Buying school shoes? Tips to protect your child's feet.

Updated: Jan 15, 2020


Not sure of what to look out for when you are buying your child’s school shoes?

Well, read on!

Your child will spend around 1200 hours this year in the school shoes, so you want to make sure you get this right. A child’s foot is more susceptible to damage than an adults foot. The bones of the foot don’t fully harden until adolescence (which is what allows them to keep growing). Poorly fitting shoes, and socks for that matter can cause permanent damage and must be avoided. Where possible, we strongly advise you have your child’s shoes fitting a reputable shoe store.


Fit Length

There should always be one thumb width between the end of the shoe and the LONGEST toe. This is not necessarily the big toe. If you are unsure whether a shoe has this much room, take the liner out from the shoe and have your child stand on it. Feet generally stop growing for girls at 13 and boys at 15, so if you have a child this age or over, then a thumb nail width is satisfactory. And please, check both feet

Fit Width

You should not feel any part of the foot pressing against the sides of the shoe. Again, you can take the liner out. If the foot folds over the sides of the liner, the shoe is too narrow. Make sure they are trying them on standing up

Depth of the shoe

You shouldn’t feel any of the toes pressing into the top of the shoe. If you do, the shoe is not deep enough. If you see gapping between the top of the foot and the shoe then the shoe is too deep. If the shoe has laces, tightening the laces will help

Heel counter

The back of the shoe should come up far enough to keep the shoe on the foot. You can check when you child is sitting, lift one foot up and hold the ankle with your other hand. Gently pull down on the heel of the shoe. Does it move? If it does, or you notice, or your child reports they feel the heel coming out of the shoe then the best way to solve this is with lock lacing.  Watch a short video on Lock Lacing

Gapping at the top of the shoe

With your child standing up, use your fingers to feel around the top of the shoe, there shouldn’t be any gaps. If there is, try the Lock Lacing (video above)

Fastening mechanism

Shoes should ALWAYS have laces, strap or Velcro. Make sure your child is able to do them up unassisted. Otherwise the teacher will curse your name, or your child will run around with them undone all day. Believe it or not there is actually a right and a not so right way to tie shoe laces. You can watch Eliza demonstrating how to tie laces

Fit for purpose

Does you child wear orthotics? Then the shoes need to accommodate them. Please, take them with you when you try on the shoes. If you find the heel is coming out of the shoe, take the liner out of the shoe before putting the orthotics in, or try Lock Lacing (video above)


Just as important as correctly fitting shoes. Tight socks can permanently damage the soft bones in the feet.  Don’t take the risk by putting your child in too small a sock.

Buy them their own shoes

I know it is temping to pass a pair of shoes down to a younger sibling. School shoes are expensive. Firstly, every child’s feet are different so need to be measured individually. Secondly, the outer sole of shoes these days is sooooo robust that they will look fine on the outside while the internal support and padding has been hammered. This is especially true with runners

Check the fit every 6 week. Kids feet can grow REALLY fast. Please check the fit regularly

Get fitted by experts!

I would highly recommend being fitted by the experts at The Athlete’s Foot or Active Feet. They stock brands such as Ascent, Clarks and Harrison.

Ascent is exclusive to The Athletes Foot. Most key models have a good amount of optional arch support (depending on the shoe) and durability. It has been described as “a sport shoe in disguise of” where it is made to feel like a runner but look like a school shoe. The Athlete’s Foot stocks widths ranging from B (slim) to 4E (extremely wide). This is why it is my top pick for school shoes.

Clark’s branded shoes definitely look more classic and has been popular over the years in Australia. The Athletes Foot and Active Feet stock widths ranging from D to F (extremely wide). Personally, I find there is more arch support and a stronger/longer lasting heel counter in Ascent.

Harrison’s classic traditional T-Bar styles for many young girls are probably my least favourite school shoe. They tend to be very hard with little cushioning or support on the sole of the shoe. They are also quite low volume in the toe box area which can be problematic or sore to “break into” for people who have wide or high arched feet. There is very little space to add a cushion or supportive insole due to the shallow heel counter. Unfortunately, these shoes can be a requirement for some schools so add a slim cushion insole from the local chemist or have your Podiatrist add padding from inside the shoe.

Common Mistakes people make with school shoes…

- buying too many sizes up (can lead to falls or tripping)

- accepting “hand-me-downs” or “slip on shoes”

- expecting one pair of shoes to last the whole year (the durability of the shoe is very dependent on how quickly your child grows and how much activity she or he does)

- not bringing your child to get fitted in store and leaving them at home

- measuring just 1 foot