Updated: Sep 13, 2019
A recent survey found that 65 per cent of children are wearing the wrong size shoes, but what is the impact of ill-fitting footwear?
Many of us mums are guilty of squeezing our feet into a pair of (too small) shoes we purchased for a steal in a sale. The bigger the bargain the more flexibility with the shoe size, perhaps? This isn’t advisable for anyone, but especially not children. When we are talking about children’s feet, it’s essential they wear the correct size shoe. Even when it comes to hand-me-downs, the shoe must fit.
“Children’s feet are very pliable due to the fact that the bones don’t fully ossify until they reach 16-19 years of age”
explains podiatrist Alexandra Lawson-Duff.
“Tight shoes and tight socks or baby grows can effect bone growth,”
The survey, which was conducted by BlitzResults*, found that of the 65 per cent of children wearing shoes that are too small, 47 per cent are wearing shoes one size too small, and 18 per cent are wearing shoes a whopping two sizes too small. Only 11 per cent of the children wearing the correct shoe size have “room to grow”.
Improperly fitting shoes can cause hallux valgus, a foot deformity that happens when the big toe starts to angle inward, which causes a swollen lump just below the big toe. A study conducted by the National Health Institute found that almost 30 per cent of children had irreversible foot deformities, like hallux valgus.
How to buy the correct size shoes
Go by the longer foot: The right and left foot are rarely the same length. A difference of up to half an inch is normal, that’s almost one whole shoe size. Therefore, parents should always go by the longer foot when buying shoes.
Don’t rely on the labelled shoe size: Shoe manufacturers label shoes with standard sizes, the ones we all know. But, there is no mandatory industry standard for shoe sizing, so each brand will vary. Be sure to try on every shoe carefully.
Give them room: Most parents are aware that feet need some room, but usually underestimate the actual room needed. At least half an inch of additional room is optimal, it’s the only way kids can roll their foot properly when walking.
Shop at the end of the day: Your child’s feet will be at their largest (read swollen!) at the end of the day or after a sporting event so it’s best to try shoes on then.
Wear appropriate socks: When you are measuring and fitting shoes, the child should wear appropriate socks. This is especially important when buying sports shoes. If they are trying on football boots, they should be wearing football socks.
Do a regular check: Tim Lilling, expert at blitzresults.com, says that "Because the sense of touch isn’t fully developed in children yet, they have a tendency to squeeze their feet into shoes that are much too small, they don’t even notice it. Therefore, parents must measure their children’s feet every two months."
Unfortunately, many parents still use the following "tricks" to judge whether shoes fit:
Trick: Hold shoe to foot. The shoe sole is held up to the child’s foot to estimate the size, but the length on the inside of the shoe can’t be estimated from the outside and is often much shorter than you’d expect (lining, seams, footbed). Better: Use an appropriate measuring device.
Trick: The thumb test. The thumb presses on the toe of the shoe to see how much room there is to grow. The problem; children often draw their toes up by reflex, so the foot is rolled under. It may seem like there’s enough room, although, in reality, the shoes are too small. Using the heel test is just as bad for judging free space in the heel. Many kids push their feet forward until their toes are crammed in. Better: Carefully feel your child´s foot inside the shoe. Place one hand on the front of the shoe, so the child can’t draw their toes up. Then, with the other hand, check the position of the toes. This way you can feel whether there is enough room to grow.
Trick: Size comparison using a stencil. The shape and size of the foot is traced and compared with the shoe sole, but this comparison is usually imprecise. Better: If there is a removable insole, take it out and place the foot on the insole, there should be 1/3 inch of space behind the heel and half an inch in front of the toes.
Trick: Asking them how it feels. Parents ask kids; "Does the shoe fit?" Unfortunately, the answer will likely be wrong. Often, the nerves in children’s feet are not fully developed yet and their awareness of pain is clearly lower than an adult’s, so, kids don't realise if the shoe fits. Better: First and foremost, measure their feet.
*BlitzResults is an interactive educational website with focus on consumer topics and health.
Where to Shop
Dr Kong provides healthy shoes and foot care products for babies, children, adults and the elderly. It was the first company in Hong Kong to promote free foot examinations and insole fitting services for all ages. The company is dedicated to developing functional foot and spine health products, such as the “BB walker 123” which provides the bare foot concept, easily bendable concept and 3-D foot care concept to meet the foot care needs of children at different stages of their step learning. www.dr-kong.com.hk
This iconic footwear brand was established in 1825 and has been breaking ground with its innovative craftsmanship ever since. Each pair of shoes is crafted using advanced construction techniques, technology and contemporary materials, focusing on the biomechanics of foot movement at work, rest and play thus providing the necessary stability and support for every different type of shoe. Their kids’ ranges are in whole sizes, half sizes and a choice of widths and can be measured using their state-of-the art iPad foot gauge. www.clarks.hk
Since it was formed in 1995, Geox has identified, patented and implemented innovative and technological solutions to offer quality, breathability and impermeability through the use of special materials. Geox rubber outsoles contain a special microporous membrane that is both breathable and waterproof: it absorbs and expels sweat without letting water in. Feet are kept dry and at the right temperature, perfect for children who run around lots! www.geox.com
This article appeared in Playtimes March Issue 2018.