Podiatrist Karen Randell shares her expert advice on the perfect footwear for happy little feet.
“My favourite thing about being a podiatrist is keeping people active,” says Karen Randell, clinical director of Randell’s Footcare – a podiatry company in North Norfolk. Her job involves treating the feet of people of all ages, from babies to the elderly.
“The Daily Mile gives children the ability to move around, socialise and test themselves a bit – so it emphasises the importance of our feet and looking after them,” she says.
Children wear their ordinary school clothes to do The Daily Mile, helping make it easy for schools to organise – parents don’t need to invest in any special kit and teachers don’t need to factor in extra time for getting changed. But that does mean it can really put children’s school shoes to the test.
“It can help identify that perhaps a child hasn’t been comfortable and that there may be
issues around their footwear,” says Karen.
How to nurture children’s growing feet
We can sometimes forget about feet while they are tucked away in shoes and socks, but Karen says: “Checking your child’s feet pays great dividends in the future as they grow up into healthy, happy, active adults.”
What’s more, she says, it’s easy: “There is no great science to it – it’s just about looking at them every now and hen to make sure there aren’t any rub marks or areas of irritation. Ask your child how they are. Watch them walking – is their general demeanour one that is healthy and happy?”
Karen also recommends doing a regular check on children’s shoes to make sure they are still fit for purpose: “Around 70% of adult foot problems come from wearing ill-fitting shoes. The majority of that is because of wearing ill-fitting or unsuitable shoes as a child.”
Her quick spot checks are: “Look at the wear marks – are they particularly worn over the toe area? Is the inside of the heel counter worn? Look at the soles from behind – are they particularly worn down in one area? Are the tops of the shoes still intact? Are they still watertight? Are there any areas of looseness where the top part of the shoe attaches to the sole?”
Matching a shoe to your child
Among the problems Karen sees in adults are bunion deformities, corns and calluses and hammer toes. One common cause can be that, as a child, an adult has worn the shoes of another child such as a sibling or cousin.
“The shoe may look okay, but the other child may have a different foot shape or body shape – a shoe should match the anatomy of the child,” says Karen.
“If a foot previously stretched the shoe and it’s too big for the next child, the child will start curling toes to try and grip. A shoe that has been worn by another foot can also increase the risk of infections like athlete’s foot and verrucas.”
She stresses the importance of measuring children’s feet: “We are all so individual that it’s not like one shoe fits all,” she says. Although ideally parents would take their child to a store with a reputable brand to have their feet measured by a trained fitter, Karen’s aware that the pandemic has meant this isn’t always possible. However, she says:
Can’t get to a shop to have your child’s feet professionally measured? Use Click ‘n’ Fit to measure them at home and find their Start-Rite shoe size.
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“If you are not able to go into a store, reputable shoe brands will often give you information about how to measure so you can do that from home.”
What should I look for in a children’s shoe?
“Children walk or run over all sorts of terrain, whether that’s concrete or rocks or grassy, slippery verges,” says Karen. “It’s all part of their development – so footwear needs to keep up with that.”
Here are six key features to look out for when buying children’s shoes to keep their feet comfy and protected in and out of the classroom – including while they’re doing The Daily Mile.
A good fastening
Look for a T-bar, buckle, rip tape or laces that will keep the shoe secure.
This will have a well-designed tread pattern so the shoe doesn’t slip.
A wide base
This gives stability. Too narrow a sole can lead to ankle sprains.
Supportive heel cup
It should be firm enough to hold the foot in place without being too
Let feet breathe
Choose a natural or breathable man-made material so air can circulate around the feet.
Flexibility at the forefoot
Your child's foot needs enough room to move comfortably within the shoe.
Keep children happy and active
Find out more about how The Daily Mile can improve children’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. Parents can also get expert advice on helping children have happy feet for a whole lifetime.
Read the Start-Rite guide to taking part in The Daily Mile.
Find out more
Find out what children think about doing The Daily Mile.
Find out more
Learn how we are bringing our expertise to The Daily Mile.
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Experts in the way children move
Start-Rite is proud to partner The Daily Mile Foundation to bring our expertise in caring for children’s feet and manufacturing school shoes to The Daily Mile initiative. Our shared knowledge and research will help us support schools, parents and teachers in improving children’s health and wellbeing. Read more about The Daily Mile.