More than a quarter of British children are wearing shoes that could be damaging their feet, a study has found.
And nearly 30% of kids are wearing shoes that are completely the wrong size.
The survey of 2,000 parents, by The College of Podiatry, also found 55% suffer blisters, bruises and calluses from unsuitable shoes.
“It is worrying that so many children are wearing shoes which either don’t fit them properly or are not suitable for everyday wear,” said Dr Stewart Morrison, a podiatrist from The College of Podiatry and The University of Brighton.
“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.”
The survey showed 56% of parents have bought their children shoes without having their feet measured.
More than a third (38%) of parents also said they hand down shoes to younger children without being sure they fit properly.
Girls were found to be at the greatest risk of long-term damage to their feet.
Nearly a quarter of parents (22%) said they felt pressure to buy their daughters “fashionable” shoes such as ballet pumps, flip flops and high heels.
The researchers found almost one in ten young girls wear shoes with a heel of 2cm or higher and, on average, they wear these types of shoes as young as six years old.
Dr Morrison said: “Children’s feet are still growing and are more susceptible to damage than adult feet, so it’s really vital to ensure they are wearing shoes which fit them well – in width as well as length – and that are suitable for 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.”
The College of Podiatry recommends parents have their children’s feet measured and their everyday shoes fitted by a professional.
Young children (aged one to three) should have their feet measured approximately every eight weeks, and older children, every three to four months.
Advice from The College of Podiatry on general guidance for what to look for in a children’s shoe:
Adequate length and width: All children’s footwear should be measured for length and width, and fitted by an appropriately trained shoe fitter.
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 pumps provide little shock absorption but heels of 2cm of higher can shorten calf muscles.
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.
Material: Leather is the best material for kids’ shoes as it is flexible and soft, but hard-wearing. It also lets air in but keeps moisture out, meaning feet stay cool and dry in most conditions. Avoid shoes which are largely made of other materials (synthetics and plastics).
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. The shoe should not bend or crumple excessively. Plimsolls and ballet-pump shoes are examples that bend too easily.
If you are concerned about your child’s walking or feet, see a HCPC-registered podiatrist, GP or health visitor for advice. Visit www.feetforlife.org for more information and to find a registered HCPC podiatrist near you.