Kid's Shoes - A Closer Look25 June 2012

The ideal shoe is very difficult to find and is often a matter of compromise, particularly with older children who are under the influence of fashion and peer group pressure. Footwear which is too large, too small, or does not fit properly, can cause life-long foot problems. These problems can easily be avoided by taking care with the type of shoe purchased and considering a few main points.

Adequate length and width All children’s footwear should be measured for length and width and fitted by an appropriately trained shoe fitter. If fitting is not available, or is refused, go elsewhere. Poorly-fitting footwear in young children could result in deformity, whereas in older children it may result in toenail and skin problems.

Heel stiffener. This is the part of the shoe at the back and sides of the heel. It stiffens the back of the shoe and stops the heel slipping out of the shoe. Along with a broad base of heel, it helps to prevent sprained ankles. It also helps to prevent claw toes, as a shoe which slips at the back will cause the toes to claw to keep the foot in the shoe.

Broad base of heel: This should be as wide as the heel to give stability, and be made of a shockabsorbing material.

Height of heel
: This can be increased as the child gets older but should be no more than 4 cm.

Toe area shape: This should be foot shaped and not pointed. Pointed toe areas may result in the formation of bunions.

Retaining medium This is the term used to describe how the shoe is kept on the foot. Ideally it should be by laces, Velcro or ‘T’ bar, which acts like a seatbelt in a car, holding the shoe onto the foot. This helps to prevent toe deformities, as a poor retaining medium can allow the foot to slide up and down in the shoe and damage the toes or cause the toes to claw to help keep the shoe on. This is a particular problem with the current fashion of not tying shoelaces.

Upper Material Ideally this should be made of leather and have a Gore-Tex® liner if they are going to be subjected to prolonged wet conditions. Synthetic materials e.g. plastic, nylon and rubber can cause the foot to sweat excessively and increase the likelihood of athlete’s foot, verrucae and in-growing toenails.

Adequate depth of toe area This is particularly important in individuals with a big toe that curls up at the end and helps to avoid toenail problems.

Soling Material This should be of a slip-resistant, shock-absorbing material.

The main difference and characteristic of a child’s foot compared with that of an adult is that it grows. This means that the child can be at risk from certain foot and lower limb problems at different ages as the feet and lower limbs develop.

These problems are classed as:

    * Causes within the foot (intrinsic)
    * Causes outside the foot (extrinsic)

Causes within the foot relate to the posture of the foot as it develops and this can make the foot appear flat-footed.

These conditions require expert examination and advice, and professional help should always be sought from your podiatrist if there are any concerns. The first indicator may be unusual wear on the shoe. The main cause outside the foot is ill-fitting footwear with the possibility of causing deformity. Also, as the foot and lower limb grow, they undergo various positional changes that may look like serious problems to the untrained eye, but may be just a matter of developmental change. These can include bow leg, knock knee, and toes pointing inwards or outwards. Some problems associated with growth are first indicated by pain in the foot, swelling, limping or a change in behaviour. A podiatrist or health professional should always see these. They can occur at any time during the growing years but each condition tends to occur within certain age bands.

It should be remembered that no two children are alike, even in the same family. If parents are concerned – for whatever reason – they should always seek professional advice, as it is better for the fears to be unfounded than to discover, often too late, that treatment was required.


The strap
These bits make up the strap that holds the shoe on the foot

The upper
These pieces make up the top half of the shoe known as the upper. Leather is the best material for the uppers of kids’ shoes. It’s flexible and soft but still hardwearing. It also lets air in but keeps moisture out, meaning feet stay cool and dry in most conditions. Nubuck and suede, increasingly found on modern children’s designs, are different types of leather and share most of its benefits. Avoid shoes with uppers made of other materials (synthetics or plastics) as these are often hard, inflexible and won’t allow your child’s feet to breathe.

The last 
A last is the mould around which a shoe is shaped. Good last design is vital as it creates the final shape of the shoe.

Sole provider  
Rubber and polyurethane are the best materials for the soles of kids’ shoes. They’re both flexible and hardwearing, which is important to withstand the punishment most kids dish out. What’s more both materials can be moulded to create sole patterns that not only provide great grip but can also feature images to appeal to kids. Avoid kids’ shoes with soles made of resin or leather as both give very little grip that can lead to dangerous slips.

Inside the shoe 
The inside of a shoe is just as important as the outside. The lining should be breathable, ideally made of leather or specially designed wicking fabrics, which transfer moisture away from the foot.

Many kids nowadays spend a lot of their time not in shoes at all, but in trainers. And it may surprise you to hear that good design and fitting are just as important .

Trainers need fitting too 
Stops and starts, running and jumping all put little feet under extra stress so correct fit is perhaps even more important in trainers than in shoes. You may think it’s not so important as trainers are generally softer than ordinary shoes but when you consider that even socks that are too tight can cause damage just think what a poorly fitted trainer could do.

Specially designed for kids 
Most kids’ trainers (even the very biggest brands) are often just “shrunk down” versions of adults’ shoes. They don’t take into account the differences between kids’ feet and grown-ups’. This can mean they’re the wrong shape for your child’s feet. They may fit professional athletes but they’re unlikely to fit your child.