Step up: Finding the perfect fitting school shoes for your child

Shopping for school shoes for your child is often no easy task. So, what are some important things to look out for? 

They encase your children’s precious tootsies for at least 30 hours a week. The right shoes can help your kids run and play, while the wrong ones could spell foot discomfort and sometimes longer-term problems. 

So it’s safe to say that a proper fitting pair of school shoes is one of the most important items of clothing you can buy for your children. 

Here are some important things to consider when shopping for new school shoes this year.

Growing pains

Children’s feet are growing throughout childhood. The foot of a six-month-old is mostly cartilage and the last bone doesn’t begin to form until a child is about two or three. 

So the wrong shoes can potentially impede correct growth, crowding the toes and causing pain in the legs and feet. 

On the flip side, podiatrist David Bugg of Sydney City Podiatry says, “Stability provided by footwear is the best first-line intervention you can make for reducing the risk of some common growing-based foot and leg pains.”

Finding the right shoe shop

To be more confident of a good fit choose a store that will measure your child’s feet properly. A good fitter should measure the length of both feet, as they can be different, and also the width. 

Once you’ve found an outlet you trust, try and go shopping in the late afternoon, as feet tend to swell slightly over the course of the day. 
Boys running at school

What’s a good fit?

While it’s tempting to go up a size, as you might when buying other school clothing, don’t buy shoes for your kids that are too big  as this can cause problems for your child when walking and running. Plus, chances are your active little monkey will wear through them quicker than they grow out of them anyway. 

A well-fitting shoe will be long enough to allow an index finger’s width between the largest toe and the end of the shoe. The forefoot area will be wide enough to fit with no pressure points and the heel area should be narrow enough to fit snugly, so your child’s foot isn’t slipping out of the back. 

“A firm heel counter – the area that runs around the heel of the shoe – is a very important consideration,” says Bugg. “It should be as firm as possible and hard to push in, helping to provide stability and support for the child.” 

The Australian Podiatry Association advises doing a size check at least every one to three months up to the age of three, every four months up to the age of five, and every six months from five years. Also check for uneven shoe wear, as this should prompt a trip to the podiatrist to check how your child is walking.

Is there an ideal style?

When it comes to choosing a style of shoe, should you go for laces or Velcro?

“Laces are best and will help reduce any heel slippage for those children with very narrow heels,” explains Bugg. “Next best is Velcro, then the Mary-Jane style as they are open across much of the top of the foot and fixed with one band. This can be particularly important if a child has a tendency towards a flatter foot or foot/leg aches and pains.” Slip-on shoes are a flat-out no. 

Sneaker-style shoes are a popular alternative, but consider the material: leather is the best option, as it breathes and wears better, but sports shoes are often made with synthetic materials. Also, consider longevity: sneaker styles are often designed only for occasional wear – like sports days – meaning they may not last a whole term. 

Finally, if your precocious princess is requesting school shoes with a bit of heel, stand firm. “They can lead to tightening of the calf muscles and the internal structure of the arch of the feet,” warns Bugg. “They’re also less stable and can create problems when the child moves to lower or flat footwear at other times.”

So, as you head off to the shops, remember the basics. Go shopping in the afternoon as feet tend to swell as the day goes on. Find a good store that will measure your child’s feet properly and don’t be tempted to go up a size with the idea that they’ll grow into their shoes. Lace-ups are best, followed by Velcro, then Mary-Janes, while slip-ons are a no-no and leather is preferable to synthetic materials. Happy shopping!
Back to top