School shoes – what to look for
January 30th, 2013

Ill fitting school shoes and long term damage can be a painful subject easily avoided if a few simple steps are followed, advises an experienced podiatrist on the eve of the new school year.

Spiro Vithoulkas has a special interest in treating foot and balance issues in children, with approximately half his clients being of school age.

A director of Podiatry Care, he has seen firsthand the impact poor footwear selection can have on children.

“Ill-fitting shoes can have a wider impact than you’d expect and lead to long term damage to other parts of the body,” said Mr Vithoulkas.

“Not only can they damage children’s feet but also can affect muscles and joints further up the body. Wearing the wrong shoes can affect our balance, how we walk and what pressure we put on various joints.”

In addition to the physical damage, a child with troublesome feet may walk awkwardly or have bad posture, limiting their athletic ability or resulting in them becoming shy, introverted or having low self esteem.

As children’s feet continually develop until the age of 17, it is crucial that their shoes fit properly to provide proper support and avoid malleable bones deforming.

“The most important factor for children’s shoes is that they are the right size,” said Mr Vithoulkas.

“Between the ages of 5 and 12, a child’s foot grows approximately one full shoe size every six months, but slows considerably after this time.”

“Children’s shoes should be checked every three months to ensure they still fit.”

“A correctly fitting shoe should have a thumb space clearance at the end of the longest toe, and should not compress the sides of the front of the foot.”

Shoes with laces help to keep the foot back in the heel of the shoe. This allows the forefoot to function properly and also reduces forward pressure onto the toes.

However, younger children often have trouble tying laces, so shoes with two adjusting straps, fastened with either buckles or Velcro are a good alternative, as long as they fit snugly across the foot.

“With children wearing school shoes for the majority of each day during the week, it is important to make sure they are well fitting and suitable for each child,” Mr Vithoulkas said.

“Seeking advice from a podiatrist and careful shoe selection may prove to be invaluable to a child’s development.

“Parents neglecting to check shoe fit or trying to squeeze a few extra months out of a pair of shoes to get better value for money can end up causing more problems in the long term.”

Top five tips when purchasing school shoes

  • There should be between 12-17 millimetres (roughly an adult thumb width) of room between the end of the longest toe and the front of the shoe. This should allow approximately six months of wear.
  • The sole of a child’s shoe should be relatively straight and not curving towards the big toe side of the shoe. This is because a child’s foot is very straight and does not curve as much as many adults.
  • Footwear should bend only at the ball of the foot where the toes bend and not through the arch.
  • Leather uppers are preferred for their durability and ability to breathe. Avoid synthetic man made materials unless the upper is an open weave fabric.
  • A soft, cushioning non-slip sole and a low, wide heel helps decrease jarring and strain through the foot, leg and spine.

Established in the early 1990s, Podiatry Care has metropolitan clinics located in Unley, Modbury, Christies Beach, Gawler, Moana and Port Lincoln.

Click this link to download an article from Sunday Mail printed on Jan 20, 2013 about children’s feet.

Below is a video from Channel Nine News about school shoes…