Five tips for choosing the best school shoes

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Written by Therapy Focus Advanced Physiotherapist, Dan Prigmore

With children wearing their school shoes around 35 hours a week or around 1500 hours a year, choosing the right pair can sometimes seem overwhelming.

To help you out, we’ve got five tips to help with choosing the right pair, one step at a time.

1. The right pair of shoes needs the right pair of socks

Before even looking at different pairs of shoes, ensure you are prepared for the visit by taking socks that your child is comfortable wearing. Using the socks available at the shoe store is not recommended for both hygiene and comfort reasons. If your child frequently attempts to pull off their socks, consider trying seamless socks (check online for places to purchase), as the sensation of the seam pressing against their foot inside the shoe may be uncomfortable.

2. Try on shoes at the right time – the end of the day

Standing or sitting for long periods can result in more swollen feet at the end of the day. Therefore, it is best to try shoes on in the afternoon or evening to ensure you allow for this when determining the right fit.

3. Be sure to choose school shoes that are the right fit

Selecting shoes that your child can grow into can often mean purchasing shoes that are too big for them right now. Over-large shoes can result in discomfort and/or injury, creating a negative experience for your child when wearing their school shoes.

As a guide, your child’s foot is likely to grow around half a size every six months once they reach school age (excluding any large growth spurts). By following the below guidelines to a firm fitting shoe, your child’s shoes should be the right fit throughout the school year.

  • If your child wears foot orthotics or AFO’s, ensure you bring them along when trying on new shoes
  • One thumb width only should fit between the end of the shoe and the end of the longest toe when you check for length
  • The widest part of the shoe and the widest part of the foot should be at the same point
  • If the shoe seems too tight around their forefoot, try requesting a wider size before asking for a longer shoe
  • The laces/Velcro/buckles should be tight enough to secure the heel at the back of the shoe and prevent sliding forwards
  • Your child (if they are usually able to) should be able to wriggle their toes with the shoe on

4. Shoes should provide enough support whilst also being lightweight

Support does not mean bulky, and lightweight does not mean flimsy. Avoid slip-on shoes as they do not have a fastening function to facilitate keeping your child’s heel in the back of the shoe, and where possible avoid hand-me-down/second hand shoes as over time shoes mould slightly to the shape of the wearer’s foot. To ensure that your child has enough support, follow the guidelines below:

  • The sole should not be able to twist or fold in half easily
  • The heel counter should not be too stiff or too tight, and hence should not cause rubbing on your child’s heel

colourful shoe on bench5. How to make the final choice of school shoes for your child

Once you have narrowed down the long list following the above recommendations, consider these final tips before making your final choice.

  • Rubber soles and double stitching around the toes are likely to ensure that your child’s new shoes pass the test of their adventurous lifestyles, until they grow out of them
  • Check the school uniform guidelines regarding whether your child’s school shoes have to be a particular colour
  • If possible, select a shoe with a wide tongue to assist with opening the shoe to promote your child being able to put their foot in independently
  • If you are still left with multiple options, allowing your child to make the final decision between those options will ensure that they choose the shoe that they like best

Finally, having your child wear their shoes for a day or two the week before they go back to school will hopefully ensure that they are comfortable and ready to kick the new year off on the right foot.


colourful shoe on bench
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