Fitting school shoes
By Alex Brooks |
School shoes

School shoes are one of those back to school items that can't be ignored. From the classroom to the playground, school shoes should keep active, growing feet comfortable and well-supported. Here are Kidspot's best suggestions for finding school shoes that fit perfectly.

Buy the right school shoe

Children spend up to 30 hours a week in their school shoes, which is more than 15, 000 hours during their school life. And when you consider that in the first 11 years of a child's life their feet grow 17 full shoe sizes (and continue to grow until they're 18 years old), you'll realise how critical it is for children to wear school shoes specifically designed to support the needs of their growing feet.

Correctly fitted school shoes not only offer improved comfort but will support your child's feet during their critical growth phase. Shoes don't have to be expensive to be good, but they do have to fit well, offer support and be durable enough to make sure the shoes don't wear out before your child grows out of them.

Buy shoes that fit well

Correctly fitted school shoes can help promote correct bone and muscle development and prevent life-long foot and leg problems. One quarter of all bones are in the feet and when these bones are out of place, the rest of the body possibly is too. When walking, each time your heel lifts off the ground it forces the toes to carry one half of your body weight. Shoes that fit well are vital to support all these movements.

Lace the shoe

Velcro fastenings or mary-jane style shoes for girls are great if little kids can't yet tie their shoelaces. However, shoe laces can work well for feet that need extra support, as a laced show can be customised with certain lacing techniques to fit or support the foot better.

There are a number of lacing techniques around and good quality shoe store staff will show you some of these.

  • Read more about lacing techniques for school shoes
  • Read how to teach your child to tie his shoe laces

Measure both feet

  • Most people have one foot that's longer or wider, including children.
  • Don't buy your child's shoes too large thinking they'll grow into them. Overly large shoes can allow your child's foot to roll over in the shoe during play, causing injury.
  • The widest part of the foot should correspond with the widest part of the shoe.
  • There should be a space the width of your child's thumbnail between the end of the shoe and the tip of the longest toe on the longer foot. Your child should be able to wriggle their toes freely. The heel should be snug, but comfortable.

Making the most of old shoes

Just like adults, children each have different walking styles. Take a look at their old shoes and you may see a tell-tale pattern of where they wear out first. To compensate for the added pressure on different parts of their shoes, manufacturers have developed a variety of shoes to suit different foot types. Matching the shoe with the individual foot means added comfort, shoes that last longer and less chance of injury. So take the worn out school shoes along to any new-shoe-buying purchase, and if you ask trained staff in store to help you, they can choose a shoe that may avoid wearing out as quickly.

Old shoes and the wear patterns can help you learn whether your child has flat feet or rolls inwards excessively (overpronate), which causes strain on ankles, legs and hip joints. Some children have high arches or their feet may not roll enough (supinate), which can send a severe shock up through their legs.

Assessing shoes

  • Shoes offer varying degrees of stability, cushioning and internal and external support features in the heel and arch areas for different foot types.
  • Don't buy a certain style purely on the look of the shoe - make sure your child tries on a few styles and appreciates the difference in the fit and feel of each shoe.
  • Look for outsoles made of rubber and sturdy leather stitching rather than gluing.
  • Look for a firm heel counter and a contoured midsole, which will allow their foot to sit right down inside the shoe. For additional support, extra eyelets will allow variable lacing techniques to help customise the fit.
  • All parents will know how tough kids can be on shoes. Look for outersoles made of rubber or polyurethane for longer wear. Double-stitching, especially around the toe area, will also add to the life of the shoes.
  • Don't allow too much room for growth. Oversized shoes can cause your child's foot to roll over in the shoe and are also more likely to wear out. Shoes that are too tight can also harm their feet, so check for signs of irritation and make sure they are able to wriggle their toes freely. Having your child's feet measured regularly, regardless of the wear on their shoes, is a great way to ensure the correct fit.

Read more back to school stories about shoes

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    This article was written by Alex Brooks for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading back to school resource.

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