It’s not like children need endless pairs of shoes to match every outfit, and in many ways that makes buying kids’ footwear more difficult. Is it OK to go cheap and cheerful? Or does money buy quality and save the little darlings from a lifetime of calloused old corns? Spend too little and you look stingy; too much and you’re seen as a ridiculous slave to fashion (or marketing).
But relax, because Michelle Champlin, a podiatrist at the Dubai Podiatry Centre, says it doesn’t matter how much we fork out for footwear, provided the shoes are soft, comfortable and well-fitting. Barefoot is best, but once kids start exploring the outdoors, they need basic shoes to protect their feet. Thankfully, Crocs – part of any cool kid’s uniform – are great playing shoes. ‘They’re good material, washable and cushioned – just make sure the strap is around the heel,’ Michelle says.
But flip-flops – including those gorgeous glittery numbers that little girls love – are a big no-no, except on special occasions. ‘Flip-flops are the absolute worst kind of shoe a child can wear,’ Michelle warns. ‘Kids claw their toes to keep them on, damaging their toe nails, and you can see them kicking out to the side. If kids are working hard to keep the shoe on, they’ll use some muscles at the expense of others, and in the first five years of life it’s vital kids use all muscles equally.’
Sandals, part-icularly those with three-point straps, or lightweight trainers, are good, but beware of miniature adult-style trainers and shoes. If they’re too heavy or bulky, your little soldier will walk awkwardly, like an adult in ski boots.
It’s school shoes, which kids will spend more time wearing than any other foorwear, that parents need to take most care with, although that shouldn’t mean re-mortgaging the family home. ‘There are plenty of shoes out there that cost Dhs35 which will do just fine, so long as they fit properly,’ (see right), Michelle argues. Budget for a second pair midway through the academic year, or when your child grows out of them, rather than spending a fortune on new shoes every September.
Michelle advises: ‘Buy shoes when your child’s foot size changes. Remember shoes will fall apart because they’ll be playing football and giving them a good hammering. You’re better with a sports-type shoe rather than a posh shoe. It will last longer.’
Top tips for shoe shopping with sprogs
Wherever possible, take your child with you when buying shoes and get them measured by a qualified shoe fitter. Don’t assume that the size your child is in one store will be the same in the other – there’s tremendous variation. If there’s no qualified shoe fitter around, follow these tips:
• Always measure standing up
• Get your child to walk around the store in the shoes. There should be a gap of 1-2mm at the back and no heel slippage
• To check the toe fit, press on the big and second toes. If your child can feel it straight away, the shoe is too small. Toes should be up to 1cm away from the end of the shoe
• Run your thumb from the little to the big toe. If there’s excess material, it’s too wide, but if the skin is plumped over, it’s too narrow. You should be able to get the tip of your finger inside but no more than that
• Try the shoe in different sizes until you’re sure the fit is good
Kids need shoes that…
• Are flexible
• Bend easily
• Are secured onto their feet with laces or straps. They should be able to sit and wiggle their feet without the shoe falling off
• Have a soft heel. Kids’ skin is very soft, so it’s best to wear socks with new shoes for the first couple of weeks
• Are not too heavy
• Have no arch. Arches will cause discomfort to a very young child and are unnecessary for older kids unless they have a ligament problem or other medical condition
They don’t need…
• A reinforced shoe back (behind the heel) – usually it won’t do any harm, but in some cases it could cause pain or blisters
• Designer clobber: the leather quality may be superior, but your child will probably grow out of them in six months – and do they even know who Jimmy Choo is?
Contact Michelle at the Dubai Podiatry Centre on 04 343 5390, or visit www.dubaipodiatry.com