Helping your children to put their best foot forward isn’t always easy to fit into the family budget. We discovered just why it is so important to put properly fitted shoes on to the family’s shopping list.
The human foot is a highly complex structure, composed of 26 bones working together to enable us to walk and run, providing mobility and quality of life. In the newborn, the foot is made up of relatively soft and flexible cartilage that gradually converts to bone over time.
During this period of development great care should be taken with your child’s feet as they can be at risk from injury and deformity due to ill-fitting footwear and abnormal activity. At around the age of two the foot shape your child has inherited becomes clear.
There are three main foot shapes:
Tapered: Big toe is definitely big here.
Rounded (or Grecian): The 2nd or 3rd toe is actually longer than the big toe.
Square: Well not quite square but all toes of roughly equal length.
Feet continue to grow and develop well into the teens but by the age of 5, children’s feet are starting to look more like grown-up versions. The foot has its full count of 26 bones now the navicular bone has developed. However, even at the age of 8 the bones in the foot are still not fully formed. Their feet will start to grow less quickly (good news for parents) but still by a whole size per year. Even now when your child’s foot looks more like an adult’s, it’s still almost as vulnerable as it’s ever been. The new heel to toe walking style means the shape of the foot changes inside the shoe with every step, so having shoes that are the correct shape and fitting is as vital as ever.
On average children’s feet grow at two sizes per year in the first four years of life and one size per year thereafter until growth is complete. However, a child’s foot may not grow for a considerable period of time and then grow several sizes in a relatively short period. To ensure that shoes still fit properly for length and width a trained shoe fitter should check them every eight weeks. You may do this more frequently if you are aware that they are actively growing in height. In general, the main period of accelerated growth for in girls is between eight and 13 years with the peak rate at approximately 12 years of age. In boys this is slightly later between 10.5 and 16 years with the peak rate at approximately 14 years. This corresponds with puberty.
Checking that your child's shoes fit properly is best done by the shop where the shoes were bought, ideally by a trained shoe fitter who will also measure the feet. An easy way to check the length yourself is to cut a strip of paper that is the same length as the inside of the shoe. Place this against the skirting board and get the child to stand on it. Measure the distance between the longest toe and the end of the piece of paper. A newly fitted shoe will be approximately 12 – 16 mm longer than the longest toe to allow for growth and the foot elongating when walking. Shoes that are only 5mm longer should be regarded as too short and replaced.
Ideally, different shoes should be worn on alternate days to allow the shoe to dry out, as children’s feet can be particularly sweaty. Wearing damp shoes all the time can make the child more prone to athlete’s foot and verrucae.