Kids' shoes - did you know?

(Claudia Graf) #1

Just about now, us parents are thinking about “la rentrée” – kids going to school here in France.

On our list of items to buy, are most likely (amongst loads of other items) shoes: sport shoes for PE, slippers for the creche and just ordinary pairs of shoes.

What better time to read through the following research by Dr. Wieland Kinz, and ponder the results and their effect on our children’s feet?

If you are interested, I have the measuring device that is described below available in my internet boutique.

Happy reading.

Claudia/Zone Bébé

Dr. Wieland Kinz is a graduate in sport science. His final thesis at the university of Salzburg in 2000 was the first publication in German about the subject of “Children’s feet-Children’s shoes”

In 2002 the Austrian Federal Ministry awarded him and a team of the university Vienna the research project “Children’s feet-Children’s shoes”. In 2004 he finalised his dissertation with the same subject. During 2005 an extension to
the research project was granted by the Austrian Ministry of Health.


In 2001 we were commissioned by the Austrian Ministry of Health to conduct a study on the subject: "Children's
Feet - Children's Shoes". The questions were formulated as follows:

  • Do Austrian children's shoes fit properly?

  • Do poorly-fitting shoes cause damage to children's feet?

What was investigated?

  • The fit of outdoor shoes, house shoes and slippers of 858 children.

  • The health of children's feet.

  • Parents were given a questionnaire about "Children's feet - Children's shoes".

The sobering results

  • 69% of children were found to be wearing outdoor shoes that were too short in length, 88% had house shoes or slippers which were too small (one child was wearing shoes 5 sizes too small!).

  • Only 3% of the children's shoes had the correct inner length. For example: In shoes marked size 30, the inner length was just 29, 28, 27, sometimes even only size 26.

  • For the first time it could be proven that poorly fitting shoes actually cause damage to children's feet.

What now?

  • In June of 2004, after a year of development, the plus12 the first precise measuring gauge for children's feet and the inside length of children's shoes, was put on the market. And the best part is: when measuring children's feet, the plus12 automatically adds an extra 12 mm, automatically ensuring the necessary length for a correct fit.

Badly fitting shoes are bad for kids' feet.

  • The Austrian Research Project on "Children's Feet-Children's Shoes" proved for the first time that shoes which are too short can have negative effects on children's feet. When children only rarely wear too-small shoes,
    there are no serious consequences to worry about (aside from reddened skin, blisters and painful feet). It gets worse when children's shoes are always too small, during different stages of development. Also, children's feet need
    "Shoe free time".

  • The toe joints: Wearing shoes which are too short and tight distorts the natural position of the toes. The results: painful joints and changes in the position of the toe joints (e.g. Hallux Valgus, bunions).

  • Muscular system: When the toes are cramped in the shoes, it changes the natural direction of the toe muscles. The results: muscle and tendon pain, inflammation and a dystrophy, or shortening, of the foot muscles.

  • Vascular system: Shoes which are too short force the foot into an unnatural position, which can cause circulatory problems. The results: sensations of cold and numbness, vein problems (e.g. varicose veins).

  • The whole organism: A weak foundation influences the whole body. The change in posture caused by foot injuries can result in knee, hip and back problems. Even the heart and circulatory system can be indirectly affected: fact is, many athletic activities require healthy feet (for example jogging). Unhealthy feet can therefore lead to a reduction in physical activity, which is known to be the root of a number of disease-causing factors (lack of fitness, high blood pressure, etc.).

What is in a number? How to read shoe sizes.

Worldwide there are about four common sizing systems for shoes. In Europe, shoes are usually sized using "Paris Points". In the EU, one Paris Point and therefore one shoe size equals 2/3 cm, which is 6.67 mm.
To calculate the inside length of a size 30 shoe, multiply the shoe size by 2 (30 x 2 = 60), then divide the result by 3 (60 ÷ 3 = 20).

For some reason,
shoe sizes have not yet been standardised in Europe. Therefore it is often the case that although a shoe is labelled a size 30, the inside length rarely equals 20 cm... And strangely enough, the shoes are almost always too short and hardly ever longer than the size marked.

How fast do kids' feet actually grow?

In our first research project, we examined the feet of children between the ages of three and six and analysed their growth. We found that at this age, children's feet grow an average of 1 mm per month. Armed with this knowledge, buying shoes for children just got easier: children's shoes should be at least 12 mm and not more than 17 mm longer than their feet. If you buy shoes with 17 mm extra space, the shoes will fit for about 5 months (still leaving the necessary 12 mm of extra space).


  • Between the ages of one and three, feet can be expected to grow as much as 1.5 mm in length per month.

  • Between the ages of three and six, children's feet grow an average of 1 mm per month in length.

  • Between the ages of six and ten, children's feet grow somewhat less than 1 mm per month in length.

When do children need their first shoes?

Wait as long as possible. You don't need to rush out and buy shoes as soon as your child takes her first steps. Little feet develop best without shoes.

What about hand-me-down shoes?

In the first years, children's shoes can only be worn for a few months before they get too small. This makes it possible to hand shoes down from older siblings. There is nothing wrong with this, but please pay attention to the following: if the shoe soles are worn down on one side of the heel and hang to one side it is not advisable to pass this pair on to another child.

Do sandals also have to be 12 mm longer?

One of the main advantages to sandals is that they are open at the front and cannot put pressure on the toes. This means that sandals could have less than 12 mm extra space without being detrimental to the heath of the foot, if the sandal straps allow the child's foot to be secured firmly to the shoe. However, we still recommend allowing 12 mm extra space, for two good reasons:

  • The front edge of sandals can be quite sharp, and if the foot doesn't have enough extra space, the toes slip over this edge with every movement.

  • Children's feet grow, after all and to make sure that the sandals will fit for a few months, 12 mm extra space are just right.

Can kids actually tell if their shoes fit well or if they're too short?

We asked ourselves exactly that question, because during our "Measuring Days for Kids' Feet", we were often astounded to find kids wearing shoes that were 4 or 5 sizes too small! First we checked to see if any research had been done on this subject and discovered that the issue had not yet been investigated. As part of our second research project (funded by the Austrian Ministry of Health and the Fonds Gesundes Österreich - the fund for a healthy Austria), we developed a shoe-test track for children: kids were given one shoe that was much too short, the other foot was fitted with a correctly-sized shoe. The test subjects were asked to walk a few steps in these shoes and were then interviewed about the fit of the shoes. The surprising results: children cannot feel the difference in fit clearly, and describe even shoes that are markedly shorter that the foot itself as a good fit. This is why it is particularly important to check the inside length of children's shoes on a regular basis.

(Claudia Graf) #2

Shoes are incredibly expensive, even more so because the rate of growth in the first year is quite amazing. Most likely the fitting guide of Startrite is meant to be for their shoes. (I could be wrong). There are two measuring devices on the market, that essentially do the same thing (measure feet AND shoes), but are a bit different in design. BIMS measures up to size 37, while the other plus12 does up to size 42, BIMS is more suited to be carried in your handbag, plus12 a bit bulkier but gives measurement in cms at the same time. Both essentially add the required 12mm of extra space. Both can be used for any type of shoe, boot, sandal etc. and cost 10€. Just for the fun of it - next time you are at the playground, at school where ever - just look at children’s shoes - you’ll be amazed how badly most shoes fit, already with the smallest children…

(Suzanne Fitzgerald) #3

Start Rite deliver to France & you can buy their fitting guide for only £5. I’ve been buying my little one’s shoes over the internet…she had only size 17 for her first pair but has been going through them at a rate of about a pair every 2 months…I try to measure them regularly but it’s certainly pricey. Her first pair we bought in a childrens shoe shop here & it was 69 euro…I never imagined 35 euro a month on kids shoes!

Some shoe brands in France are wider fitting than others - Aster, Babybotte are narrow fitting, Chipie, Kickers were wider fitting as the lady in the shop explained why I couldn’t have the ones I liked.
UK Stores Delivering Overseas

(Catharine Higginson) #4

I’ve long suspected that French sizes come up smaller. If James buys trainers in decathlon he needs a 47 but he is a 45 in other makes…
Its a nightmare isn’t it when they go back to school and flip flops will no longer suffice…
Kathryn - Dm’s do shoe style ranges as well not just boots. I have some powder blue lace ups (sound vile but trust me they are to die for!)
What about German shoes - they are often bigger?

(Kathryn Dobson) #5

Thanks guys :slight_smile: She won’t go near DM’s and Kickers often don’t go up that far in the nicer styles! I’ll have a look at landsend …rentree is nearly here and she needs some shoes!

(Claudia Graf) #6

Hi Kathryn,
well, that is a problem here in France, size 42 is very rarely available, and if so, stock is very limited. Also, just like with children’s shoes, adult shoes suffer from the same phenomenon - a 42 is not always a 42… I seem to have had luck in finding a relatively good choice in places like Decathlon, or online at, or for bigger sizes. But the issue remains - are the shoes really 42 in size…
Another good site providing shoes is Landsend ( - just not for children’s shoes here in France. Maybe have a look there?

(Catharine Higginson) #7

I have just tended to make sure that I try to keep them in sensible shoes…ha ha
I had extra problems with one as she was born with a 6th toe and anything (even when we lived in the Uk and bought Start Rite) rubbed her. In the end we resorted to wellies :frowning:
@ Kathryn - they are expensive but have you tried DM’s and Kickers - both are wide, supportive and cool ( this obviously being the most important factor…)

(Claudia Graf) #8

Hi Tracy,
yes I am well aware of those two companies. And it’s commendable that they do put so much effort (and follow it through) into having children wear correct shoes. But in a way, it’s a drop in the ocean. And their shoes are potentially different to other brands so you cannot apply the measures to other sizes. I wonder whether they follow the Paris Points measuring. For Clarks and Startrite it’s also a brilliant marketing tool, (and this time one that helps). It also kind of locks the customer into their brand. Very clever. :slight_smile: And all the other shoes in the UK and in other countries? Unfortunately since there is no standard or at least one that is followed, we are faced with the situation that is described in the Austrian study. In my opinion, already being aware of the damaging facts of too small a shoe, and how to do something about it is a step forward.
And then we need to touch on another issue, ad that is a subject in itself - what are shoes made of? Here companies become quite quiet indeed. And here we are confronted with a lot of chemicals down right dangerous. But maybe this is another blog?

(Kathryn Dobson) #9

This has always been a concern of mine over here but I have yet to find a solution. We don’t go the UK very often so buying back there isn’t an option. My eldest daughter is also very tall and has size 42 & ide feet - finding supportive shoes without heels that aren’t for grannies is a nightmare. If anyone has any ideas please let me know!

(Tracy Thurling) #10

Very interesting Claudia, however in the UK, there are 2 specialist companies for children’s shoes, Clarks and Start Rite. They always measure the children’s feet, lengthways and also the width of the feet, they always build in growing room so I am sure they must have done some research on this as they have been around for many years. When I had my children I was horrified to find that this doesn’t exist in France, so always try and go to Clarks when we visit the UK. They now sell shoes on line but will not sell children’s shoes as they insist on measuring their feet and checking the shoes fit correctly. On my last visit they even refused to sell me a pair for my 3yr old as they said they were not a correct fit for his shape of foot - now that’s what I call service.