Shopping for shoes – the parent perspective

shoesPhoto by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

At Great Foundations we have been doing a lot of work with parents trying to understand what they know about children’s feet, what worries them and where they access information to help them.  We wanted a parent to write a short piece for our blog and were very happy when the Honest Dad (@honestdad) responded to this.  Shopping for shoes is an important stage for parents and their children but also a common concern.  Please do get in touch if you would  like to share your views, or have any questions on children’s feet. 

I never really thought much about what children wear on their feet. I suppose I just assumed that children wore smaller (and significantly cuter) versions of adult shoes. Since becoming a parent myself, and now subsequently being an owner of a mobile toddler, I’ve realised there seems to be a lot more to child shoes than I first anticipated.

Of course, like many parents, we made the proud first visit to the shoe shop when our son first started walking. As informative as the staff were, we felt a bit…well, intimidated. Whilst the store assistant measured our son’s feet, she bombarded us with information about how shoe choice and sizing can impact the little one for life. It was an interesting experience in that I realised how susceptible parents are to rhetoric, especially when it comes to your child’s well-being.

Following our visit, I did some extra research on children’s shoes and amongst the pages and pages of myths and marketing ploys; sole composition, foot placement and of course damaging competitors – it became apparent that there are stark differences in shoes made for children. Different companies make different claims about the qualities of their shoes…but aren’t they just shoes? When you really drill down to what is being advertised, it seems children’s shoe companies boast each individual feature and talk about them in a lot of detail – this makes buying shoes for children much more complicated.

If I look at my shoe collection it consists of old trainers (for general life), old, old trainers (for gardening), work shoes and those summer shoes my wife made me buy that I never wear. I don’t deviate much, and I rarely break the cycle. When I buy shoes, there is no real consideration for insteps, balance or soles all things that these shoes naturally feature; however, it seems that for children’s shoes these features can be very prominent in the marketing blurb…so the question is: is there scientific grounding in these features being of benefit to child shoes? If I look at my little boy’s shoes, they just look like normal shoes.

Some of the advice on shoes for your child is intuitive; their feet grow quickly so they mustn’t be cramped – that’s pretty obvious. The prescribed frequency at which you should change their shoes differs, but the advice tends to be around every six weeks, regularly having your child’s feet measured is the best way to see if their shoes are still suitable…but as I’ve found different companies use different sizes. It can be expensive to constantly be replacing shoes, but I’ve realised as a parent that it’s just something that I’m going to have to get used to.

The whole child shoe world can be confusing for a first-time parent. I’ve had a think and what I’m looking for and it’s not that complicated really. I want a shoe which matches my son’s personality and is suitable for his (often destructive) activities. I want a slip resistant sole that helps position my son’s feet correctly so as he adapts to walking he develops correctly… and most of all I want the shoes to be durable.

Choosing your child’s first shoes doesn’t need to be a complicated business. Maybe I’m over thinking it, but as a first-time parent you want to do the best you can for your little one. I think it’s all about how much of the “advice” you abide by. What’s most important is getting advice from the right places – stick to the non-biased, research-based sources and keep an open mind!


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