Get the Best Fit

Get proper footwear for your children to lower their risk of foot-related ailments in the future

“If a person has poor postural habits from young, then he will have poor posture resulting in possible spinal conditions when he grows up.”

PODIATRIST TYE LEE TZE using an analogy to show why good-fitting shoes are necessary for children come with specific support features have hit stores here in the last five years. These include See Kai Run from the Unit-ed States and Naturino from Italy.

They might have drilled the Ps and Qs into Junior. But when it comes to the ABCs of footcare for their children, parents may well score an F.

A recent study reported that four million British children trot around in ill-fitting shoes.

The research by British shoemaker Clarks last November, which was cited by the BBC News website, found that parents gave a range of reasons from budget constraints to simply being clueless.

One in 10 parents admitted shodding their kids in shoes that were too small, while half said they would buy new shoes only when the young ones com-plained of discomfort.

But Ms Cassandra Lam, marketing manager of Clarks Singapore, says: “Younger children can’t express the pain they feel or that the shoes are uncomfort-able.”

Ms Marabelle Heng, a podiatrist at the Singapore General Hospital, says tell-tale signs of ill-fitting shoes include blisters or toes sticking out uncomfortably.

Parents here do not fare any better than their British counterparts, going by a poll of 479 Singapore mums last December by LiFung (Children). The Hong Kong-based company distributes American children’s shoe label Stride Rite here.

While more than 75 per cent of them said they worry about choosing the right shoes for their children, more than half also said they would let them wear hand-me-downs or buy shoes with arches for children aged below six. Having your child wear shoes with arch support when he does not need it can cause the mus-cles in the foot to stop developing.

It can take up t6 18 years for the bones, muscles and ligaments in the foot to develop fully, which is why experts say choosing the right shoes for children is important.

For instance, podiatrists say one of the most common foot ailments they see in children, besides flat foot and bunions, is ingrown toe nails. These are usually caused by wearing shoes that are too tight.

Ms Malia Ho, principal podiatrist of The Foot Practice at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre, says wearing tight shoes for long periods increases the pres-sure in the longest toe. This is because it hits the front of the shoe repeatedly, causing the nail to cut into one or both sides of the nail bed.

Calluses and blisters also form when the shoe rubs on tender skin excessively.

Ms Ho adds: “If not corrected early, these issues may cause chronic problems that persist in adulthood.”

Mr Tye Lee Tze, a podiatrist from The Podiatry Centre at Tanglin Place, says: “Think of it like posture. If a person has poor postural habits from young, then he will have poor posture resulting in possible spinal conditions and pain when he grows up.”

Luckily for parents, at least seven new brands of orthopaedic shoes for kids that come with specific support features have hit stores here in the last five years. These include See Kai Run from the United States and Naturino from Italy.

Spanish brand Pablosky will open its first standalone store at The Centrepoint on Friday.

Brands, however, are secondary to a good fit. At least three stores here -Clarks, Stride Rite and Tutti For Kids -have trained specialists who offer free shoe-fitting services for children.

Dr Kevin Yip, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Singapore Sports and Orthopaedic Clinic in Gleneagles Medical Centre, prescribes the three Cs when shopping for kids’ shoes: “The ideal shoes should be comfortable, of the correct size and have sufficient cushioning.”


What you need to look out for when buying shoes for your children


Avoid slip-on styles. Instead, choose those with laces, velcro straps or a T-bar strap. These help to keep the feet in place. Letting the foot slide in the shoe too much can cause blisters or claw toes, where the toes curl in to maintain balance, leading to painful calluses.


Have an allowance of at least 0.5cm between the toes and the front of the shoe so there is enough wiggle room. Avoid pointed shoes – these may cause corns and ingrown toenails.


A snug fit and firm support at both the back and sides of the heel prevent the foot from slipping out and lower the risk of sprained ankles.


Shoe uppers made of breathable materials such as canvas keep the foot cool and dry. Podiatrists also advise against Crocs, a popular choice with parents here, as its soft foam resin does not offer growing feet enough support. There have also been accidents where children wearing such shoes had their feet wedged between the steps of moving escalators.


Go for non-slip soles, which are usually patterned or textured. These should be sturdy and thick yet flexible enough to bend at the ball of the foot.


  • Mary lanes or closed-toe sandals: The roomy toe area lets the toes move freely while the strap prevents the feet from sliding up and down.
  • Trainers: These provide good support but note that versions with synthetic shoe uppers can cause excessive sweating. Opt for those made of canvas or suede instead.
  • Heels: Wearing heels at an early age can cause bunions and put an extra strain on and shorten the calf muscles.
  • Flats: Flat shoes, which can have soles as thin as 0.5cm, can strain the soles and calves. The foot muscles also need to work extra hard to propel the body forward. This is a common cause of heel, call and knee pains.

Sources: Ms Malia Ho, principal podiatrist, The Foot Practice; The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists; Dr Kevin Yip, consultant orthopaedic surgeon; Mr Michael Lai, senior podiatrist, and Ms Marabelle Heng, podiatrist, Singapore General Hospital; Ms Pauline Ang, senior podiatrist, National Healthcare Group Polytechnics; Clarks; American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society; American Podiatric Medical Association

By Imran Jalal. Originally posted in The Sunday Times, April 10, 2011.