How to Choose Supportive School Shoes

20 August 2018

children at school playing Willow Chiropractic

If I had £1 for every time I have heard somebody say ‘fashion is pain’ or ‘suffer for beauty’, I could buy myself a pair of horrendously uncomfortably and terrible-for-my-feet Louboutins—but I wouldn’t. The bottom line is that shoes should not be painful.

Children and teenagers spend 190 days, or around 1330 hours, per year in school. At the very least they should spend those 1330 hours in foot comfort, but spending so much time in bad shoes at such a formative developmental stage in their life could actually have more long-term effects than you might imagine. Foot bones continue to grow throughout adolescence and are still relatively soft, which means that they can be forced into unnatural shapes and positions by ill-fitting, badly-supported shoes. Think of how we view the ancient Chinese tradition of foot binding—it seems barbaric, yet a similar thing is happening inside modern day shoes. Moulding children and teenagers’ feet in this way changes their gait, leading to problems all the way up their skeleton, such as knee, hip and back pain. As lifespans are increasing dramatically, this could potentially mean decades of discomfort.

How to Choose a Shoe

  • The ideal school shoe is something in a natural, breathable fabric. It should have a mechanism for securing the shoe to the foot effectively, such as a strap, buckle, Velcro or laces—no dolly shoes or slip-on pumps, as the foot has to take on a kind of “claw” position to hold the shoe on. Since dolly shoes tend to stretch out easily and don’t have a fastening mechanism, girls tend to buy these shoes a size smaller to stop them from slipping off. This in itself creates a host of different problems!
  • A shoe should have some form of slight elevation at the heel to support the natural arch shape of the foot—dolly shoes, be gone! Don’t go too far the other way though—a heel which is too high tilts your pelvis forces all the pressure and weight onto the balls of the feet and up the front of your legs. If you have flat feet this kind of shoe may not be appropriate, so speak to a specialist such as a podiatrist to discuss what the best kind of shoe for you will be.
  • Finally, steer clear of tapered or pointed toes on shoes. They may look fashionable but they pinch the toes together in such a way that over time the foot can deform and fix in this shape (take it from someone who learned this the hard way!). Look for a deep, wide toe-box—try them on in the shop and make sure that you can comfortably move your toes. Most shoe specialist shops that offer a fitting service will have a range of shoes specially designed with best foot support in mind. Where possible, take full advantage of their expertise rather than guessing sizes.

Be nice to your feet! They root you to the earth, carry you around your day and support your entire body from the ground up. If you don’t support your feet properly, you are not supporting your spine or posture. Make sure your children return to school this September set up for comfort and success across the board by equipping them with a pair of supportive shoes.  

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