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In addition to its Performance range, Skechers is also known for its kids’ shoes. Seen here are styles that lace up as well as ones with velcro closures.

Q2 2018

Selling kids’ footwear

The wrong type or size of shoes at a young age can cause serious foot problems later in life. It is therefore important to pay extra attention when selling footwear for a young child, writes CARIN HARDISTY

Children’s feet are still soft and developing, and will only be fully developed when they’re around the age of 18, and they therefore need footwear that won’t limit the natural movements of their feet.

Because the feet are still soft, ill-fitting footwear can cause problems such as ingrown toe nails, calluses or bunions, for example.

Feet also form the basis of support for the entire body and have numerous muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc. that affect other parts — if they are not properly looked after, it could lead to more serious issues affecting postures, walking style, etc. as they get older.

It is therefore extremely important to be able to recommend the correct footwear for the individual child.

Parents might be tempted to buy a pair of shoes that are slightly too big so that the child will grow into them, and save the parents some money, but if shoes are too big they can make it difficult for the child to walk in and could make him trip.

Usually parents think of getting a pair of shoes that are longer, but they would also need to buy footwear that are wider than needed, because feet grow both in length and width — simply having a longer shoe won’t do them much good.

Additionally, if the shoes are bought larger than needed to allow for growing room, the natural flex points in the shoe and on the foot won’t align, which will hurt the child.

If you become aware that parents are considering giving a younger child his older sibling’s footwear that he has outgrown, inform them that this is not a good idea: the wear patterns, which have been made by the first wearer’s feet, won’t properly support the younger one’s foot shape, as it’ll be different.

Fitting the shoe

The following will help to get the best fit:
  • The child should stand up while trying the shoes on. When the foot is bearing the weight, as in the case when the body is resting on them, the foot stretches in width and length.
    • Make sure the child’s weight is resting equally on both feet and that the feet are flat on the ground.
  • Measure both feet: one foot is often larger than the other. Fit the shoe to the larger of the two.
    • Make sure to measure both the width and the length of the foot to make sure the shoe you recommend is also wide enough and won’t damage the foot.
  • Ensure that the widest part of the foot is in the widest part of the shoe so that the shoe bends with the foot.
  • The foot should also not bulge over the sides of the shoe — this indicates that the shoe is too narrow. Too tight shoes can cause friction and blisters, and can also hinder walking.
  • There should be enough space to put your little finger between the heel of the shoe and the child’s foot, and about 1-1.5cm space between the front of the shoe and the longest toe (not always the big toe).
  • The top part of the shoe shouldn’t press on the toes or toe nails.
  • The heel should be narrow enough to hug the hind foot, but prevent rubbing inside the shoe.
  • The shoe shouldn’t press the little toe inwards.
  • As with adults’ footwear, if the shoes will be worn with socks, the child should wear socks while trying on the shoes to make sure they’re not too tight.
  • If the cuff of the shoe sits on the ankle bone it could rub and cause blisters. This can be prevented if the shoes have padded collars, which will also support the ankle.
  • The shoe should fit from the start, and shouldn’t need to be broken in first.

Footwear features

In general, kids benefit from having the following features in their shoes:
  • Uppers:
    • Lightweight so that the feet can move, for example leather, canvas, or mesh.
    • Must be breathable, because kids’ feet sweat a lot.
  • Insole:
    • Absorbent.
    • Padded.
    • Most children won’t need arch support untill they are older. Young children, for example, have flat feet that don’t need the support.
  • Outsole:
    • Flexible and non-skid.
    • Treads with grooves to prevent slipping, but which are not deep enough to create the risk of tripping on a carpet, for example.
    • Cushioning.
    • Fat soles make it easier to begin walking.
    • Older kids can have heels on their soles, but these should not be more than about 2cm, because heels can cause the foot to slide forward, pushing the toes against the inside of the shoe.
  • Support and stability, without being too tight.
  • You should be able to bend the shoe without much effort.
  • Rounded toe boxes give the toes more room to move.
    • These are also well suited to wider feet, with narrow toes suited to narrow ones.

Footwear for different ages

Certain stages in a child’s development call for more specific features:
  • Babies and crawling stage: don’t need shoes — only booties, warm wide socks, or pre-walking shoes that don’t hinder the feet.
    • Should be flexible and shaped like the foot.
  • 9-18 months: a high-top will stay on the foot better than a lower profile shoe.
    • A shoe with laces will keep it on the foot and better fit the fat feet at this stage of development.
    • Sole should be smooth, which provides less friction and won’t grab the floor, which can cause the child to trip.
    • Shoe should be lightweight.
    • Stability and support.
  • Pre-schoolers are at the stage that they run around a lot and play, and as such need durable and functional footwear.
The age of the child also plays a role in deciding on the most appropriate type of shoe fastening.
  • If the child is comfortable with lacing up his own shoes, recommend this option.
    • Eyelets are designed for the laces to be pulled towards and tied by the person wearing the shoes (in this case, the child). If parents pull the laces towards them, as happens when they do the tying, they might break the eyelets. Laces are meant for kids who can tie their own.
    • Laces provide more stability and support compared to velcro closures.
    • The laces should be long enough to double tie. This will help prevent the laces from coming undone, which could cause the child to trip.
  • If the child is not yet comfortable with laces, recommend footwear with a velcro closure.
    • The shoe should fit secure when walking. If the strap has to be over-tightened, the child probably either needs a smaller shoe size or a different style.
    • In terms of growth, velcro closures don’t allow as much flexibilty as laces do.
  • Buckles: easy to fasten, but still allows for some adjustment to accommodate sizing.
    • Make sure the buckle won’t cause an irritation. If it’ll come into contact with the ankle bone it can hurt the child.

Advice for your customers

It’s also important for parents to know when to shop for new shoes for their kids. You can advise your customers that they should get their child’s feet measured every three to four months, because kids’ feet grow so quickly — and the younger the child, the faster his feet grows. As a guideline, feet grow by half a foot size approximately:
  • Younger than 16 months: two months.
  • 16-24 months: three months.
  • 24-36 months: four months.
  • Older than three years: four to six months.

Feet will keep growing into the high school years.

The following are signs that the child’s footwear doesn’t fit right:
  • Rashes or redness on the spin on the toes, in the foot arches and below the ankle bone: this could indicate breathability problems.
  • Blisters or red marks on the heel and toes: the shoes move too much while walking, which can mean they are too big.
  • Inflammation around the nail bed can indicate an infection, which is possibly caused by an ingrown toe nail. These can develop when the shoe is too small or narrow, forcing toes to rub against each other.
  • Deformed toes: toes should lie straight in line with the foot. If they are deformed it could be that the shoes are too small or narrow.
  • If the feet appear to be excessively turned in or out, or very flat, it’s likely that the shoes being worn aren’t offering enough support.
It’s also best if they shop for their kids’ shoes later in the day because feet swell during the day, especially if it’s warm.

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