How To Buy Kids School Shoes: A Podiatrists Guide

How To Buy Kids School Shoes: A Podiatrists Guide

We’re halfway through the school year and for many parents here in Marlborough, this means that their kids’ school shoes have taken a beating, been outgrown, been dragged through the mud (literally) – and now you’re needing to get a new pair.

Do you buy the same shoes? Was there something wrong with the last pair that saw them wear out so quickly? Should you go up a size? 

With marketing campaigns highlighting so many features that you never even knew existed in shoes (or that kids needed), knowing what to look for when buying school shoes can be confusing. We’ve put together this quick five-point guide to help you choose the best shoes for your kids that aim to keep their legs healthy, happy and pain-free. 

Why Shoes Matter

We know it’s easy to say that it really doesn’t matter – anything that’s black and ticks the boxes for the school’s requirements will do the trick. The truth is that when you’re wearing shoes (and your kids will wear their school shoes for over 1200 hours each year), they act as an extension of your feet – enhancing the way you move, or hindering it. This means that good shoes have the ability to help reduce the risk of aches, pains and injuries, promote your child’s foot health, help prevent problems like ingrown toenails, hammertoes and bunions, and keep them walking and playing all day without pain.

1. Get school shoes professionally fitted

A recent survey of over 2000 parents found that two-thirds of parents did not correctly identify their child’s current shoe size, with some children wearing shoes that were up to two sizes too small. This is where a professional fit – which is often a complimentary service at shoe stores – can make all the difference. Make the most out of your experience by: 

  • Bringing any school shoes you currently have to have a ‘fit check’ – see whether they’re still wearable when you need them as a back-up, or if they’re a no-go
  • Shopping in the afternoons – this is when our feet are at their biggest as they tend to swell slightly throughout the day


  • Your longest toe isn’t always the big toe, so make sure you’re not using that as your indicator of the best length. It is often the second toe, so make sure you get a good feel for size and room for growth from whichever toe is the longest
  • It’s common for one foot to be slightly bigger than the other, so always have your child try on both shoes together, and try to spot the longer foot and make sure the shoe is the right fit for that foot first and foremost
  • There is such a thing as your shoe being too big and having too much “room for growth”. Large shoes have less stability, forcing your toes to claw at the base to try to grip onto them. This may promote claw toes and lead to problems like regular (and painful) tripping and falling

2. Ditch any slip-ons

Having a fastening mechanism like laces or velcro means you get the longest lifespan out of your shoes by adjusting the fastening mechanism as they grow. It also means that the shoe is secured to the foot properly so the foot doesn’t have to forcefully grip at the base of the shoe for support and control, but can just relax. Buckles come after laces and velcro but are still superior to slip-ons.

3. Check the shoe weight

While the weight of a school shoe may not seem so relevant when we pick up the shoe to hand to our child to try on – when they take thousands of steps in it every day, day after day, the weight can definitely add up and either help them stay healthy, happy and pain-free on their feet – on can lead to those frustrating aches and pains at the end of the day. Opt for lightweight shoes, especially when muscles and muscle strength are still developing.

4. Choose watertight materials where possible

When we think back to our own school days, we distinctly remember trudging home, raincoat on or umbrella in hand, through the rain and puddles. We remember that uncomfortable, chilly feeling of our shoes and socks being soaked – and especially the feeling of putting on wet shoes the next day because you forgot to dry them properly.

While many technological advancements have been made in that time – controlling the weather out on the school courts or when walking home is not one of them. Given that wet shoes and feet create optimum environments for fungus to grow, blisters to form and bacteria to multiply, it’s important to get preventative and try to keep our shoes as watertight as possible.

Good materials to help keep feet dry include synthetic leather, neoprene, rubber, and gore-tex, to name a few. You may have noticed that we specifically said synthetic leather instead of natural leather, which can get ruined when exposed to water for prolonged periods due to its porous nature. You can also help waterproof shoes by using products like waterproofing oils, sprays and creams and wax products – just don’t forget to select the right product based on the shoe’s outer material.

5. Check the support

There are a few good supportive features that we like to see in kids shoes. The first is that the base of the shoe, known as the shand, is solid and has some reinforcement. When it is, it helps best support the foot – and helps the shoe work at its best for longer, too. Just don’t confuse this for the ball of the foot – the shoe should bend beneath the ball of your foot just like how your foot bends naturally there. But it shouldn’t bend in the midfoot.

Next is the part of the shoe that wraps around the heel at the back. This is called the heel counter. It helps keep the ankle in a supported, stable position and helps to prevent excessive unwanted movement.

Another thing to check is the cushioning and support beneath the heel and arch. Kids are always running, jumping and playing – so their shoes should keep their feet (and all the bones, joints, muscles and ligaments) well supported and absorbing shock and forces effectively. Good cushioning and arch support helps achieve this.

What if my child has foot pain?

If your child is experiencing any pain in their feet or legs, or are still recovering from a previous injury, then we recommend bringing them in to see our podiatry team before getting their next pair of shoes. We’ll assess what has caused and contributed to the pain or injury, what support your child’s feet need and where, how to help them get back to running and playing pain-free – and what are the best shoes (and features of shoes) to help with this. 

Book your appointment with us by calling 03 972 2927 or book online here.

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