For some, the new school year is upon us, while for others it is back to school from the mid year break. Every parent’s nightmare is when the kids are shuffled out the door for the first day of school, only to find last term’s shoes don’t fit anymore, or the Singapore humidity has eaten a hole in the shoes over the summer break. To make the school shoe buying grind easier, here are a few tips to take along when looking for shoes:
- Start looking early!! Murphy’s Law dictates that you will not find the perfect style or perfect fit in the first store you try (or for that matter any of the next 20!!) Accept that we don’t have a large range of specialty school shoe stores in Singapore. For the majority of Singapore school kids, the soft canvas school shoes are compulsory and , thankfully, readily available in any market. However for many of the international schools or for those kids who have problem feet, then their choices may be considerably limited. So start the search early.
- What activities will the shoe be used for? If the shoe will be used in and out of class, including PE, then a shoe which is sports oriented will be the best choice. Ideal features would include good cushioning, can be secured well and has a sole which may suit all surfaces. A cross training shoe is often an appropriate choice. This is a combination of cushioning of a running shoe with the flatter, tougher sole of a tennis shoe. A running shoe will tend to break down very fast in the school playground.
For the kids who are training and competing in organised sports, then a sport specific shoe should be worn only during their sports sessions. ie running shoe for athletics, tennis shoe for tennis.
- What features to look for in a shoe: Essentially school age kids (6 and above) have developed similar gait patterns to the adult and hence require similar features in the shoes. These features are:
- Support : The heel counter should hug the heel firmly in order to support walking.
- Stability: The shoe should not twist in its longitudinal axis excessively.
- Flexibility: The only place the foot bends during walking is across the ball of the foot. The shoe should allow adequate flexion only in this region.
- Fit. Every parent knows the difficulty in keeping up with the child’s growing foot. Very few shoe stores measure the feet any more. So a simple method to check the length of the shoe is to feel for the end of the longest toe ( may not be the 1st toe) in the front of the shoe (remember to try this when standing up as the foot elongates in weight bearing). There should a thumb’s width between the toe and the tip of the shoe.
Check the width of the shoe by pinching the upper of the shoe where the foot is the broadest. You should be able to gather a small amount between thumb and forefinger. Too little and the shoe will squeeze the toes, too much and the forefoot may be unstable in the toebox.
- Where to go:
For local schools then there is an abundance of stores selling various brands of similar white canvas styles. While these shoes are adequate for kids who aren’t active in sports and have no foot complaints, those who do have problems should be steering clear of these. There are a few name brands which carry a bare bones range of totally white sneakers. Some schools will allow branded shoes when accompanied by a letter from your healthcare provider, but still prefer the shoe to be as white as possible. For the international schools, the traditional black leather shoe remains popular. These may be a lot more difficult to source. Many an exasperated parent tells me of buying school shoes on overseas holidays for a wider range of styles and fits.
- Fashion: Common sense says this should be the last consideration, however, as all parents of teens know, it is usually their first consideration. Two examples of recent trends in schools is for either ballet flats for girls or skate shoes for the boys. The ballet flats are usually worn too tight on the feet and offer no cushioning, stability or protection. The skate shoes are robust however, the trend of not tying laces fails to provide the foot with adequate stability.
When parents are taking their children to the shoe store to buy school shoes, it is often the time parents notice problems with their kid’s feet. Significant deformity, dysfunction or symptoms should not be ignored and needs further investigation. Those with any significant problems may have more specific needs from their footwear. Generally problems fall into 2 groups, deformity and dysfunction. The causes of these are too numerable to go into in depth. Except to say that if these conditions do exist then more careful consideration with regard to footwear must be taken.
Factors to consider may be
- Materials used in the shoe
- Heel height
- Style, cut and shape
- Lacing mechanism
All these factors may be manipulated in order to benefit or accommodate the abnormal foot, and are best advised by someone with experience concerning the child’s footwear needs.
Today’s parents are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of allowing the child to develop to their potential. The same can be said for the child’s foot. The right shoe may well allow kids to put their best foot forward in life.