Kids will be Kids, and that means they will kick the footy, run, jump, skip and do anything they can with their school shoes on. Activity can cause a disproportionate amount of wear and tear on a shoe if it is not correctly designed, fitted and built properly.
The first challenge in going shoe shopping is selecting the correct shoe. Not only does it have to comply with the school’s policy, it has to be practical and as our kids get older be relatively fashionable. Balancing these needs can be challenging. In clinical practice children often present with issues from shoes that are badly worn or not appropriate for use at school. Below are two of the most common issues;
Runners: I see a large amount of primary school aged children presenting with runners as school shoes. Parents report that they generally buy these as they want one ‘do it all pair of shoes’. Most of the time the shoe is a good quality brand name shoe that has features of what is considered a ‘good shoe’. However as soon as you look at the worn tread and sole, the shoe is not functioning as it should. The reason for this is simple, runners are designed for running with tread is designed to go in one direction. As soon as you start changing direction, stopping, starting and doing a whole lot of different movements, the sole wears extremely quickly, this means that they generally have to be replaced more regularly, well before the child grows out of the shoe.
Cheap Shoes: We all like to save money, especially when our children seem to go through their shoes very quickly, but a lot of the time, cheap shoes are not saving money. The sole’s on a lot of the cheaper shoes, especially the runners are made from a very soft foam that wears down very quickly. This means that not only are they altering biomechanics but also once the tread of a shoe is worn, you increase the chance of slipping and causing an injury.
What do I recommend? I simply believe that you need to find the correct shoe for the job. If you school does not have restrictions on style or looks and your child wish’s for a runner type shoe, look at Cross Trainers. These shoes, generally have a leather upper which can tolerate more of kicking of footballs, and has a tread that is design to go multiple directions. This shoe will last significantly longer than a normal runner, and allow your child to feel comfortable while participating in a greater array of activities.
If the school has a stricter dress regulation – search around for what is available. There are many companies offering all sorts of shoe styles in black that can be worn for school including designs with a sportier tread. If they require a full leather school shoe, then I recommend a good quality brand as it will more than pay for itself in the duration that it lasts.
When looking for shoes I always recommend looking for a few features:
- The back of the shoe should not be able to be compressed by your thumb.
- The shoe bend’s where the foot wants to bend.
- It has a firm fastening, and that fastening will be used.
Number 3 is extremely important, as a good shoe is only effective if it is used correctly. Laces are generally considered the best form of fastening, but if shoe is being slipped on with laces left tied, then the laces are not able to do their job, and the heel counter is also likely being destroyed, significantly reducing the life of the shoe.
Buying the correct fitting shoe is also important. A lot of parents wish to buy shoes that are too big for the children so that they can grow into them. This can be a mistake as it can lead to the shoe causing blisters, the foot sliding around and your child being uncomfortable. As a guide a gap at the longest toe of 10-20 mm is recommended. This ends up being approximately one thumb width. A shoe of this size should last most children 6 months while fitting correctly. This all depends on growth spurts and developmental rates of your child. I would recommend checking your children’s shoe every 1-2 months. Check that the shoe is still fitting correctly and the sole is not too worn. Also look at the width of the shoe, if the toes are bulging against the edge of the toe box it is too tight and if above the toes the shoes is able to be bunch together it is likely too wide.
To make school shoes last the longest I would recommend firstly buying at the beginning of a term if they only wear them for school, this means that the shoe will be able to generally accommodate a growth spurt. My other recommendation is to teach children how to look after leather shoes. Polishing and keeping the shoe in good condition means that it is likely to be able to withstand the multiple kicks of the football it will undertake.
I also recommend to seek professional advice if there are any issues. While pain can quite often be covered up by kids, it is important that if they do have any pain, you seek help. Many issues of the feet and lower limb can quite often be quick and painless to resolve, with the correct treatment.
About the Author:
Riordan Bell graduated from La Trobe University in Melbourne with a Masters in Podiatric Practice and a Bachelor of Health Science. He is a practicing podiatrist in the Sutherland Shire NSW and is passionate about helping his patients achieve optimal lower limb biomechanics.
Ph: 02 85443231
Barton, C. J., Bonano, D., & Menz, H. (2009). Development and Evaluation of a tool for the assessment of footwear characteristics. Journal of Foot and Ankle Reserach, 2(10). doi:10.1186/1757-1146-2-1