Shoes for back to school
It is that time of year again...the annual pilgrimage to the shoes sotres for school shoes, new runners and maybe even sports shoes.
As Podiatrists, so often we see pain and symptoms present as a result of poor selection/use of children's footwear. So here is some advice. When it comes to a school shoe (or any enclosed shoe for that matter), there are three key features you should look for in determining its quality.
- It should have a firm heel counter. The heel counter is the reinforcement at the back part of the shoe. It aides in supporting the foot. To test this, push firmly right at the back of the shoe, you want it to be firm/hold up under pressure, if it collapses easily then it’s probably not the best choice.
- It should flex where the ball of the foot flexes (not in the arch). To test this place one hand at the front and one at the back of the shoe and apply pressure, the shoe should flex at the ball of the foot, if it flexes in the arch area instead or does not flex at all despite solid pressure applied, it’s probably not the best choice.
- It should be flexibile but not too flexible. To test this simply grasp the shoe at the forefoot and heel and twist the shoe firmly in opposite directions (like wringing out a towel). If it flexes too much (is collapsible) or not at all despite solid pressure applied, it is probably not the best choice.
- It needs to fit. The standard finger width distance from biggest toe (not necessarily big toe) to the top of the shoe for length is a good guide which is relatively easy for parents to measure. Width on the other hand can be more difficult to measure and is often not considered in children as much as it should be. Look out for signs that the forefoot is bulging over the midsole, this should be avoided
Although these tips can assist you with finding a suitable school shoe for your child, purchasing shoes from a specialist shoe store with qualified shoe fitters is always preferable. If you are still unsure, many of these specialist shoe stores will allow you to take the shoes to your child’s podiatrist for a more comprehensive assessment and exchange them if they’re unsuitable (provided they’ve not been worn).
And what about brands? Are all the same?
It is important to note that whilst models within a particular brand may suit one child, it may not be the best choice for another. There are, however, a number of brands which, in my experience, are a real stand out when it comes to quality, comfort and durability in a school shoe.
What I like about this range is that the shoes encompass sporting shoe technology without looking like a sporting shoe. So, it is great for schools with a stricter uniform policy where a sporting shoe may not be permitted. Unlike some of the more conventional school shoes, it’s sporting shoe features enables children to play sports at recess and lunch times in a shoe that provides them with the support and cushioning required for that activity. They come with Velcro, lace up and buckle fastenings, so they cater for every child’s needs and are suitable for both girls and boys. Ascent shoes accommodate most orthotics and have a reputation for being durable. They are available online and from The Athletes’s Foot.
There are a number of models of school appropriate shoes within the ASICS range. As a brand, ASICS have an excellent reputation and for good reason, their school shoe range is no exception. Their support and cushioning system are of a high standard and they come in a wide variety of sizes and widths. They also come in a range of colours to suit most school uniform requirements. They come with Velcro fastenings for up to and including a US size 3 (the average eight year old). They do have the appearance of a sports shoe so double check your child’s school uniform policy. ASICS shoes accommodate most orthotics. Asics are available from Sportitude, The Athlete’s Foot, online and other reputable shoe stores.
Clarks have been around for years and have a solid reputation in school shoes.
They offer a number of models to suit both boys and girls. Although the traditional Clarks range wouldn’t be my first choice for school children who spend their recess and lunch breaks engaging in sporting activities, their Daytona, League and Arrow shoes are more suited to sports and come in an E+ width which is great for wide feet. They also come with laces, buckles and Velcro fastenings. Some Clarks shoes accommodate orthotics better than others, so ensure you take your child’s orthotics when fitting any shoe, particularly Clarks traditional shoes.
This is an exciting brand. A locally based company developed by podiatrists and parents of young children. It has wide range of high-quality school shoes, endorsed by podiatrists. Exceptional quality at a very reasonable price point. Their shoes are orthotic friendly and come in a wide range of sizes and widths. They are suitable for boys and girls and have both laces and Velcro fastenings. Their entire range has all of the qualities I look for in a school shoe. They are available online and from Ollie Ashenden.
Airflex school shoes offer support and cushioning and are notorious for comfort. They come in a range of sizes and widths. They contain a removable footbed which helps when fitting an orthotic. They have styles to suit both boys and girls. They are available from Betts.
Startrite are an international brand which work with a team of podiatrists, physio’s and biomechanists to develop and refine their brand. The shoes are affordable for what they offer, including child shaped, age specific lasts and multi-width fittings. They are suitable for boys and girls and can accommodate most orthotics. They are available online and from Ollie Ashenden.
Pablosky shoes are made in Spain and the company manufacture more than 2,000,000 pairs of shoes per year. Amongst other features, their shoes contain heel and toe guards, non-slip outsoles and anti-bacterial innersoles. I personally have not had a great deal of experience with this brand however they have an excellent reputation. They are available online and from Ollie Ashenden.
Hopefully this information is helpful in purchasing new school shoes for your children. Remember these key points:
- Ensure shoes include the key features
- Ensure you go to a reputable shoe store with specialised shoe fitters
- Try to stick with brands recommended by podiatrists
- Consult a podiatrist if unsure
Hope you’re all enjoying the school holidays. Bring on term one!
Danielle Champion (B.Pod)
Senior Podiatrist | The Biomechanics Lab