written by Kim Jackson M.S.S.F. (Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters), director at Klodhoppers Ltd (Hove & Haywards Heath). Kim is a guest blogger who works just down the road from Back 2 Balance. She is a keen chiropractic advocate as well as looking after your children’s feet. She and her team at Klodhoppers, provide expert care and advise, on shoes and their fittings.

Shoes black students.

Here at Klodhoppers we are often asked lots of foot-related questions, and not simply about shoes and how they fit. Consequently, we thought that we would arrange an in-store event for our customers in order to get their questions answered by an expert.

During National Shoe Fitting Week 2013 (in March), we invited Neeta Still, a local podiatrist (based in Haywards Heath) to be available for a free drop-in session within each of our shops during the campaign week. (www.happyfeetclinic.co.uk)

She was on hand to answer any health-related questions that parents had about their children’s feet. Neeta spent one day in our Hove shop and one day in our Haywards Heath shop. There were many questions asked by parents about foot health such as skin and nail problems, concerns with gait and posture, orthotic inserts etc, which Neeta is more qualified to answer than us. We are planning to hold more of these sessions in the future as it was clear that parents really appreciated having their questions answered and any fears allayed.

There were a lot of frequently asked questions about feet and footwear in general – many people regard footwear as purely shoes, but it does apply to any covering for the foot and can include Babygrows and sleep suits, socks, tights etc.

Here are some answers to some of the more commonly asked questions which we thought would be good to share with parents.

Babygrows and sleep suits – try not to keep your baby in a sleep suit that is too small for her. If the foot part is too small or the leg/body length is too short, then the toes will be crammed and forced to curl.

Pram shoes – hard-soled pram shoes should only be worn for special occasions for a limited time such as a wedding or christening. Soft-soled pram shoes, bootees, or slipper socks/moccasins are the best way to insulate a child’s feet and give protection. This type of footwear does not cram the toes or constrict the ankles.

Socks and tights – any type of hosiery, particularly if it is regularly tumble dried, may shrink over time causing the movement of the toes to be restricted. Children’s socks and tights should be checked regularly, especially when new shoes have been bought due to a growth spurt. (Remember to check wellies for size too!)

Knitted bootees – these are less popular today, however they are great for insulating the feet, and care should be taken with their size. Also, if they are open weave then parents should make sure that any fibres do not work loose and wrap around any individual toes and cut off the circulation.

School shoes – it is always difficult to describe the ‘perfect’ shoe for a child’s foot, but a typical ‘school shoe’ is normally considered an ideal shoe. This means that the feet have been assessed and measured for length, width and depth. The toe-area is ‘foot-shaped’ and of sufficient depth to allow the toes to move freely. The heel height should be no greater than 4cm with a broad base of shock-absorbing material. It should also fit snugly around the heel area, and is held in place on the foot with laces or a Velcro strap. The ideal material should be breathable, such as leather.

Plimsolls – these generally come in single sizes and are not considered as a fitted item of footwear. Some schools and pre-schools insist on children wearing plimsolls as an indoor shoe in order to reduce noise levels and keep floor coverings clean, with their school shoes only being worn to and from school. Often these plimsolls are kept in a P.E. bag at school on an almost permanent basis. As children’s feet can be very sweaty, it’s unlikely that the plimsolls will dry out overnight in a P.E. bag. Plimsolls are excellent for the purpose for which they were designed, i.e. doing sport, but they are unsuitable for growing feet for six hours a day! If the plimsolls remain at school in the P.E. bag for most of the academic year, then parents should ensure that the sizing of plimsolls is also checked whenever new school shoes are purchased.

Trainers – these are generally ‘foot-friendly’ as long as children’s feet are measured and provided that they are similar to the ‘ideal shoe’, as mentioned earlier (see school shoes). Be aware that although some synthetic trainers will be less expensive, they can encourage excessive sweating as they are not breathable like leather.

High heels – children should not wear shoes with high heels. Apart from the obvious damage they will do to a growing child’s foot, they also alter posture and gait, and may cause long term damage including lower back problems.

Flat shoes – many young girls are currently wearing very flat slip-on ‘dolly style’ or ‘ballet pump’ type shoes which can cause stress to the structures on the sole of the foot and back of the leg, which can lead to pain and inflammation. They tend to have very thin soles which provide very little or no protection from foot injury. Also, many slip-on styles are deliberately worn too small so that they do not fall off, or turn into flip flops once they have stretched with wear. This can cause bunions and claw-toes as the shoe is too tight and the foot is trying to hold the shoe in place.

Fashion shoes – parents should exercise common sense where fashion shoes are concerned particularly with older children. They can be worn for short periods of time e.g. for a party, or special occasion, but they are potentially damaging to the foot and overall posture. They are rarely measured and are often ill-fitting. They also tend to be pointed at the toe and usually made of synthetic materials with a thin sole which offers very little durability and foot protection.

Baby walkers – children will walk independently in their own time. Some children walk as early as 9 months old, others not until they are close to 18 months old. But they usually all get there in the end! Baby walkers encourage a child’s joints to take load earlier than intended and the foot and lower limb to move in an unnatural walking pattern. Research has shown the use of baby walkers can be associated with a delay in normal walking, crawling and standing. Their use is best avoided. (Baby walkers are banned in Canada).

If you have any doubts, concerns or worries about your child’s foot health, posture or gait then ask your chiropractor who can point you in the right direction.

If you are interested in any future drop-in sessions (free of charge) with Neeta in either of our shops then please drop us an e-mail:- info@klodhoppers.com

What do you parents think? Have your say here…..