Choosing the right school shoes

 

Bare feet in the grass with a daisy between the toes

At a glance:

  • Good school shoes don't have to be expensive.
  • Shoes should be flexible but supportive.
  • A good shoe should weigh about 250 grams.
  • Allow a maximum of one thumb width between the big toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Danger signs of poor shoes - your child stumbling a lot or complaining of pain.

Let's face it. School shoes have never been at the cutting edge of fashion. In fact if you look at what your parents were wearing, the humble school shoe really hasn't evolved much at all.

Most school shoes are still navy, black or brown with laces for boys and a t-bar design for girls.

But while they all look the same, the cost can vary from about $30 all the way up to $120 and beyond.

But does a more expensive shoe mean a better shoe?

Geoffrey Crichton, a podiatrist with more than 27 years' experience and a father of seven kids, says not necessarily. Rather than concentrating on the price tag, he says the shoe needs to pass these three simple tests:

  1. Hold the shoe, one hand at the heel, the other around the middle of the shoe and twist.  There should be resistance through the middle of the shoe.
  2. Hold the shoe at the heel and squeeze. The shoe should have a strong heel counter which means the heel should hold firm.
  3. Flex the shoe at the forefoot (or where the ball of the foot would be). The shoe should flex enabling natural movement of the foot.

Do you get what you pay for?

Robert Mair, a podiatrist from the Ryde Podiatry Centre, tells his patients that "a shoe is not a wallet. If you can fold it in half and pop it in your back pocket, it's no good."

He also warns against buying a very heavy shoe. "Some can weigh close to half a kilo. That's a lot of weight on the end of your child's foot. A good shoe should weigh about 250 grams."

As for the question of cost, Robert believes that in most cases parents get what they pay for.

"The more expensive shoes, like Clarks or Lynx tend to outlast the cheaper brands and in my opinion usually offer better support."

Having said that, both Robert and Geoffrey agree that if your child has good feet and no associated problems like knock knees or flat feet, then he or she can get away with wearing almost anything provided the shoe gives the foot protection and is comfortable to wear.

But their advice changes if your child complains of foot pain or any other problems.

Rules of thumb for a good shoe

"Listen carefully to your child," advises Geoffrey. "If they are in pain or if they stumble, then there's probably something wrong with the shoe. If the problem persists then I'd recommend getting some professional advice."

Geoffrey says cheaper shoes can be OK, but if the materials are inferior it's likely the shoe will breakdown more quickly and need to be replaced.

He also cautions against buying shoes too big.  "I'd allow a maximum of one thumb width from big toe to the end of the shoe. Anything more and the shoe can alter the way your child walks."

For sport, particularly netball and other sports played on hard surfaces like concrete or bitumen, Geoffrey recommends an athletic shoe with support. "Human beings were designed to run barefoot on soft surfaces like grass, but we weren't made to run and jump on concrete. Without a good shoe your child is at risk of being injured."

And as far as weekend footwear goes? "I don't have a problem with Crocs, thongs or ballet flats," says Geoffrey. "Most children could run around without shoes and be absolutely fine. The main reason we cover their feet up is to protect them from broken glass and other debris." 


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