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.
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.
- 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.
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.