Kids can spend more than eight hours a day in their school shoes and the right fit is imperative to reduce the risk of injury and pain in their growing bodies.
Paediatric podiatrist Rudo Makuyana said parents should check the fit of their children’s shoes every three to four months.
“The annual ritual of just buying shoes in January can be harmful,” she said.
“Kids’ feet can grow twice [a size] in a year. At primary school age, kids’ feet grow quite often.”
Feet usually stop growing around the age of 14 and 15, although older teenagers can go up a shoe size.
Dangers of ill-fitting shoes
Ms Makuyana said she saw children with various types of foot pain due to them wearing the wrong kind of shoes.
Young girls yet to go through puberty were particularly vulnerable as they had less bone density, she said.
“Kids tend to be quite active, so injuries is something you should think about; they could roll their feet and hurt themselves.”
More serious injuries such as Sever’s disease — an inflammation of the growth plate that causes heel pain — is quite common in very active children.
School shoe test
- Heel counter or back of the shoe should be stiff — you shouldn’t be able to press it into the shoe.
- Shoes should not bend in the middle.
- Shoes should bend at the toes.
- Shoes should not twist or wring out when held from either end — a shoe needs stability.
- Laces are better than slip-on shoes.
Source: Dr Brenden Brown
Check your old shoes
If shoes were cared for and polished, Ms Makuyana said there was no reason to buy new ones if they still fit your child’s feet.
She suggested removing the inner sole to check for overhanging toes.
Parents should replace the shoes if they are too tight and always ask their child how the shoes feel.
Choosing a new shoe
The top tip from podiatrist Brenden Brown when testing a shoe was to check whether it bends or twists when holding it at either end.
“It shouldn’t bend in the middle but should at the toes where the foot flexes,” he told ABC Radio Sydney.
“That creates stability. It means your foot doesn’t have to do much work during a school day.”
A stiff heel and having laces were also important for children accustomed to running around in the playground.
Shoes with a velcro or top strap were better than slip-on shoes, which should only be worn occasionally, Dr Brown said.
Cost should also be a consideration, he said.
“The more you pay often in school shoes means you’re generally getting more features in a shoe.”
And once the children arrived home, get the shoes off.
“Let your kids spend time barefoot as it strengthens their feet muscles,” Dr Brown said.
“It develops the nerves in the base of our foot and we want to get that proprioception and that sensation.