Like in “Cinderella,” many girls force their feet into shoes that are too small. This has serious consequences, as demonstrated by a recent study conducted by the health insurance provider Salzburger Gebietskrankenkasse and the Austrian research Team Children’s Feet – Children’s Shoes.

Little Ina just loves her new shoes, and when she’s asked if she’s sure they really fit, she answers, “Of course they do!” But Ina and her mom are in for a nasty surprise: The research team had a look at her brand new shoes and discovered that they were a full 9mm shorter than Ina’s feet.

For a proper fit, children’s shoes should be 12-17mm longer than the length of the foot. But when shopping for new shoes, parents and sales staff have been making the same two mistakes for generations: First, the child’s feet are measured and assigned a shoe size. Then the salesperson brings a pair of shoes in that size from the stockroom. Kids try the shoes on and the parents and sales staff ask if they feel like a good fit. Dr. Wieland Kinz, who headed the study, on why this isn’t a good idea: “For one thing, our results have shown that shoes are almost always misleadingly labelled. Often, if a shoe is labelled size 28, the actual size is closer to 25. Over 80% of children’s shoes are labelled with the wrong size. Another important factor is that our studies have proven that children under the age of 10 are not able to correctly judge the fit of their shoes.”


In the current study, the situation was particularly bad for girls, who were found to be wearing poorly-fitting shoes much more often than boys. Although the reasons for this are not entirely clear, it could be fashion-related, according to the researchers. Among the girls included in the study, cute, dainty, pink shoes were obviously in fashion – and most of them were too short in length.  The effects of this can be very serious: It has been scientifically proven that wearing shoes that are too short can result in abnormal skeletal changes in the form of a misalignment of the big toe, even in children as young as 3-6 years of age.


The health insurance provider Salzburger Gebietskrankenkasse was alarmed by the results and is launching an awareness program to help improve children’s podiatric health. The research team will be working with parents until next October, providing valuable information and helpful tips on kids’ shoes. After this awareness campaign, a further investigation will be conducted to see if there has been any improvement in the fit of kids’ shoes.