Best Foot Forward

The Impact of Poorly
Fitted School Shoes

It's often remarked that the only thing kids wear out more than their shoes is their parents. And, though we couldn't possibly comment, there's one thing we know for sure - children's shoes certainly wear out easily! Children are forever growing, from primary to secondary school, and their shoe size goes up with them. Kids spend hours and hours wearing school shoes throughout the day: whether they're running in the schoolyard or shuffling down corridors to their next lesson, shoes are a staple part of school life. Good shoes take you to good places, after all - but only if they're comfortable.

The saying goes 'if the shoe fits' - but how often do our kid's shoes actually fit them? To inform parents about the importance of a well-fitted school shoe, we conducted some in-depth research and a survey to delve into the details of school shoe-fitting, some common mistakes parents are making and other tell-tale signs to look out for.

Let's break it down...

How many children tell their parents when their shoes are uncomfortable or don't fit correctly?

Though 89% of parents feel that their children do tell them if their school shoes don't fit, 43% of children answered that they don't know how to tell if their shoes are the right size - so, if smaller feet really do make bigger footprints, then this needs to change.

Parents Reveal Children's Attitudes To School Shoes

Pie chart with 34% filled

34% of UK children are obsessed with having the latest new shoe or trainer.

41% of children have worn a shoe because it looks good rather than because it fits properly.

Pie chart with 41% filled
Pie chart with 35% filled

35% of children have a second pair of shoes or trainers specifically for outdoor play.


of children wear leather school shoes

Bar chart with 48% filled

wearing trainers for school

Bar chart with 18% filled

The top 3 playground games that ruin shoes the most are:Football, Hide & Seek, and Tag

Hide & Seek

With almost half of the population's children not understanding how to tell if their footwear doesn't fit, and only 29% of children getting their feet measured regularly, it's clear that there isn't enough education around footwear and the right fit. According to our research, the average child goes through three pairs of shoes or trainers every single year - and with some of the most popular school playground games proving to test the treads, this high turnaround is no surprise.

We found that the top three playground games that ruin shoes the most are: football, hide & seek and tag. Though these three games may wear away countless pairs of school shoes, they're all playground staples that won't disappear any time soon - so it's imperative that you make sure your child is equipped with the correct footwear to take part comfortably. Sure, your child may want to opt for the trendiest trainer, but it's important to remember that comfort is key - especially when it comes to school shoes.

According to our findings, over a third of children in the UK are fixated on having the latest shoe or trainer, and over 41% have worn a shoe because it looks good rather than because it fits properly. Survey results show that those growing up in Scottish cities are more obsessed than anywhere else with getting the latest, most-modern shoes for school - with 45% of children from Glasgow and 42% from Edinburgh answering yes to wanting a fancy shoe that doesn't fit quite right.

With these high percentages showing that children across the UK value style over substance when it comes to their school shoes, we want to inform parents about the importance of a well-fitted school shoe and offer them an expert-led guide on how to tackle school-shoe shopping.

Keen to find your child's sole mate in a shoe? Read our expert shoe fitting guide...

Ever wondered what the symptoms of a ill-fitted shoe are? Or what to look for in a new pair? Well, now you don't have to - our shoe guide tells you all you need to know when it comes to your child's school shoes…

Shoe Fitting Guide

Based on the insight provided by our podiatrist, our shoe fitting guide is designed to help parents understand what happens to children's feet if shoes don't fit properly and what to look for in a new pair of school shoes.

3 symptoms of poorly fitted shoes

Ingrown toenails.

Regular tripping over in the playground.

Fungal toe infections.

2 signs that your child's shoes need replacing:

Overly worn

90 degree test

Shoes should generally only be worn on the outside, if the inside is worn it may be a sign of foot issues.

The shoe must be at 90 degrees to the supporting surface and not be tilted in either direction. If it is tilted, then the shoe must be replaced.

4 things to look for in new shoes:

1. Shoes with a breathable top help to reduce sweating and infection in the toes, such as those made of leather.

2. Opt for laces or velcro to ensure that the shoe closes properly and the foot is fully supported

3. Ensure that there's enough room around the toe box for the toes to moe and breathe

4. Solid soles (*for those with regular feet, for those with issues such as flat foot, seek further advice)

Image of shoe

How to spot when shoes need to be replaced

The guide above allows parents to spot when shoes need to be replaced - and Rob Payne, Musculoskeletal Podiatrist, has given us some invaluable insight on what to look out for. Rob says:

"Shoes should generally wear on the outside. Inside wearing of the shoe can be a serious problem with the child's gait, and in such instances, the parent should see a podiatrist. A child's shoe should be 90 degrees to the supporting surface and not be tilted in either direction. If tilted, that indicates that the shoe has become distorted and must be replaced!"

How to reduce the impact of shoes that don't fit

We've also outlined ways in which parents can reduce the impact of ill-fitted shoes. With the help of Rob, we've discerned that fungal infections, ingrown toenails, and regular tripping in the playground are just some of the inflictions your child could suffer from with the wrong pair of shoes. Rob explains:

"Such problems can be particularly aggravated while running around, sports such as tennis with lots of sudden stopping and twisting motions and while kicking the ball when playing football."

What to look for in new shoes

When it comes to searching for new shoes, our guide details that shoes should be properly secured. Rob expands:

"For the best support - laces are preferred but strong velcro is equally beneficial, particularly for kids with difficulty tying laces. All new shoes should have enough room in the toe box to allow for movement - and shoes with a breathable cover are preferable. Also, a solid sole is good to look out for, ensures that the shoes last the test of time."

What the long term effects are

Who knew that allowing your child to wear school shoes that don't fit them properly could result in long term issues? Rob advises:

"Poorly fitting footwear can also be detrimental in the long-term to structures further up the body, predisposing the child to degenerative joint, muscular and tendon problems. For example, if your child wears shoes that don't offer proper support, this can lead to greater stresses being exerted onto the calf muscles and Achilles tendon, resulting in an inability to sufficiently dorsiflex (extend) the feet at the ankle joint, resulting in premature knee and hip flexion, producing excessive stresses on the knees, hips, pelvis and lumbar spine."

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Sources: A study of 2,000 UK parents with children aged 5-16, conducted by Censuswide in July 2022