work. Children are pretty trend-conscious, and are often keen to have the latest style rather than the ‘sensible’ option. Most of us probably feel the same way!

However, the choices you make when buying children’s shoes are incredibly important. According to the Children’s Foot Health Register:

  • Around 70% of foot problems come from wearing the wrong footwear or ill-fitting shoes. The majority of these are caused by ill-fitting footwear worn as a child.
  • Over £30 million is spent annually on chiropody services for the over 60’s, and most of these foot problems can be attributed to badly fitting shoes or unsuitable footwear in childhood.

To help you through the minefield of school shoe-shopping, we've compiled the best advice available from expert podiatrists and chiropodists.

School shoes

When to buy new shoes

  • Children’s feet grow rapidly – sometimes as much as two to three sizes in a year, so it’s highly recommended to have a shoe fitting every three months, right from when your child first begins to walk.
  • It’s always best to opt for new shoes instead of hand-me-downs or charity shop buys. That way you will ensure a better fit for your child, and avoid spreading infections such as athlete’s foot.
  • Investing in a second pair of school shoes can save you money in the long run. If your budget allows, buy a second pair and swap them over each day. They will last much longer than buying two pairs one after the other.

Size and fit

  • Always have your child's feet measured before you buy shoes. Children's feet grow quickly, so you shouldn't rely on a previous measurement.
  • Find a shop that offers shoes in different width fittings and half sizes and that has trained staff who can expertly fit them. Less than a third of children are an 'average' fitting.
  • Shoe sizes do vary by manufacturer, so it’s important that the shoe is fitted while it’s being worn. Make sure that your child’s foot is firmly back in the heel of the shoe. A good fit will allow about a finger’s width of space beyond the longest toe (usually the second toe), as well as in the width of the shoe.
  • Although it may seem that children grow out of their shoes quickly, don’t be tempted to buy shoes that are too big, as a loose fit can cause painful rubbing. On the other hand, shoes that are too small can cramp and misalign growing bones in the feet.
  • If your child has one foot bigger than the other, always go up in size rather than down, so as not to squeeze the larger foot.
  • The toe area of the shoe should be deep enough to allow your child to wiggle their toes freely and not be squashed from the top or sides.
  • Encourage your child to walk around the shop to make sure the shoes don't rub at the ankle, or have uncomfortable seams. Shoes should be comfortable when you buy them – there should be no need to break them in.

What kind of shoes are best?

Children’s shoes need to be soft and flexible, and to cope with lots of running about and hard knocks! They should also provide support and cushioning, and be breathable to allow body heat and moisture to escape.

  • Avoid slip-on shoes, particularly girl’s ballet pumps which provide no support or shock absorption. Instead, choose shoes with a fully adjustable fastening such as laces, straps or Velcro, which hold the foot firmly in place.
  • Natural material uppers such as leather or canvas are best, as they allow the foot to breathe. Check inside the shoe for seams or stitching that might rub.
  •  Trainers can be fine if they’re properly fitted. However, do remember that many trainers are designed for particular sports and aren’t suitable for everyday wear. Plimsolls are fine for PE, but aren’t good for children to wear in school all day, every day.
  • If children’s shoes have heels, they should be no higher than 4cm, and lower than that for young children. The heel should have a broad base and be made from a shock-absorbing material.

Tips for Back to School shoe shopping

  • The end of the school holidays is the busiest time for shoe shops. If you can, shop early to avoid the worst of the queues and to have more choice.
  • Make sure your child is wearing the thickness of socks that they will be normally be wearing with their school shoes when you buy them. This will help ensure a good fit.
  • After spending the holidays in summer shoes and sandals, school shoes can feel a bit strange. Encourage your child to wear their new shoes for an hour or two around the house before the start of term – a bit of time spent getting used to them before school starts can be a real help.

You might also be interested in:

Walking to school
Walking to school facts and figures


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