Here at David Spruce we are well know and have a excellent reputation for fitting children's shoes. Our staff members on the children's department are all trained fitters. This takes months, if not years to build up the experience and knowledge. We have staff who have been on specialist courses regarding the fitting of orthotics, splints and autism. At David Spruce we are highly committed to provide the best fitting shoes that we possibly could. We have put together some tips and information to help you better understand stages of development and why it is important for children's shoes to be fitted by a professional.
We always get asked, how old does my child have to be before they can have their first shoes? There is no specific age that you should buy your child's first shoes, it is all to do with their stage of development. There are two main stages of development for children's first shoes, pre-walking and walking. Pre-walking can be split into two categories, crawling and cruising.
Most people are aware of what crawling looks like, children are usually on their hands and knees. When a child sits up they use their hands to balance themselves and then use their legs to move them along. The more confident they get and the more they get the hang of it they become faster and faster.
However, in this stage of development not all babies crawl on their hands and knees! Before they start cruising some children may bum shuffle, by sitting on their bum and shuffling along, using their legs to guide them around. Others may belly slither, by shuffling around on their belly and not using their hands and knees to lift their body off the floor. Some may even knee scoot or wriggle sideways like a crab! Once they start to crawl and become more confident they move onto the cruising stage of development.
Once a child starts to grow and their legs become stronger they will be able to pull themselves up and will start to grab hold of objects. They will grab anything they can get hold of, whether it is a couch, chair, wall or your hand for support. They begin to side step around while holding on. This happens while maintaining two points of contact. One being what they are holding on to and the other being the floor. This could be holding on with one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot. You may see them grip the floor with their toes for stability and they may also start to bend and flex their feet.
Even when in the cruising stage of development, if something is too far away for them they may revert back to crawling for large areas. At this stage they begin to gain balance and stability skills necessary for taking their first steps by themselves.
Why pre-walking shoes?
Children have soft, pliable "cartilage" in their feet around the pre-walking stage of development. If they are fitted with a shoe that does not fit properly it could affect the development of their feet later on. At this stage it is so important that the shoes fit as they should, the pre-walkers we stock come in half sizes and different width fittings so we can achieve the best fit that we possibly can.
Here at David Spruce we recommend you regularly get your child's feet re-measured. In the first year a child's foot grows about 3 whole sizes, that's five when you include half sizes! We suggest you get them re-measured every 6 to 8 weeks to make sure the shoes they are wearing are the correct size. We always fit shoes with half a size growing room so not only do their toes have room to move, their feet have room to grow in the shoes and are not restricted.
At the crawling and cruising stages of development, pre-walking shoes are best. They have a softer sole that allows for ultimate flexibility so children do not feel restricted in their movements. They are able to feel comfortable in any position. Most pre-walkers have a raised rubber toe and sides so it protects the shoes from excess scuffing and scraping, making them the ideal design!
Walking and first steps
The first walking stage of development, like pre-walking, can be split into two categories; wobbly walking and confident walking.
At this stage children are just finding their feet and may only be taking a few steps at a time. They often have their feet wide apart and use their arms for balance, usually having them spread out to help with this. Sometimes they may often walk on their tiptoes, which also helps them to find balance. Stiff legs are common in wobbly walking, you may notice that their whole leg is straight and they have very little shock absorption.
Children become more confident when they start to find their balance and get used to walking by themselves. Their walking skills develop further and they then go into the confident walking stage.
Quite self explanatory with the name! In this stage of development children have gained more walking skills. They are able to control their movements better than when wobbly walking. Here, they do not need their arms out like before, they have got the grasp of being able to balance themselves. Their feet are closer together and they start to bend their knees and ankles. They have better speed control and are able to control their steps better, and do not experience uncontrolled short steps.
Children in this stage can be seen changing the direction that they are walking. Their balance and stability are more developed so they can stop, rotate their hips and knees and change direction. Hip and knee rotation is not present in wobbly walking as their stability is not developed enough.
Why walking shoes?
From their first steps to two years of age their feet grow around two whole sizes per year, that's four when you include half sizes! We suggest you get them re-measured every 8 weeks, simply to make sure your child is wearing the right size shoes. As with all shoes, they are fitted with half a size growing room. This means as their feet grow they stay comfortable and the shoe does not restrict or inhibit their development.
When children are in the walking stage of development they are still developing their balance and stability. When their feet are growing they need support and stability underfoot. A walking shoe has a flatter and a harder sole than a pre-walking shoe, this is required for them to gain better stability. When in this stage, a walking shoe helps them to improve their walking skills faster as the stability underfoot is increased. A cruising shoe is too soft for those who are walking as it does not offer enough support and structure as they need.
After first shoes?
After your child has taken their first steps their walking skills are still developing. Between taking their first step and walking properly two more developmental stages are present. These are toddling/stomping and adult gait development.
In this stage a child's walking skills are more refined but, they are still getting the hang of it! It usually occurs around two years of age. They are able to walk, and would have learnt to run sideways, and even backwards much faster than they could in the confident walking stage. Once they have learnt they can run, they will quickly realise they can jump. There's no stopping them now! They are able to flex their hip and knees more and are now able to flex their ankles. The arch of their foot may not be apparent and their knees and feet face forwards, sometime in-toeing.
In this stage they walk flat footed, so they do not move their foot in a heel to toe motion when walking. You may notice they are heavy-footed and are more likely to stomp their feet when walking. But, once they get more practice of walking and refine their skills more they start to walk less heavy-footed. This is when they move into the next stage of development...
Adult Gait Development
From around three years of age children have developed the confidence in all aspects of walking and running. Unlike in the toddling stage, in the adult gait development stage children have now developed the skill of heel to toe gait. When walking they are now able to bend their foot and walk from heel to toe, instead of a flat footed movement. Their walking skills are more developed and they can now swing their arms in co-ordination with their steps.
However, in some cases it is normal for their walking to appear worse before it gets better. They may over-pronate, i.e. roll in, look flat footed, knock need or in-toe.
Refined Adult Walking
At around five years of age children have had a few years to further develop their walking skills. They then go into the refined adult walking stage of development. Here, they have mastered all the necessary skills in all areas of walking and running. They will have developed most of the walking skills an adult has.
They have improved their heel to toe gait over several years and have refined the skill. The over-pronation and in-toeing seen in the adult gait development stage should improve, if not disappear. As they gain body weight you will notice their shoes take more wear than they previously did.
Do they still need fitted shoes?
The answer is, yes! Having properly fitting shoes is not just important for the first few years of a child's life. It is important throughout the whole of their childhood. Shoes fitted by a trained fitter ensures your child has healthy foot development in the years to come. It is important to get your child measured and their shoes fitted at every stage of development.
Around eight years of age the "cartilage" in their feet is still present as the bones in their feet are not fully formed (ossified) yet. Around this age the growth of their feet slows down and on average they will grow one whole size per year. As you can see in the image below, just how little children's bones are formed in their feet when they are growing. The darker the area the harder the bone is, so the stronger it will be. The lighter the area the softer the bones are and the more cartilage is present. This means the bones are more pliable and susceptible to damage from shoes that do not fit properly.
Well fitting shoes are imperative to a child's foot health. Shoes that do not fit properly can cause problems later on in life. The bones in a child's foot do not fully form until around 18 years of age. Throughout childhood their feet are continuously growing and changing shape. If they wear ill-filling shoes their feet are more susceptible to being misshaped due to the shoes. Shoes that are too narrow, too wide, too short or too long can cause damage to a growing foot.
"Getting advice from a professional will ensure that your child is measured and fitted with the correct size and style of shoe for their feet."
Quote from Start-rite Shoes.
No two children's feet are the same. A professional, trained shoe fitter will advise you on the shoe that is the correct size and shape for your child's feet.
We hope this has helped you, we offer a free measuring service in store if you would like your child's feet measured.
Please note, this may not be used as medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your child's feet or development please see a healthcare professional.