Playing about barefoot is part of the South African childhood – there is no better feeling. However, when the summer holidays come to an end, the nightmare of finding a perfectly fitting school shoe is a headache. And a study found that most habitually barefoot kids wear school shoes that do not fit them properly!
Research duo, Marise Breet and Ranel Venter from the Department of Sport Science at Stellenbosch University say, “wearing ill-fitting shoes regularly can hurt the development of their feet which can lead to various foot abnormalities and musculoskeletal problems such as lower back pain later in life.” One of the key findings is that the country’s children run the risk of developing abnormalities such as heel spurs, and retracted- and hammer toes due to ill-fitting shoes. Smile FM had the privilege of speaking with Marise about their findings:
Conducting the research
The pair wanted to see if the length and width dimensions of prescribed school shoes correspond with the foot dimensions of children. They measured the feet of school children between the ages six and sixteen, and measured the length and width of retail school shoes. “Our results show that comparing the shoe length and maximum heel-toe-length of participants, as well as taking 10 mm toe allowance into account, 59% of children wore shoes that were not the correct length. With regards to the shoe width and the added 10 mm of width fit allowance, 98% of the shoes worn by the children were too narrow for their feet.”
What can shoe manufacturers do
According to the researchers, the manufacturing of children’s shoes is often not influenced by orthopaedic and biomechanical research, but rather by fashion trends, “our shoe manufacturers use a shoe design based on the British system, using foot length as the basic measurement. In this system, each increase in foot length will correspond with a standardised increase in foot girth, based on European data.” On the flip side, Marise says that manufacturers have also not had access to information on the foot requirements of habitually barefoot kids:
“Shoe designs for these children should produce a shoe to fit the foot properly and mimic the natural shape and dimensions of the barefoot. This should help to enhance healthy development,” say the researchers, “results from our study could help to create awareness of the current mismatch between these children’s feet and available school shoes and could also assist shoe manufacturers to make better-fitting shoes for our South African children and adolescents.”
You can find Marise and Ranel’s findings right here