The majority of children wear shoes that are too short for their feet. The Austrian research team “Children’s Feet – Children’s Shoes” and the regional insurance provider Gebietskrankenkasse Salzburg investigated how to improve this situation, and the results were unexpected.

The numbers are remarkably similar wherever you look: Whether it’s in the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, or Japan, approximately 2/3 of all kids are wearing too-small shoes and risking podiatric damage. An Austrian study has now demonstrated for the first time how to improve this situation. Researchers determined the fit of test subjects’ shoes at the beginning and the end of a one-year study. During the study period, parents were provided with information and practical tips on a regular basis, for example how to accurately check for the necessary 12mm extra space in the toe of their children’s shoes or how to buy properly fitting shoes online.

The most important advice researchers had for parents: Ignore labelled shoe sizes and measure both your kids’ feet and the inside length of their shoes! From the measurements conducted at the start of the study it was already clear that 87% of all labelled shoe sizes are inaccurate and misleading. As previously shown in other studies, most children’s shoes are too short in length, often by up to three centimeters. A shoe labelled EU size 30 (UK size 11, US size 12), for example, would be only the equivalent of an EU size 26 (UK 8.5, US 9.5) in inside length.

Project head Wieland Kinz: “After a year of educational work, many more of the children were wearing shoes that fit properly, meaning fewer kids in too-short shoes.” What surprised the researchers the most, however, was that at the end of the study, girls’ shoes fit significantly better than boys’. The reasons behind this difference are still unclear. In a follow-up project, researchers will focus on whether parents evaluate health-related information differently based on their child’s gender.

The Austrian research team has put together a page for parents and health care professionals with the three most important tips for making sure kids’ shoes fit properly, available free of charge here: