They come in all shapes and styles. And with so much choice, picking the right shoe for our children is more important than ever.
Many of us know that wearing the wrong sort of shoes from a young age can lead to severe foot problems in later life.
Lucy met with Jeff Evans, a Senior Lecturer in Podiatry based at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff to find out what the best type of shoe is for children to try and prevent some of these problems occurring.
Jeff told us that children have highly malleable feet, so if they are wearing shoes that are not of an 'ideal type', the foot might be compromised.
On average a girl's foot doesn't stop growing until she reaches 13 and a boy's foot keeps growing until age 15. We showed Jeff the latest in baby footwear - 'pre-walker' shoes to get his opinion. He said:
"I see absolutely no need for anything like that; it's just a fashion statement as far as I'm concerned really. The child should at most maybe have a protective sock, cotton sock, around the home."
Jeff said that when children start toddling then that is when they should start wearing shoes. He suggested that when they start to walk, they should be taken to a registered shoe fitter to have their feet properly measured.
On average a child's foot grows two sizes a year for the first four years and one size a year after that until growth is complete. Experts say children's feet should be measured every six to eight weeks.
As children grow up they may start turning their noses up at the traditional 'school shoe' and want to wear something a bit more fashionable instead, like ballet pumps or trainers.
But even by the age of 8, the bones in the foot still aren't fully formed. A recent study showed that 4 out of 5 school starters were wearing shoes that were too small and therefore potentially damaging.
So what did Jeff make of the cheaper and more fashionable shoes that many school children often go for? We showed him some ballet pumps and Jeff said the worst thing about them is that they tend to slip off the feet.
He said that as they are so flat, some podiatrists believe that they could lead to a flattening of the foot.
As for trainers you can buy off the shelf, Jeff thinks that they are generally a good, well structured shoe for a young foot. We then showed Jeff some high heels aimed at young girls. He said:
"I find it alarming that a child of four or five year old would wear shoes like this. And yes, with a very narrow stiletto type heel like that it makes the foot and whole child unstable, so they're prone to falls and maybe ankle damage.
Also you'd have to adapt your posture to bring your centre of gravity back in line. A lot of school girls do wear high heels, relatively high heels every day. And that's not good."
Lucy also met with mum Sharon Humphreys from Llantrisant who has three children in school; Ffion who is 12, Claudia who is 10 and Johnny who is 7.
Sharon says that Johnny is quite happy to wear trainers most of the time but the girls see fashionable shoes on TV and in magazines that they'd like to wear. She says that for school shoes she usually takes the children to have them fitted but for the other shoes, she usually relies on them saying whether they feel right of or not.
We asked podiatrist Jeff to take a quick look at the children's feet to see if the shoes they are wearing are causing any damage. He said he could see no problems with Johnny, and he was happy for him to continue wearing trainers.
With regards to Ffion wanting to wear more and more fashionable shoes, Jeff said that if it's only for short periods of time then it should be fine but for the bulk of the time she should be in sensible shoes.
When he looked at Claudia's feet and legs, Jeff made a discovery that could affect her shoe choice in the future. He found that Claudia has a condition called 'squinting patellae', which means the knee caps point at each other, which can lead to some problems later on.
He suggested that Claudia may need some sort of orthotic control, such as an insole to go in the shoe, and probably monitoring six monthly to yearly.
So what makes the 'ideal shoe' for a child? According to Jeff, it should have the following features:
- it should be foot shaped with a wide frontage; a round toe, not pointed.
- it should have a stiff heel to support the ankle.
- it should have some sort of strap or fastening to keep the shoe on the foot.
- and there should be room for growth in the shoe, at least a finger's worth.
Do you have to spend a lot of money to get the right sort of shoes for your children? In Jeff's opinion, off the peg shoes, as long as they meet the basic criteria and fit properly, are absolutely fine:
"I'd prefer a parent to have two pairs which are changeable, so the foot, the shoe can dry out and the hygiene factor could be looked at. Two pairs of fifteen pound shoes in my opinion is better than one pair of £30 shoes."
For more information on looking after your children's feet, or to find a podiatrist in your area see: feetforlife.org
To find a registered shoe fitter in your area see shoe-shop.org.uk/growing.html