A recent study revealed that more than a quarter of children are wearing shoes that could permanently damage their feet. A staggering 29 percent of children could be wearing shoes that are completely the wrong size.
According to a survey of 2,000 parents by the College of Podiatry, a staggering 55 percent of children have suffered damage to their feet, such as blisters, bruises and calluses, by wearing shoes that are either too small or unsuitable for young feet. In addition to the risk of wearing the wrong size shoe, the research also showed many parents are inadvertently dressing their children in shoes that podiatrists would not recommend for everyday or frequent wear. These include flip-flops (25 percent) and ballet pump, slip-on style shoes (20 percent).
In fact, the survey revealed that like women, girls are at the greatest risk of long-term damage. Nearly a quarter of parents (22 percent) say they feel pressure to buy their daughters fashionable shoes such as ballet flats, flip-flops and even high heels, which experts warn against. Almost one in 10 young girls are wearing shoes with a heel of one inch or higher, and on average, young girls are wearing these types of shoes as young as six years of age. This could put young feet at greater risk of developing foot problems.
The survey showed that 56 percent of parents admit they have bought their children shoes without having the children’s feet measured or the shoes properly fitted. Even when it comes to school shoes, 47 percent of parents do not buy their children’s school shoes in a shoe shop that offers a proper fitting service, opting for cheaper supermarket and high street options. More than a third (38 percent) of parents also admit to handing down shoes to younger children without being sure they fit properly. In fact, one in 10 parents (13 percent) confess they have no idea of their children’s current shoe size.
Forty-four percent of parents say they have not had their children’s feet measured because they can tell by checking themselves, while eight percent said they are too busy to check. Forty percent of parents have put off buying new shoes for their child even though they have complained about their feet hurting; five percent said they couldn’t get their child to stay still long enough to have their feet measured and didn’t know there were shops that offered services to measure the feet. Budget is also an issue for modern parents, with 34 percent saying they struggle to find money to buy new shoes – while 18 percent said they were too busy. Nearly one in six parents (15 percent) confess that they don’t like shoe shopping for their children because their kids don’t want to wear what their parents would like them to wear.
It is worrying that so many children are wearing shoes that either don’t fit them properly or are not suitable for everyday wear. Wearing the wrong size or type of shoe in the short term causes blisters, rubbing, bruising and calluses – but in the long term, it could affect foot development and result in musculoskeletal issues in the future.
We must remember children’s feet are still growing and are at higher risk for damage than adult feet, so it’s really vital to ensure they are wearing shoes that fit them well – in width as well as length – and that are suitable for their age, as well as the task they are wearing them for. Children often won’t say if their shoes are too tight or are hurting, which is why it is important that we raise more attention about children’s foot health and encourage parents to check their children’s feet regularly. We recommend parents have their children’s feet measured and their everyday shoes fitted by a professional. For a young child (aged one to three years), foot changes can happen very quickly and parents should have their feet measured approximately every eight weeks, and for older children, we would advise every three to four months. This would be particularly important during growth spurts.
What to look for in your children’s shoe:
Adequate length and width: All children’s feet/footwear should be measured for length and width regularly, at least once per year.
Broad base of heel: This should be as wide as the heel to give stability, and be made of a shock-absorbing material.
Height of heel: You are looking for a slight heel to provide sufficient shock absorption, ideally around a quarter of an inch. Completely flat shoes such as ballet flats provide little shock absorption but heels of one to two inches or higher can shorten calf muscles and place pressure on the ball of the foot.
Toe area shape: This should be foot shaped and not pointed, or excessively tapered.
Holding the foot in the shoe: It is important that the shoe is kept on the foot 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 lack of support to keep the shoe on the foot 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 particularly a problem with the current fashion of not tying shoelaces or with ballet pump and slip-on style shoes.
Material: Leather is the best material for children’s shoes as it is flexible and soft, but stands up to the wear and tear. It also lets air in but keeps moisture out, meaning feet stay cool and dry in most conditions. Avoid shoes that are largely made of other materials (synthetics and plastics) as these are often hard, inflexible and won’t allow your children’s feet to breathe.
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.
Support: The shoe should offer sufficient support for the foot, especially in the arch. The shoe should not bend too easily, such as ballet flats.
• For more information on foot conditions, visit www.apma.org, healthcentral.com, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, or telephone 325-2996 for an appointment at Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Hilltop Medical, or call 394-5820 for an appointment. You can also visit Lucayan Medical Centre in Freeport, Grand Bahama, or telephone 373-7400 for an appointment.