School shoes: Start your child’s year on the right foot

Kids are wearing their school shoes for up to eight hours a day, running around with friends in the schoolyard, so it’s important to have the right fit.

It’s that time of year again, where planning for the school year ahead is in full swing.

There are uniforms to order, books to buy and lunches to plan, but one of the most important decisions you’ll make is the shoes your child wears when heading back to the playground.

“Your feet are the most important part of your body that lets you move well in this life,” podiatrist Kim Harwood says.

“They need to fit well and feel comfortable.”

She warns having the wrong shoe or ill-fitting footwear can result in blisters, heel pain, joint pain, bruised toes and ingrown toenails.

So, what makes a good shoe, and what should parents look for?

Why you need well-made school shoes

A sturdy and shock absorbing pair of shoes is super important for school-aged kids, according to Australian Podiatry Association spokesperson, podiatrist Hayley Uden.

“When kids go to school, they’re actually really active, and they’re wearing these shoes for up to eight hours when you consider they are walking or catching the bus, plus the six hours at school,” Hayley says.

“Their shoes should have all the shock absorption and comfort of a sneaker but match the school guidelines of black leather or whatever the rules are.”

Hayley recommends shoes with a form of attachment that can be readjusted.

“They need a buckle, laces or Velcro,” she says.

“We don’t like zippers or elastic.”

A strong heel counter is also important.

“At the back of the shoe, when you press the counter, you don’t want it to collapse,” Hayley says.

“You want it nice and firm, so it supports their foot posture.

“The reason for this is kids are running around at school on a lot of hard surfaces like concrete.”

Check your child’s foot growth through the year

When kids are young, growth happens very rapidly in a very short period of time says Kim.

“We often find within two or three months some parents need to buy a new pair of shoes again, so you need to check their shoe size regularly.”

For school-aged children between 5 and 10-years-old Kim recommends checking their foot size monthly.

“The most important thing is to allow space at the end of the shoe for the toes,” she says.

“Some shoes are quite hard, so it’s difficult to tell.

“To solve this issue, I recommend removing the sole of the shoe and having your child stand on it. “Check the length and the width.”

A space the width of your thumb is ideal, and don’t be tempted to go an extra size up to give kids room to grow, warns Kim.

“You don’t want their foot slipping around because that can cause foot problems to develop,” she says.

Growth in older children tends to be slower, so check their shoes still fit, and are in good condition, every six months.

Why kids still need barefoot time

Having good shoes for the school day is crucial, but kids also need time out of footwear, according to our experts.

Going barefoot has proven to help strengthen the muscles in the feet and ankles, which results in better balance, strength and posture.

There is also interesting research suggesting direct physical contact with the earth has a whole host of benefits, including better sleep and reduced pain.

Let kids take their school shoes off when they get home and run around, Kim says.

“It’s essential when their joints are developing to have that ground contact and let their feet be in their natural state.”

Written by Alex White.