footwear and feet

How hard can it be to fit a pair of shoes?

By | children's health, family, footwear and feet
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers Ltd Haywards Heath

Generally speaking, we only get one pair of feet, and considering the amount of work we ask them to do we really need to take good care of them. Staff at our shop are qualified as members of the Society of Shoe Fitters. They are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues, thereby ensuring that everyone at the shop should be able to tell how well (or badly) a shoe fits initially by the way the shoe slides onto the customer’s foot (or not!) This is one of the main reasons why we will put the shoes on our customers’ feet ourselves.

The amount of ease on the areas of resistance can be felt as the shoe slides onto the foot and indicates to the experienced fitter how the shoe is going to fit. The customer may not like the style or the design of the shoe once it’s on, but at least the fitter can be honest about the fit. Remember that the size on the box is just a number and merely a starting point for the fitter. As qualified fitters we will always tell you if we think the fit can be tweaked and improved.

Once the shoes are on the feet we will ask the child to walk around so that we can check the fit. We are looking to see not only if the gait appears ‘normal’ (unless of course, that is a separate health issue), but also whether the shoes look as though they are ‘behaving normally’ when worn.

So we are checking primarily that the shoe is not slipping up and down at the back of the heel and there are no big gaps around the ankle. We are also looking to see if the topline of the shoe is comfortably clear of the anklebone – if not it may rub, especially if there is no padded heel collar. In addition we are checking that the vamp of the shoe (where the shoe ends at the top or front of your foot) is not gaping or creasing abnormally, which would prompt us to think that the shoe might be too wide or too deep.

We will also be considering the shape and height of the heel collar – is it complementing the natural contour of your child’s foot? What is the extent of any gaping? A certain amount of space is to be expected, but if the gape is too wide then the foot will not be held in place securely. A style with a higher or tighter topline may need to be selected instead. Also, if there is too much slipping going on at the heel, we may need to play around with a different, possibly narrower brand, or even a different size.

Having over 30 years combined shoe-fitting experience, we could line up at least 10 pairs of the same size shoe, but if they are all 10 different brands, even if they are similar styles, we can guarantee that they will all fit slightly differently on one child’s feet! Some of those fits will be better than others – this is where our guidance, advice, knowledge and expertise comes into play.

A fitter’s hands and eyes are their chief fitting tools, with the measuring gauge being the starting point. Practice improves their precision in dealing with each individual customer, alongside a thorough knowledge of all of the brands stocked. There is absolutely no point in fitting a pair of shoes unless it is known how each particular brand or style fits.

For example, if we are fitting a pair of Dr Martens boots or school shoes we know that this brand is quite true to UK sizing lengthwise, but the shoes more often than not tend to suit a wide, deep foot. There is very little point in bringing this brand out for a slim narrow foot, unless the customer is intent on having them, and is happy to have lots of space taken out with insoles – but that is the customer’s choice and it is likely to be pointed out by the fitter as probably ‘not the best fit’ on offer.

However, if I brought out a specific style of Superfit trainers for a very wide, deep foot, it would more often than not be a complete waste of time, as that style tends to fit slim ankles and narrow feet. A wide foot is going to feel completely squashed and restricted.

Most parents will expect a certain amount of growing room in their child’s shoes, depending on growth spurts, but most fitters will try to allow for at least a three month growth period. Most children’s growth spurts are erratic and do not happen at regular, predictable intervals. Smaller children can grow up to two and a half sizes in one year, so that is why it is very important that for their foot health’s sake they are measured and checked frequently by qualified fitters.

It doesn’t cost anything to pop in and have your child’s shoes checked and to be re-measured on a regular basis. All shoe shops that offer a measuring and fitting service and have qualified fitters will do size checks for you for free, but it is essential to remember that different shops use different gauges – as mentioned previously, the size gauge is merely an indication of the approximate size for the shoe fitter to start with.

It is wise to regularly check the fit of your child’s shoes every four to six weeks for infants (up to three years), every six to eight weeks for toddlers (three to four years), and every 10 – 12 weeks thereafter. It’s likely that a child will need at least four pairs of shoes each year in the formative years while the growth spurts are quite rapid. Any damage done to your child’s feet during these early years can be long-lasting and often irreversible. Most girls will start to slow down foot growth-wise by approximately age 13-14 years old, but boys’ feet can keep growing up to around 18 years old.

An infant requires a style which holds firmly onto the foot and which is easy to put on by the parent. It also needs to allow the foot to develop naturally and which does not restrict the freedom of the ankle.

In a first walker or a pre-walker the most important factor should be that the uppers and soles are soft, lightweight and very flexible which allows the foot to move naturally and enables the child’s foot arch muscles to develop correctly.

There must be adequate toe room in a child’s shoe not only for growth but also for the elongation of the foot when walking.

If there is sufficient room the vamps of the shoe will not become distorted and if there is sufficient depth it will prevent any downward pressure on the toes too.

If the shoes are too shallow there will be no ‘wiggle’ room for toes, and if the shoes are too short then the longest toe(s) will hit the end of the shoes and potentially do damage to the nails and nail beds, as well as cause the formation of a ‘hammer’ or ‘claw’ toes.

Once children start school the bones have started to form and their muscles and arches are developing and being exercised, therefore a child needs a shoe with more protection and support. Their school shoes must be able to withstand the rigours an active lifestyle at school will require, otherwise parents will need to be prepared to replace them more frequently.

On average a school-age child will need a minimum of two pairs of shoe shoes per academic year – if their shoes ‘last a whole year’, it’s more than likely that they are wearing a pair that are much too small for them!

As a parent the most important thing to remember is to get your child’s feet checked. If you take them to a qualified dentist for their dental check ups, and a qualified GP for any health issues, so why wouldn’t you protect your child’s foot health by taking them to a qualified shoe fitter for a shoe check and a re-measure on a regular basis?

Kim Jackson M.S.S.F (Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters & Children’s Foot Health Register accredited) Klodhoppers, Haywards Heath

Fit for royalty!

By | children's health, Education, footwear and feet

Dear Kate and Wills,

I see that Princess Charlotte’s just turned four. How time flies!

So I’m guessing that she’ll be starting school in September and will be really excited to meet new friends and start getting an education.

I’m sure she’ll also be very excited about getting her new school uniform and her very first pair of school shoes.

As an experienced and fully qualified shoe fitter can I offer you some valuable advice about the school shoes? I’ve got some useful tips and hints to make shopping for school shoes less stressful for you (or for
the nanny!)

Along with her first walkers, Charlotte’s school shoes are probably the most important item of footwear that she’ll put on her feet in her childhood years. They really need to be selected and fitted with great
care and attention, especially for reception-aged children.

Let’s face it, school shoes are worn (on average) for five days a week and for at least seven hours a day, and that’s not to mention all the walking to and from school and all the running around in the playground at lunch and break times, and at after-school clubs.

It’s never too early in the summer holidays to start thinking about buying your school shoes and getting ready for the new academic year. Plus it avoids all that last minute panic when everything has been picked over or your child’s size has sold out.

Buying early is great for choice – we have our school shoes delivered to our shops in July so this is when the collection will be strongest. If your child is very specific about wanting a patent shoe with a flower on it – you’re more likely to find it early. Possibly more importantly, if your child has very specific requirements such as very narrow feet, very wide feet, hypermobility, or orthotic inserts then shop early.

But what if your child grows over the summer holidays? This is the myth that if you leave your school shoe buying to the last minute it will be the most cost-effective course of action. Wrong! Children very rarely grow so much over the school holidays that they need to swap the shoes they have purchased early in the summer break. Besides, if a school shoe is fitted correctly there should be approximately a good three months worth of growing room factored in by the fitter (before the shoe becomes ‘too big’ and slips off the foot).

Parents who get their school shoes sorted out early tend to ask for a bit of extra growing room anyway. Then if there are any concerns about sizing, we can advise these customers to come back a couple of days before school begins for a double-check of the fit.

In addition to that, shoes that have been bought early will give you time for Charlotte to try on her new shoes and wear them at home in order to ‘break them in’. Wearing new (clean) shoes around the palace, with the correct socks or tights for a short period of time over a couple of days should do the trick. If she does this then her new shoes won’t feel too stiff or give her any blisters on her first day; so if there are any problems at this stage you or William still have time to sort them out.

Most school children of primary school age have feet that grow in rapid, erratic bursts throughout the year, yet on average you only need two pairs of school shoes per academic year. That said, if your child is a climber, a footballer or rides a scooter while wearing their school shoes then you may need to replace their school shoes more frequently.

As Charlotte is going to be starting in Reception then it may be worth considering a style with a toe bumper or scuff guard, as more often
than not she will find herself spending a lot of time kneeling on the classroom carpet.

When you come along to shop for shoes in the summer you can help us by being prepared – bring the correct school socks with you for fitting Charlotte’s shoes. Some people turn up with their child in sandals or flip-flops and they’ve forgotten to bring their socks, or even the relevant orthotic inserts! We can lend you some ‘trying on’ socks, of course, but if your child is already wearing socks and is ready to be measured this can speed up the process at a very busy time when there is often a queue.

Wills and Kate – please remember that school shoes are not indestructible. Some children will always find a way to destroy them – in spite of what their parents might think!

School shoes should be sturdy, durable, comfortable and preferably breathable. As this is your child’s main item of footwear for the week then it is often a false economy and inadvisable for your child’s long-term foot health to choose a cheap, ill-fitting version.

To get the best value from your new school shoe purchase, clean and polish the leather regularly to maintain looks and longevity. You wouldn’t buy a new dress, wear it every day, and never bother to wash it! Look after your investment, and the shoes will look after your child’s feet.

Most suppliers will guarantee a child’s shoe or boot for approximately three months for ‘normal’ wear and tear, and then you will need to have a re-measure to check for any growth spurts. The retailer is not responsible for excessive wear and tear such as ‘scooter toe’. If your child scoots to school and insists on using their shoes as a brake, then encourage them to wear an old pair of trainers for this. An expensive leather school shoe is designed to be tough and robust, but it is not designed to be dragged along the pavement upside down.

Remember to look out for the Society of Shoe Fitters logo or the Children’s Foot Health Register logo when you go shopping – then you will know that you are putting your child’s feet in the best-qualified hands. Charlotte will only get one pair of feet in her lifetime so it’s up
to you to make sure they get the best care.

Yours faithfully

Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers (Hove & Haywards Heath)

Love your feet and who is best qualified to help you

By | children's health, footwear and feet, Health
by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
Klodhoppers (Hove and Haywards Heath)
in conjunction with Laura West
from the Society of Shoe Fitters

National Shoe Fitting Week is an annual campaign designed to raise awareness about the importance of buying properly fitted footwear, not just for ourselves but, possibly more importantly, for our children.

Independent shoe retailers are more important to the footwear industry and our general health than they are given credit for. Independent retailers in all sectors are the backbone of this country – we were famously described as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’! So why does the public continue to choose the ‘big boys’ over the smaller, more reliable and more flexible independents?

The multiples, chain stores and multi nationals may have more high street presence and higher turnover, with bigger orders and greater brand presence, but they are just as fragile as the smaller businesses. In fact the larger they are, the harder they fall (as we have seen with the demise of Brantano in recent months).

Small independent shops are more versatile and individual, and they can make instant decisions without having to get it triple-checked by head office. If they want to start their sale on a certain date, they can. If they want to offer a certain customer a special discount, they can.

Nowadays the public demands more product information – the independent shop has both the time and knowledge to do this.

There are two primary groups which suffer from ill-fitting footwear, and for whom it is seriously dangerous and irresponsible from a health point of view – children and diabetics.

Few people realise that putting a child in poorly-fitted, or ‘off the peg’ shoes can damage their health in later life. If we walk in a certain way to avoid pain then it wears out other joints and tendons in the body. That is why so many people get problem knee, hip, leg, neck, back and shoulder pain – did you know that severe migraines can be caused by ill-fitting shoes? If joints wear unnaturally then nerves can get trapped causing pain. Later on rheumatism and arthritis may attack these worn joints, causing further pain.

The bones in our feet are hugely delicate in childhood and can be misshapen – rather like a bonsai tree. They continue to grow and ossify (harden) into our teenage years until they stop growing. However, they can continue to change shape throughout our lifetime.

Footwear is not simply a commodity; it is proven that footwear is linked to our well-being. The good independent shoe shop will pass on knowledge so that their staff are correctly trained – not just in professional measuring and fitting methods, but also to be ‘up to speed’ on all their product knowledge. To know how a shoe fits a certain shaped foot, and to know how a specific brand comes up size-wise are two of the main factors for a professional shoe fitter to consider before taking a shoebox out of the stock room!

Only a small proportion of our population have ‘average’ feet – so who will be there to look after the majority of the population’s feet if there are not enough independent shoe shops?

Trained shoe fitters know there is so much to learn about physiology, footwear manufacture and how the different materials used affect the fit.

The 1970s Munro Report warned the government of the time what would happen to our manufacturing base, independent retailers and the all-important link to public health, but it was ignored and sadly has proven to be only a visionary document. Two years ago the S.S.F (Society of Shoe Fitters) reminded MPs of the accuracy of this report in Parliament. It is only recently that they have started to listen.

Greatly assisted by other health-based organisations and charities, the cost to the NHS and the benefits system of ignoring shoe fitting and foot health is now being prioritised.

National Shoe Fitting Week runs from 24th March 2018 but pop into your local independent shoe shop anytime to check your child’s shoes and size!
Kim Jackson M.S.S.F.
(member of the Society of Shoe Fitters and Children’s Foot Health Register)
Klodhoppers Ltd (Hove & Haywards Heath)