Buying school shoes is no easy task but it is one of the “essential purchases” that parents make ahead of the school term.  Children spend a lot of time in their school shoes and so it is important to understand what makes a “good shoe”.

Your child’s feet are not just growing they are developing, and they do this within the shoes they wear. It is important to understand what to look for so that shoes can support your child’s development.  As feet grow, they don’t just change length and width, they change shape too, and regular measurement is a simple but important way to ensure a comfortable fit.


Here are a few tips on picking the best school shoes:

  1. Look at the shape of your child’s feet. Think about how the foot will fit inside the shoe. Do foot and shoe shape match? It is important that shoes don’t squash the feet. Equally, shoes that are too big will cause problems because the foot moves around too much inside. Always get your child to try the shoes on, walk around in them and ask them how they feel. The shoe should offer support, cushioning and be comfortable.
  1. The shoe should provide support and stability. Your child’s feet support their full body weight and the shoes should help the feet do this. Flimsy shoes are not great but equally, a very stiff shoe can be uncomfortable. Shoes should have some flexibility and bend around the balls of the feet. Plimsolls and ballet-style pumps are examples of shoes that are often too flexible and with minimal support for the feet.
  1. When your child is trying on their shoes, check the fit.
  • Is there enough room at the front for their toes?
  • Is there adequate support around the arch?
  • Is the heel comfortable and supported within the shoe?
  • Is the shoe stable?
  • Are there appropriate fastenings to keep the foot in the shoe?
  • Is there adequate shock absorption?
  1. Children’s feet need to be be kept warm and dry and be protected against the unforgiving surfaces (e.g. concrete) on which they play. This will encourage healthy development and prevent injury.
  1. Think about what you are buying the shoes for. Party shoes are fine for parties.  Ballet-style shoes are fine for ballet.  Outdoor play needs outdoor shoes.
  1. Get you child to try their shoes on at home for a longer period of time. Check the feet for any rubbing or irritation on the skin. These can be signs that the shoes don’t fit properly.
  1. The impact of fashion as children get older can’t be ignored. Talk to your child about their shoes and help them understand why it is important that they wear shoes that support their feet.
  1. Good footwear maintenance might help the longevity of any shoes that you buy. Children’s shoes experience a lot of wear-and-tear and their feet (particularly teenagers) can be sweaty. Keeping shoes in good condition might help prolong their use…but do keep checking that they fit correctly.
  1. Has your child been advised to wear orthotics in their shoes? If so, take them to the shop and make sure you try them in their new shoes before buying them. Shoes are very important for supporting orthoses.
  1. Shoes are best if they have something which helps keep them on your child’s feet (e.g. laces or Velcro straps). Encourage your child to tie and un-tie their laces. We understand that laces are not always appropriate, or easy, for every child and they are many new shoe-tying “hacks” available. Self-tying shoe laces are just one example.


The demands on children’s feet vary throughout the school day and the shoes you buy should be well made and fit for purpose. Schools will have a uniform policy and may require a specific style of shoe to be worn. However, footwear needs to be seen as more than just a uniform policy, its equipping your children for the day.

We understand that shopping for school shoes can be a daunting and stressful experience, but planning helps. You might find it useful to buy a foot measurement gauge to have a home. This is also a good opportunity to talk to your child about their feet and help them understand the importance of looking after them.

When in the shoe shop, take the time to speak to the assistants and discuss your child’s requirements. If you need specialist advice, speak to a Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC) registered podiatrist. They can advise on all foot-related matters.


This short guide has been provided by the Great Foundations teams based at the Universities of Brighton and Salford.  Great Foundations is a 5 year collaborative research project about children’s foot development and foot health.  If you are interested in hearing more about us, please visit our website: or follow us on Twitter @GrtFoundations