Bob Hardy has the wonderful title of 'foot fitting manager' at Clarks. He designs the shoe fitting equipment and trains all their staff. So who better to go to for advice on how to make sure your children's shoes will fit (and ideally for as long as possible!)?
Here are Bob's buying tips:
1. Buy footwear that's appropriate to your child's development. Did you know there are six stages of walking? Crawling, cruising, wobbly walking, confident walking, stomping (flat-footed two-year-olds) and heel to toe walking which develops between the ages of 3 and 5. It's important that your child's shoe has the lightness, flexibility and stability to do what your child's feet can do at any of these stages of development.
2. Go to a specialist shoe fitters, not just retailers for 'the look of the moment'. You're looking for a shop that offers whole and half sizes, width fitting and growing room.
3. Be realistic. It is possible to compromise and find shoes that are attractive to parent and child, for example, a ballerina pump but with a strap.
4. 'Growing room' was traditionally a thumb's width and means leaving space for walking, growth and a style allowance for the shape of the shoe tip. Clark's staff are trained to allow 14mm, but you can still prod the end of their newly fitted shoes if it makes you feel efficient.
5. Make sure shoes go on easily and can be fastened quickly, especially if your child is starting school and will have to manage changing for PE lessons. Don't buy lace-up school shoes unless your child can confidently and quickly tie his own laces.
6. It's true that children's feet are getting bigger and wider. In 1929, according to Clarks records, the average width was a B or C, which they don't even make now. Today the average width is a G. And your teen son isn't just on a mission to waste your money - it's not unusual for 13-year-olds to have the same shoe size.
7. It is worth paying for good quality materials, like soft and supple leather uppers. Here's a revolting statistic (thanks, Bob!): In one year each foot of an average child will perspire 50 litres. That's why you need a light flexible material than can absorb and disperse sweat. That means leather, not cheaper materials.
Happy shoe buying!
Read one mum's exasperated account of shoe buying for kids.
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