School shoes – London Mums’ recommendation

Clarks: London Mums’ first choice of shoes for school in 2011

For school shoes check

While girls have a lot of choice in various stores when buying shoes, boys in my view don’t have much choice in terms of good quality leather shoes. Boys tend to wear off shoes much quicker than girls. My best choice for school shoes are Clarks. Check out the ones we have tested so far – they also include a little toy in each shoe which my son loves!

Q&A with Clarks kids fitting expert, Bob Hardy

Q: At what age should a child first get fitted for shoes?

It is always best for a child to not wear shoes as they learn to walk as it encourages the healthy development of the feet. However, even in the most pleasant climate there are many situations where proper shoes are required to provide some protection for the feet. If needed the shoes should match the child’s stage of development which is crawling, cruising (walking but holding onto furniture to maintain balance) and independent walking. Clarks have researched every stage of walking development (there are up to seven stages by the age of seven or eight) and produced shoes clearly identified by a symbol on the sole for each of the first three stages. This means a child can start wearing shoes as soon as they crawl (as early as seven months) but possibly not at all until they are 15 or 16 months if circumstances do not require shoes

Q: How often should parents take their child(ren) to be fitted for shoes?

From the first pair of shoes until about aged two the first check should be after 6 – 8 weeks and then as recommended by a shoe fitter until the shoes are outgrown. Often this first check just confirms everything is OK. From about two the time to the first check is extended up to about 3 – 4 months and after aged five the first check can be after 4 – 5 months. Growing occurs in spurts so regular checks are essential and a good shoe store will offer these checks on shoes they have sold free of charge.

Q: At what age do children’s feet grow the most rapidly?

In their first year their feet will grow about 25mm (three whole English shoe sizes), about 16mm each after that until aged five then about 8mm every year until their mid teens.

Q: Why is it important to get shoes with the right fit for children?

Fewer than a third of children have an “average” foot width and their feet are changing internally, externally and they experience up to seven stage of walking development. To allow us to walk correctly shoes need to fit much more precisely than any other item of clothing so an accurate fit achieved by shoes available in half sizes and width fittings and fitting by a trained shoe fitter are essential to allow healthy development to take place

Q: What conditions are children at risk of from wearing ill fitting shoes?

Problems can range from skin problems (hard skin, corns or aggravating conditions like Athletes Foot if the shoe materials are not breathable) to bone problems (eventually bunions, claw or hammer toes) and even gait (walking) problems that can affect the ankles, knees, hips and back

Q: What are the consequences for buying shoes that are too big/small/wide/narrow?

Almost every shoe type will dictate its shape to the child’s foot which is softer than even the softest and most flexible shoes. Much of the damage seen in feet of middle aged and older people can have its origin from poorly fitting shoes as a child. Children cannot really understand when a shoe is wrong on their feet so the services of a good trained shoe fitter are essential to ensure healthy foot development.

Q: How do poor fitting shoes affect the growth and formation of child(ren)’s feet?

At birth a child’s feet has only 22 partially formed bones, by three this has increased to 45 separate bone centre’s which eventually fuse together by the mid teens to form the 26 bones of an adult foot. The length of the foot from birth can also increase 4 or 5 fold so correctly fitted shoes with growing room are essential to encourage this healthy development.

Q: What should parents do to make sure their children are not at risk?

Choose a brand that understands children’s feet and makes shoes for every stage of development and end use. These will be available in half sizes and width fittings in materials that breathe and are durable and come with a professional measuring and shoe fitting service.

Q: Is wearing second hand shoes bad for children’s feet?

Whilst shoes will dictate their shape to a child’s foot if they are badly fitting they do wear to a pattern unique to the original wearer’s feet and gait (walking) action. Even if a second child measures exactly the same size there gait action will differ and there could be problems so don’t hand down any shoes that shows signs of wear.

Q: How can a parent tell when children’s shoes need replacing?

It is possible to follow a few simple checks at home (information on the Clarks website) but if you have bought your child’s shoe from a shop that fitted them at the point of sale then they will happily check them for free any time you care to call in the store.

Q: Is there a difference between fitting everyday shoes and sports shoes for children?

No, children often wear sports shoes as every day casual shoes and sometimes for school wear for long periods of time so at Clarks we follow exactly the same fit and durability standards in our sports range as we do for everyday shoes.

Q: Is professional fitting expensive?

It’s not often you can say something is absolutely free but when you buy a fitted shoes from a brand like Clarks the initial fit and as many checks as you like after you have bought the shoes all come with no extra cost.

Q: Why is professional fitting recommended?

Children and often their parents as well don’t really know what is needed in their shoes to give a great fit. All Clarks Shoe Fitters have received many hours of training and proved they can fit at least 50 pairs of shoes correctly before we acknowledge them as fully trained and give them a badge and certificate to prove they possess the required skills and knowledge.

Q: Are shoes with high heels recommended for children?

For a special occasion or a party perhaps OK but anything more than a couple of hours can cause damage or gait problems that could become a permanent and possibly debilitating problem for the little girl as they grow up or in adult life.

About Bob Hardy

Bob is the Foot Fitting Manager for Clarks International one of the world’s biggest footwear brands. He has worked for Clarks Shoes for 40 years and is a leading expert on feet and foot fitting.

Bob is a Fellow of the Society of Shoe Fitters, the premier independent UK fitting organisation and is the first member to ever achieved membership at Honours level.

Bob has been heavily involved in the design, development and manufacture of correctly fitting shoes for most of his career. During that time he has conducted foot surveys and research in many countries around the world.

Bob has special responsibility for children’s foot fitting and is responsible for developing the shoe fitting training programmes delivered worldwide by Clarks to ensure the correct fitting of children’s shoes. He has led the design team that have developed all of Clarks world leading foot measuring gauges over the past two decades. He is a management team member of the Children’s Foot Health Register a UK based organisation now operating in Ireland, the Middle East and Australia that promotes good shoe fitting for children.

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