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Our feet continue to evolve. They are like bonsai saplings, if we restrict them they become misshapen and weak. As we grow older (and heavier) our feet change shape and size.

If we walked barefoot and had equally long legs we would have a perfect natural gait…but if one leg is longer than the other the rest of the body would be out of kilter and this would affect hips, back, neck, knees etc.

A qualified shoe fitter will often look at the wear pattern on your shoes to see if your gait pattern is irregular and may suggest how they can help, or refer you to a Podiatrist/Orthotist.

Feet are only given a thought when they hurt...

One of the most important yet most abused parts of the human body is our feet. Feet are designed to take body weight and give mobility.

Whilst vast amounts of money are spent in educating people to look after themselves nutritionally and physically, little effort is made to educate them on the importance of foot health. Feet are therefore crammed into the most unsuitably shaped shoes, made with inferior materials which then become quickly misshapen and uncomfortable.  For a child this is particularly dangerous as their bones and gait are developing.  It is proven footwear can cause long-term damage – some problems visible immediately, some developing over time.

Feet are only given a thought when they hurt. There is no doubt that from birth to early teens feet are at their most vulnerable, in fact there are 26 bones in the foot, and they do not completely ossify (harden) until around the age of eighteen. Qualified shoe fitters and podiatrists spend the majority of their time trying to correct damage and ease discomfort that could have been avoided if shoes had been correctly fitted when purchased.

What about buying shoes online?

Shoe Fitters do not make a charge for their knowledge or service unlike other ‘professional’ people – so why take the risk of fitting yourself or shopping online? Naturally our membership and health professionals cannot believe that anyone would choose to save a pound or two and not have their families feet correctly fitted. It is not just about ‘the shoes’ but the fact that the fitter has seen dozens of pairs of feet each day and can assess whether there is, or may be a problem, and what advice regarding styling, fitting etc. may be needed.

Naturally we are mostly concerned about children having shoes purchased without a personal fitting service, as their feet do not stop developing until around the age of 18, when the bones in the foot have ossified (become hardened) and their skeletal structure is forming. However, busy adults will often find it a false investment to shop online for their own shoes. The number of unworn shoes in the back of wardrobes is probably higher now than ever before. Footwear purchased may arrive and not feel comfortable, (or look exactly as you would have wished), so unless you are disciplined to return them immediately, the money paid is completely wasted. If you persist in wearing ill-fitting footwear the chances are it will cause some form of abrasion or discomfort and it may be many years later when you are paying to see a chiropodist/podiatrist, that you regret not buying shoes more sensibly.

Ill fitting shoes does not just affect your feet but your entire physiology. If you are in pain or uncomfortable, you shift your body weight and change your gait (way that you walk). This puts pressures on other areas of the body and may create aches and pains elsewhere in the body. Young children will often overlook discomfort or be too young to tell you if their shoes and socks hurt – and it is in the formative years when damage can be done that will in effect, last a lifetime – not becoming obvious until later in life.

There is very little profit in retailing footwear in comparison to clothing. Clothing generally cannot damage health, footwear can. Certain websites may offer ‘old stock’ cheaply, or certain companies try to assure you that by following their guidelines their shoes will fit. Well the old adage says ‘ you pay your money and you take your chance!’. But why take a chance when their are good retailers and qualified shoe fitters willing to serve and advise you?

We ask you to respect that if you choose to buy shoes online or from a supermarket etc. you should not ‘use/abuse’ the fitting service offered by good independent shoe shops. You would not walk into a restaurant ask them for a plate and cutlery, then proceed to put your own food on the plate, eat it and walk out; or go to a hairdresser, sit at a mirror, ask them which way to style your hair, use their brush, combs, hairspray and walk out….the same can be said of using the services of a qualified shoe fitter. Naturally some shops are self service with merely an assistant to get stock from ‘out the back’, but someone who is prepared to actually ‘serve’ you, use a ‘gauge’, give you the benefit of their experience and advice, should not have to do so if you are not a bonafide customer! These people (unlike other health professionals who charge for their time), do so as part of the retail process, so their skill and extra knowledge should be respected and appreciated.

Why does one shop give a different size and fitting to another shop?

There is no standardization of shoe sizing in the UK. Every shoe will fit differently as the fit depends on:

Country of Origin – where the shoes were made.

The ‘Last’ they were made on – the mould shape the shoes were constructed on.

Materials used – i.e. leather, man-made etc.

Construction method – stitch-down, stuck down etc.

Design – pointed toe, round toe, heel height, sandal, boot etc.

This is good news and not a problem some people perceive it to be. Why? Because every pair of feet are as individual as fingerprints and the greater the choice of size, fitting, shape etc. the greater the chance of having shoes that will fit correctly and comfortably.

A Fitting Gauge is NOT A MEASURE! A Fitting Gauge is MERELY A GUIDE TO A QUALIFIED SHOE FITTER. All gauges are calibrated differently and it depends upon the style of shoe being fitted, materials, even country of origin affect the fit. A qualified fitter may spot a potential problem and refer you to a GP or chiropodist.

We often hear complaints that one shop says one thing and another shop says another. This is because they sell different brands of footwear and your feet are not a standard size or shape. What suits one pair of feet may not suit another, or will require a totally different size and fitting.

Remember: Damage can be done in a child’s formative years that may affect their complete physiology – which in turn may affect their health several ways in later life! Even migraine can be attributed to ill-fitting shoes!

Are shoes that are too big, as bad as shoes that are too small?

They can be. Some children’s brands have a certain amount of ‘growing room’ built in and their fitting gauges reflect that. Shoes in continental sizes are more standard (albeit shoe design/shape, country of origin etc. are reflected).

If a shoe is not held firmly on a foot (and we don’t mean tight), then the foot slops around inside the shoes and cannot function correctly and in turn neither can the shoes! It is vital that a strap whether fastened with a buckle, velcro or lace, is fastened securely enough to prevent slipping.

Sometimes a parent will ‘insist’ on a new pair of shoes for their child when the old pair still fits adequately – or indeed if the child has abused their shoes so that they look awful, but still fit. This can be a dilemma for a shop. A good shop will advise a new pair of shoes is not really required – however, who would be silly enough not to ‘make a sale’ when a parent is insistent and may not take your advice and shop elsewhere? The fitter may decide to fit a half size up or increase the width fitting, and use a basic orthotic i.e. chiropody felt, cork insole etc. to pad the shoe (take up volume) for it to fit nicely (they may do this anyway if a foot shape is difficult to fit or design required is not a good fit but the parent/child insists on having it). We prefer the use of a ‘half in-sock’ to ‘heel grips’ though. Heel grips simply push the foot down inside the shoe, pushing toes further into the toe box – where they are not supposed to be restricted. The back part/heel of a shoe is as important as the toe box and it is designed to ‘hold’ the foot firmly where the main body weight falls, to stop the foot sliding forward. Naturally the higher the heel the more important it is for the ‘back part’ of the shoe to work properly i.e. hold the heel firmly back. This is why children should not wear high heels as their body/back is not in alignment, they walk unnaturally to prevent pitching forward, and their toes are likely to become restricted in the toe box of their shoes; and why you see awful bunions (pronounced Hallux Valgus joint) on ladies who continually wear very high heels.

What should I consider when buying boots?

For adults – if boots are structured i.e. have a heel stiffener around the back part, toe puff etc. then you will probably buy a slightly larger/wider pair than when buying normal shoes – purely because you will without doubt change your hosiery – that is wear socks instead of tights or wear thicker socks than normal. If you change back to wearing different hosiery it may pay to use an insole or half insole to prevent your feet slide forward and jarring your toes at the front of the boot. This can lead to hammer toes in later life. The same can be said for shoe wearing, but it is more apparent from wearing boots as the slide forward is not as obvious as the leg of the boot acts as a grip preventing the boot coming off, and often there would not be as much room in a shoe as a boot due to hosiery.

If you suffer from diabetes we know it is vital you keep your feet warm in winter. Wear one good pair of socks rather than two pairs as you must not restrict your toes and do not wear high-legged boots that are too tight. They may look nicer worn close to the leg, but if elasticized around the top line, they may grip you too tightly and impede your circulation.

For children the same may apply, but it is harder to ascertain if a boot is correctly fitting than a shoe – purely because you cannot see the heel working when the child walks. A ‘qualified fitter’ (member of the Society of Shoe Fitters) knows what to do to check if a boot fits correctly.

We would offer a word of caution to the appeal of wearing a certain style of boot that has become very popular due to its great looks and immediate comfort feel. What was known as a ‘slouch boot’ some years ago, is now being made in sheepskin and soft woolen materials. The branded version have greater construction built in, using quality materials, but copies generally do not have heel cups, stiffeners or toe puffs, and therefore appear as a soft synthetic upper stitched to a solid sole unit. This means the foot is free to slide around within the boot and in no time at all distorts the upper. Watching teenagers walk down any busy high street this winter will illustrate how unstable these boots can be after prolonged wear, so we advise caution. They look great and feel fabulous when new, but should be discarded when they show signs of wear.

All shoe fitting content sourced from http://www.shoefitters-uk.org

I have to wear orthotics and have arthritis in my ankle and am very limited in the footwear I can wear. Amanda was so very helpful and took her time in finding me a very comfortable pair of ankle boots and slippers. I will definitely be going back again...oh and the hand bag is fabulous!

Cathy Staniforth

Comfort – Fit – Style

Come and visit us and see what we have to offer!

We are a member of the Society of Shoe Fitters and were nominated for two awards at the Footwear Industry Awards 2019, winning New Independent Footwear Retailer of the Year… so your feet are in the best hands.

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