Friday, January 30, 2015

Back to school shoes

On average a child’s foot grows approx 2-3 sizes per year. Growth spurts are normally faster in younger children (1-3 up to three sizes per year); up to 10 years - a couple of sizes per annum ; and thereafter slows down to one size per year up to the age of 17. Conditions do apply the timetable varies with individuals but foot bones do not complete ossification until the early 20s. Not all children hit growth spurts at the same time. The frustration is you buy a pair of shoes and a week or two later the kids have outgrown them. So “Sunday Best” practice is not a good idea with growing children.

Shoes and feet are not as compatible as you might imagine and getting the perfect fit is an almost impossible task for some. The reasons are compounded because humans are not symmetrical (same size on each side) but shoes are. Matching feet to shoes can present problems especially when issues such as narrow feet or different size feet arise. It makes sense therefore to have children’s feet measured and fitted for school shoes by qualified shoe fitters. However fitted footwear is more expensive and so most people on a limited budget will avoid it. There is some debate about having feet measured weight bearing whilst most retailers have the child sit, however manufacturers do add extra length to their shoes. More and more shoes are bought on line and the potential risk of poorly fitted shoes for children has become more common. Best advice is when buying off the net is to follow the sizing instructions carefully. A good idea when shoe shopping (with our without junior) is to take a cut out footprint of their feet to slip into the shoe to measure compatibility. All available research indicates the only way to assess best shoe fit is on a comfort scale, so always best to have junior there. Experts now believe the heel of the shoe helps stabilize the kinetic foot and should give a firm grip and added support to the rear foot - so if you want to prevent instability at the forefoot a snug fitting heel cup is preferred. Once fitted it is important to have your child walk and run comfortably in the shoes without tripping or stumbling.

Shoes size is classified by heel to ball measurement (length); and breadth (width across the ball of the foot). Sadly there is no standard size system (due to fierce commercial rivalry) and this makes buying shoes unnecessarily complex. There are plenty resources on the internet to help compare the size systems of different countries but these are not always available to the consumer at the point of purchase in a shoe shop. Most mass produced shoes have less breadth options and half sizes are not always available. Parents want shoes that will last the whole school term and shoe sellers recommend an adult thumb's width of space between the end of the toes and the front seams of the shoes while the child is standing ( approx. 1.5 – 2.00cm). Time was, not so long ago kids went to their local shoe shop and could see an x ray of their feet. The fluoroscope is no longer available because of the danger of radiation. Some high street venues offer technical biomechanical analysis usually with claims they can fit any foot. As with all programmable software however this generally means all feet measured can be matched to the current range of footwear available for retail at that venue. So consumer beware conditions do apply.

Provided the shoe is comfortable to wear and fit for purpose (walking running and sports etc.) then that is as good as it gets. Sweaty feet can benefit from the addition of added eyelets. Children and their parents are as prey to marketing as any consumer (some may say more so) and there is often social pressure to comply with fashion fads which invariably are expensive. Designer trainers represent the high end of the market but hold no magic when it comes to growing feet. Personally I am not a great fan of school uniforms but I do have sympathy when dress codes prevent bullying and playground marginalization caused by trendy footwear. Crossover from classic school shoe to trainer is now possible because of the new polymers which make lightweight hard wearing and durable footwear possible with the added advantage of complying with school requirements as well as give the feel of comfortable kicks.

Parents need to prepare junior(s) before going shopping for shoes. Makes sense to trim the toe nails before hand and have the socks and orthoses etc. with you for fit checkout. Most shoes have sufficient dead space to include cushioned insoles, foot orthoses without need to for extra big shoes. Always avoid busy shopping days (Monday morning is the time most buyers return their shoes); and shop in the afternoon when foot volume is maximum. Have the child try the shoes on and check for length, breadth and comfort. Get the child to stand on their tiptoes and check for heel grip. If the heel pops out at this point the shoe is most likely too long. There should be no need to “break shoes in,” and they should be comfortable from the beginning. It does make sense however to let the child wear their new shoes for a day or two before sending them off to school.


Simple anthropometry: Foot sizes and height are co-ordinated and so if your children are interested you can keep a record of growing. This is simple to collect and provides interesting feedback from a familial perspective as well as the collected data can be used in school projects for simple statistical analysis. From time to time some shoe retailers do use promotions such as a foot passport to encourage parents and children to have their feet measured.

The UK Shoe Size System for children is divided into 13 parts. Sizes start at five inches long (width across the knuckles or 13 barleycorns) and every fourth part of an inch thereafter until, size 12. Size 13 or short 13 and consists of length of 8 inches and a quarter (span of the hand) . This measured the average length of a child's foot at puberty. This also starts the Adult size 1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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