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A quarter of children wear wrong size shoes

A quarter of children wear wrong sized shoes

More than a quarter of UK children are wearing shoes which could permanently damage their feet.

A staggering 29 per cent of British children could be wearing shoes which are completely the wrong size, according to new research.

According to a survey* of 2,000 parents by The College of Podiatry, a staggering 55 per cent of British children have suffered damage to their feet, such as blisters, bruises and calluses, by wearing shoes which are either too small or unsuitable for young feet.

In addition to the risk of wearing the wrong size shoe, the research also showed many parents are inadvertently dressing their children in shoes which podiatrists would not recommend for everyday or frequent wear. These include flip flops (25%) and ballet pump, slip-on style shoes (20%).

In fact, the survey revealed the nation’s daughters are at the greatest risk of long-term damage. Nearly a quarter of parents (22 per cent) say they feel pressure to buy their daughters fashionable shoes such as ballet pumps, flip flops and even high heels, which experts warn against. Almost one in ten young girls are wearing shoes with a heel of 2cm or higher and, on average, young British girls are wearing these types of shoes as young as six years. This could put young feet at greater risk of developing foot problems.  

The survey showed that 56 per cent of parents admit they have bought their children shoes without having the children’s feet measured or the shoes properly fitted. Even when it comes to school shoes, 47 per cent of parents do not buy their children’s school shoes in a shoe shop which offers a proper fitting service, opting for cheaper supermarket and high street options. 

More than a third (38 per cent) of parents also admit to handing down shoes to younger children without being sure they fit properly. In fact, one in ten parents (13 per cent) confess they have no idea of their children’s current shoe size. 

Dr. Stewart Morrison, a podiatrist from the College of Podiatry and The University of Brighton, commented: “It is worrying that so many children are wearing shoes which either don’t fit them properly or are not suitable for everyday wear. Wearing the wrong size or type of shoe in the short term causes blisters, rubbing, bruising and calluses, but in the long term it could affect foot development and result in musculoskeletal issues in the future. 

"Children’s feet are still growing and are more susceptible to damage than adult feet, so it’s really vital to ensure they are wearing shoes which fit them well – in width as well as length – and that are suitable for age, as well as the task they are wearing them for." 

“Children often won’t say if their shoes are too tight or are hurting, which is why it is important that we raise more attention about children’s foot health and encourage parents to check their children’s feet regularly. We recommend parents have their children’s feet measured and their everyday shoes fitted by a professional. For a young child (aged 1-3), foot changes can happen very quickly and parents should have their feet measured approximately every 8 weeks, and for older children, we would advise every 3-4 months. This would be particularly important during growth spurts.”

44 per cent of parents say they have not had their children’s feet measured because they insist they can tell by checking themselves, while 8 per cent blamed busy lives and hectic schedules. More worryingly, 40 per cent of parents have put off buying a new pair of shoes for their child - even though they have complained about their feet hurting. 

1 in 20 (5 per cent) said they couldn’t get their child to stay still long enough for a shoe fitting. A further 1 in 20 (5 per cent) didn’t know there were shops that offered a shoe measuring and fitting service.

Budget is also an issue for modern parents, with 34 per cent saying they struggle to find the cash for new pairs of shoes – while 18 per cent said they were too busy to sort it straight away.

Nearly one in six parents (15 per cent) confess that they don’t like shoe shopping for their children because their kids don’t want to wear what their parents would like them to wear. 

Advice from The College of Podiatry on general guidance for what to look for in a children’s shoe:


  • Adequate length and width: All children’s footwear should be measured for length and width, and fitted by an appropriately trained shoe fitter. If fitting is not available, or is refused, go elsewhere. 
  • Broad base of heel: This should be as wide as the heel to give stability, and be made of a shock-absorbing material.
  • Height of heel: You are looking for a slight heel to provide sufficient shock absorption, ideally around a quarter of an inch. Completely flat shoes such as ballet pumps provide little shock absorption but heels of 2cm of higher can shorten calf muscles and place pressure on the ball of the foot.  
  • Toe area shape: This should be foot shaped and not pointed, or excessively tapered. 
  • Holding the foot in the shoe: It is important that the shoe is kept on the foot by laces, Velcro or ‘T’ bar, which acts like a seatbelt in a car, holding the shoe onto the foot. This helps to prevent toe deformities, as lack of support to keep the shoe on the foot can allow the foot to slide up and down in the shoe and damage the toes or cause the toes to claw to help keep the shoe on. This is a particular problem with the current fashion of not tying shoelaces or with ballet pump and slip-on style shoes. 
  • Material: Leather is the best material for kids’ shoes as it is flexible and soft, but hard wearing. It also lets air in but keeps moisture out, meaning feet stay cool and dry in most conditions. Nubuck, suede and other soft fabrics are different types of leather and share most of the benefits. Avoid shoes which are largely made of other materials (synthetics and plastics) as these are often hard, inflexible and won’t allow your children’s feet to breathe.  
  • Adequate depth of toe area: This is particularly important in individuals with a big toe that curls up at the end and helps to avoid toenail problems.
  • Support:  The shoe should offer sufficient support for the foot. The shoe should not bend or crumple excessively. Plimsolls and ballet-pump shoes are examples that bend too easily.

If you are concerned about your child’s walking or feet, see a HCPC-registered podiatrist, GP or health visitor for advice. Things to look out for include if your child hasn’t started walking after 18 months, and if their feet are turned out during walking. If your child complains of frequent foot pain or experiences blisters and rubbing, this could be a sign their footwear doesn’t fit correctly or the shoe isn’t right for the activity they are wearing it for. 

*A survey of 2,000 parents of children aged 1-18 conducted on behalf of The College of Podiatry by Ginger Communications. The research was conducted online between 19 and 23 May 2017.

Notes to Editors

The College of Podiatry is the academic authority for podiatry in the UK, and an independent charity dedicated to feet health research, education and public awareness. The College is the public facing and academic arm of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists – the professional body for the UK’s registered podiatrists. In short, they’re the UK’s experts for everything and anything to do with feet and lower limbs. Podiatry is the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and other disorders of the feet. 

For more information or to speak to a podiatrist, please contact:

Ceres PR
Zoe Willis / Edie Methven
01189 475956