The truth about Second hand shoes, cont… interview with a top kids’ podiatrist


Shoes, night time nappies, wipes and underwear. These are my formidable four, the things I’ve so far encountered that pose real problems in a year of cost free kid care.

At the beginning of the year, the list was much, much longer, so I suppose I should feel grateful. Toiletries, for example, have been crossed off since I chatted to Dr Flower and realised that J can use adult shampoo, soap, even toothpaste as long as we get the gentler stuff. During the day, reusable nappies have proved so easy after advice from Wendy that I barely notice the impact on our lives now. Everything else – toys, clothes, food… – has so far proved easy to navigate through trading or just changing our habits (if not easy, then fun, if not fun, then satisfying…)

Nighttime nappies and wipes are a regular challenge though. We can’t find enough reusables that see J through the night, so we’re in disposables. Getting those for free means keeping an eagle eye on swapping site which, if you’re prone to obsessive behaviour, can turn into a full-time job. Same goes for wipes. At home we use flannels. Out and about, we’re still on disposables. So back to those swapping sites for hours that could otherwise be used learning Mandarin or motor-maintainance. Or at least occasionally cleaning the bathroom. Or working through my backlog of emails about, you know, my actual job.

For that and other reasons, potty training is looming. And now that I’ve starting thinking about it, that’s going to present different challenges. More on that later…

And, finally, there’s shoes. When we first started thinking about The Shoe Problem, J still had a lot of space left in the shiny pair he owned. Now, it’s a race to see whether he can kick them into dust before his toes push through the ends. After speaking to Laura West, I’d resigned myself to the fact that shoes were non-negotiable, one of those things on which you just have to spend money in order to get a properly fitting pair that wouldn’t cripple your kid’s inner Ussian Bolt before he even made it to the starting block.

But then Tracy Byrne emailed. . She specialises in infant foot development. She’s regularly in the press, commenting on everything from barefoot running to swollen feet in pregnancy. Basically, she’s as expert as they come. And here’s the thing: she thinks second hand shoes may not be the end of the world. In fact, if you know what to look for and what to avoid, it will be absolutely fine.

So there is hope for our free year! Here’s what she had to say:

Me: Under what circumstances might it be okay to buy second hand shoes for your kid? 

TB: It is OK to buy second hand as long as you can see and feel that the shoes have not broken down, or don’t have a very poor wear pattern on the soles and heels.  When buying 2nd hand shoes you must ensure that they can be washed in the machine or the insole wiped with surgical spirit to kill off any residual verruca virus/athletes foot or fungal nail infection.

Me: Would it still be okay if they were your kid’s main pair and were worn a lot?

TB: As with any shoes as long as they fit the suitable requirements (flexible sole, wide fit and natural materials) it should be fine that they are your child’s main pair. Most importantly the foot should not have to adapt to the shoe, the shoe should allow the foot to develop as naturally as possible. If the shoes are second hand it is also important to remember to keep an eye on them and replace them when necessary before they become to worn down.

Me: How much does finding exactly the right width matter?

TB: If the shoe has an adjustable closure such as Velcro, laces, buckles etc. there is no need to have width measured.

Just as feet shrink and expand throughout the day it is better to be able to adjust the width than have a standard fitting which allows no room for spread and natural growth!

Me: What are the real dangers of getting their footwear wrong? And how likely is it, really, that those problems will arise?

TB: There are a wide variety of long term side effects which are preventable and can be caused or exacerbated by ill fitting shoes. The best way for children’s feet to develop well is by spending as much time as possible barefoot. When children start to wear shoes it is important to avoid shoes which have stiff/ hard soles as their feet are still developing and as such need flexible shoes to move with their natural growth and movements. Wearing unsuitable shoes can actually weaken the muscles and ligaments in the foot and cause problems such as poor posture/balance and spatial awareness.

Me:  If you are buying/trading second hand shoes for your child, what would be your top tips?

TB: Shoes should be:

Completely Flexible,

As flat as possible,

Have an adjustable closure (Velcro)

Wide toe box