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Q&A about correctly fitting shoes

Mumsnetters asked Louise Williams, expert training and fitting advisor at Brantano, for advice and tips about correctly fitting shoes for their DC.

Brantano recognise that parents have concerns and questions around their children's shoes. With over 20 years of experience in fitting, and 17 years spent working with Brantano, Louise is now responsible for liaising with brands such as Clarks, Startrite and Hush Puppies in ensuring that the shoe retailer has staff that are trained to the required standard to provide customers with the most accurate advice when it comes to buying shoes for their children.

How often should you get measured for shoes and from what age?

What to expect from a shoe fitting

Getting the most support out of your shoe

Different types of feet

Are these shoes doing more harm than good?

Competition: Win one of three £100 Brantano vouchers

How often should you get measured and from what age?

Q. NerrSnerr: At what age should I get my baby's feet measured and buy her first shoes - when she has started walking, or before?

A. Louise Williams: Children should be kept out of shoes for as long as possible and you should only consider shoes once they can pull themselves up and start walking. First shoes should always be made from soft, flexible material and not have stiff or hard soles. 

As the child's feet grow, you will notice that styles of shoes and the sole units change in order to provide extra support and protection. Brantano offers many first shoes in its stores, stocking Clarks (such as Little Bunny, Little Ida, Little Ditz) which are all classed as first shoes - so perfect for crawling, cruising and first steps. If you have concerns about when to buy shoes then Brantano's expert fitters are on hand to measure, fit and offer advice for your child's first pair.

Q. Duckbilled: How often should I get my toddlers feet measured? She seems to have been the same size for a while and her shoes don't feel tight.

A. Louise Williams: Children's feet tend to grow in spurts, so it's quite normal for the size to stay the same for a while - typically speaking, children's feet grow around two sizes each year. As a general rule, we would recommend a measure and fit check every four to six weeks for pre-walkers (under two years) and then approximately every 10-12 weeks from two years. At Brantano, the measuring and fitting service is completely free and you are never obliged to buy - so feel free to pop into your local store as often as you like, have your child's feet measured and existing shoes checked by one of the expert fitters.

Q. Pangaea90: Is there a maximum length of time children should wear shoes before taking them off for a bit, or does it not matter if you have breathable shoes?

A. Louise Williams: There is no specific time that is given to wearing shoes; however children's feet should be given as much freedom as possible in order to help the feet develop naturally - especially in younger children - so taking shoes off, for example on long car journeys, is a good idea. 

Shoes made from leather definitely help, as leather is a porous material meaning it naturally allows the feet to breath - this is especially important if a child has sweaty feet. When the feet get hot they also have a tendency to swell and in poorly fitted shoes this can cause more problems the longer they are worn.

What to expect from a shoe fitting

Q. TheyGotTheMustardOut: After measuring foot size with a tool, what do the fitters look for when the customer tries on a shoe?

A. Louise Williams: When children's feet are measured, the size given is what we refer to as a 'starting point' and this is because we take many other things, such as style and brand, into consideration. Shoe fitters will check that there is enough growing room in the length but not too much to cause trips or blisters. They will also check the width (widest part of the foot which is between the toe joints), the instep (or arch), especially where fasteners, such as laces or buckles, are concerned. They'll also check that the ankle bones are sitting comfortably on the collar and that the shoe grips the heel when walking.

Q. StickChildNumberTwo: How can I tell whether the person fitting my DD's shoes is doing a good job?

A. Louise Williams: An experienced trained fitter will spend time with you and your child and discuss the best styles for their foot size and shape. They will take time checking the fit in length, width, depth, heel grip and walking ability. They are also more than happy to explain and demonstrate what they are checking for so you can check the fit at home.

Q. CMOTDibbler: Why is shoe fitting so random? My DS has very wide, high feet, with very high arches, and its a complete lottery as to which shoes might possibly fit him. Some shoe fitters have tried to persuade us that a shoe where the velcro barely touches is a good fit.

A. Louise Williams: Every single shoe is developed on a 'last' (a foot-shaped piece of plastic or wood) so the size will vary between shoes. This is why it is so important to get the shoe on the foot to see how it fits. Unfortunately size and fit does also differ slightly between brands and styles - this is why it's always recommended to get shoes fitted by a fully trained fitter. Time of day and socks can also result in different measurements, as feet swell slightly as the day goes on. The best time to get feet measured is in the afternoon. If shoes have a Velcro fasten, then the strap should cover approximately 80% of the Velcro for the shoe to have a comfortable fit.

Q. BreacaBoudica: Do Brantano do special fitting sessions for children with autism or similar issues?

A. Louise Williams: Brantano appreciates that every child is different and tries to accommodate the needs of both child and parent. This can include making specific appointments (even out of hours), making adjustments in store, such as turning off music or having a designated quiet area. If you have concerns then the best thing to do is to call your local Brantano store who will be happy to discuss your individual needs.

Q. lexy444: Why should we shop with Brantano?

A. Louise Williams: Brantano stocks many brands and styles to suit many budgets and our expert fitters are always on hand to offer advice on the best styles for your child's feet. Our fitting service is free and you can pop in as many times as you like for a free fit check with no obligation to buy. We take pride in our measure and fit service and work closely with all our fitted brands, such as Clarks and Startrite, in order to make sure we offer the best service possible for our customers.

Getting the most support out of your shoe

Q. PandaMummyofOne: DS and I will be walking to nursery throughout the year and I'm looking for a pair of shoes for heavy rain, potential snow and ice. What should I be looking for to know his feet and ankles will be protected as much as possible?

A. Louise Williams: As we approach autumn and winter, Brantano will stock a range of shoes and boots suitable for little feet in the cold and wet weather. As with shoes, our expert fitters will measure and fit boots making sure they are a comfortable fit for your child. For very snowy days, we would recommend a snow boot (for warmth) and for rainy days, we would recommend a leather boot that has been protected (such as Clarks' Crazy Dig or Diggy Guy, with a padded collar and flexible sole).

Q. Shiraznowplease: My mum always goes on about buying school shoes a size bigger so they last the whole school year, what damage could this do to their feet/comfort or is it a good idea?

A. Louise Williams: It's never a good idea to buy shoes which are too big, as this can cause foot damage or accidents such as trips. Growing room is always built into children's shoes and Brantano fitters will always recommend the best fit that includes growing room, so there is no need to buy bigger sizes.

Q. CopperPan: What are your thoughts on second hand shoes? My niece passes on shoes as she grows out of them quickly, but is this damaging for my DDs feet?

A. Louise Williams: When you buy new shoes, they will eventually mould to the shape of the feet. We would not recommend that children wear another child's shoes, as this could cause problems such as blisters or rubbing and, in some cases, long-term problems such as posture and joint problems. However we do appreciate that some children grow out of shoes fairly quickly and some 'hand-me-downs' can be just like new. If this is the case, you can always pop into one of Brantano's stores where an expert fitter will check the size and fit for you.

Q. Duggee: How should a shoe fit around the ankle - should it be snug, or is a bit of slipping ok? Also, if you are able to pull the shoe of easily without unfastening is that ok?

A. Louise Williams: The collar of the shoe (the bit that sits under the ankle and across the heel) should sit just under the ankle bone and comfortably on the heel. Most children's shoes are made with padded collars in order to minimise any rubbing of the ankle or heel. When the child walks, the shoes should not move up and down as this can cause rubbing and blisters. As part of Brantano's measure and fit process, our expert fitters will always check the areas around the ankles and heel grip to make sure there is a comfortable fit. Shoes which can be taken off easily without being unfastened would probably be too big.

Different types of feet

Q. Anononnooo: Do wide feet stay wide forever?

A. Louise Williams: Children's feet don't stop growing until their mid-to-late teens and in that time, not only do they change in size but also in shape. It's difficult to predict if the width will remain wide at this stage.

Q. Choccyp1g: Shouldn't there be a third dimension to shoe sizes? The depth of the foot is not accounted for, especially people with deep toes.

A. Louise Williams: Although the depth of the foot is not measured, it is checked as part of the fitting process. Brantano fitters are trained to recommend the correct style or brand based on the overall measurement and shape of the feet.

Q. BertPuttocks: DD has very narrow feet. When she goes for a shoe fitting, she inevitably ends up being given insoles to wear with the new shoes as it seems to be the only way to get any to fit her. My question is: Are there any long-term consequences to having to rely on insoles in this way?

A. Louise Williams: There is no long-term effect in using insoles but the fitting principles will be the same. Expert fitters will check length, width, instep and grip with the insole fitted and if the style of the shoe is not appropriate for an insole, then the fitter will recommend the best styles. If wearing insoles for long periods of time, it's also important to have a good quality insole which will not flatten or move around in the shoes.

Are these shoes doing more harm than good?

Q. Georgedawes: Are there any shoes that you should avoid, or might be bad for children's feet?

A. Louise Williams: Sandals and wellies will not offer the same support or protection as a shoe, but as long as they are not worn for long periods of time, they shouldn't cause too much of a problem. Open-toe sandals will not have the same amount of growing room built in, but this is to prevent trips, so it's really important to never buy sandals which are too big.

Q. Caker: What do you think of barefoot shoes? I get them for my DD as they have flexible soles, but I'm aware the philosophy goes against the shoe fitting theory that children should wear supportive shoes.

A. Louise Williams: Wearing shoes that are 'supportive' in most cases refers to the way they fit, rather than the material or style of the shoe. As long as the child is wearing the correct size and style for their foot shape, then most shoes will offer some form of support and there shouldn't be any problems.

Q. Chairmeoh: During the summer, DD loves to wear Crocs, flip-flops or bare feet 24/7. Is this bad for her feet, or is it healthy to let children be unrestricted by fitted shoes?

A. Louise Williams: These types of shoes are fine to wear as long as they are the correct size. Check your child's feet regularly for signs of redness or blisters to make sure the shoes aren't causing any problems.

Q. Gazzalw: Can slip-on girls shoes (ballerina style) ever provide adequate arch support?

A. Louise Williams: Clarks and Startrite shoes are always designed with your child's foot development in mind but some styles do provide more support than others. Clarks has developed a couple of styles with no bar for the tween market (Tizz Ride and Tizz Hope) and have spent a lot of time ensuring that the shoe fits comfortably. 

The key is making sure that the shoes are a comfortable fit and that there is no slipping or excessive gapping when walking. Some ballerina styles also come with ankle or instep straps, giving a little more support than the traditional slip-on. If you have concerns about a certain style then one of our expert fitters will be able to give you and your daughter advice on the best styles.

Q. Belmo: I'm really struggling to find plimsoles for nursery that will fit my daughter's very high instep. Why is it so hard?! And is it okay for children to wear them all day?

A. Louise Williams: Most children's shoes for this age group tend to be a full shoe in order to provide support and protection for little, unsteady feet - this is why many styles will cover the instep. Plimsolls with a gusset rather than a Velcro fasten can sometimes accommodate a high instep better. Also, depending on the size of your child's feet, a fitted pump, lightweight shoe or fitted trainer may be better suited. Brantano's expert fitters will be able to advise on the best style for your child's size and foot shape.


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Last updated: over 3 years ago