The right shoeA survey conducted by Blitzresults.com in the UK reveals how 65% of today’s children are wearing shoes in the wrong […]
A survey conducted by Blitzresults.com in the UK reveals how 65% of today’s children are wearing shoes in the wrong size. It seems to be a widespread phenomenon of global scope: often it is difficult to choose a shoe in the right size for children, and we end up buying shoes that are either too short or too long, too tight, or without the sufficient space needed to accommodate growing feet.
How can this problem be solved? Methods like placing the child’s foot against the sole of the shoe and measuring the length of the shoe by using your thumb to press against the toes of the shoe are completely inadvisable, even if in practice they are the most common methods. It is also not a good idea to trust in the opinion of children: partly because their perception of pain is inferior to that of adults, and partly because they tend to choose the shoe with their favourite style, instead of a shoe that guarantees a comfortable fit.
So, what is the most correct method for determining the right shoe? We went to the stores of three well-known brands in children’s footwear to discover in person how they deal with the question of fitting.
The Primigi store located near the lively business district of corso San Gottardo, one of 380 Primigi franchises in Italy, has just recently moved to a new location that allows it to extend the areas dedicated to the presentation of the brand’s collections of shoes and apparel, as part of its total look proposal, in an airy and welcoming environment.
We ask them what exactly a sales clerk does. “Primigi makes its Primigi ‘Guide to first steps’ manual available to all its franchises, dedicating an entire chapter to the issue of sales assistance, while explaining to them how to offer customers not only a quality product, but also the right kind of product in the right size. – explains Maria Teresa Belluscio, sales assistant at the store – The recommended techniques for measuring are two: the first is to fully open up the shoe and have the child fully insert their foot until hitting the end of the toe area to see how much space remains between the heel and the back of the shoe: if a centimetre or one and a half centimetres remain, then the size is correct, and will support both movement and the growth of the foot. The other technique is to measure the arch length of the foot, which is easy since all of Primigi’s shoes have an anatomical arch support, as an extra guarantee for parents and grandparents… All this is not enough however. The characteristics of the individual foot must also be considered: if the instep is high or low, if the foot is wider or slender… here, an understanding of Primigi’s models, various constructions, and materials arriving from either the training programme of Primigi store personnel, or through direct experience in the field, make the difference…”. There is then the more humane side of things, with children and parents both having their own tastes that do not always coincide with what is best for the child’s foot: “Children aged three years and up do in fact have their own specific tastes, above all when it comes to girls who pay attention to the shoe’s style, colour, and details… while boys are a little less attentive… the key is to have a certain amount of empathy with them, helping them choose the right model, while supporting their choice of style where it is possible. – adds Grazia Felici, the second sales assistant to the store – Under the age of three it is the mother who usually chooses, with her choice based on the comfort and potential lifetime of the shoe: it is an understandable expectation, but often it leads to errors. For example, the other day there was a mother who was interested in buying a leather shoe for her daughter with the idea that the shoe would last throughout the summer, without considering that with the arrival of warmer temperatures, the foot tends to overheat… We try to arrive at a compromise and explain why one model is preferable to another and why it is not, and then we let the parent choose. In any case, Primigi helps us to do our job: all the shoes have an anatomical construction that guarantees the correct development of the foot. There is then the shoe with a strap that allows us, by lengthening or shortening the strap, to adjust the model to fit the foot… the ‘spider’ shoe, instead of the open sandal, ensures the foot of younger children do not accidentally slip out while playing… shoes with a higher heel collar behind the ankle protect the foot from accidental missteps and when jumping… these are the key features designed by those who are skilled at making shoes like Primigi”.
Just around the corner from via Montenapoleone and corso Vittorio Emanuele, the historic Naturino store in via Durini 4 is a point of reference for clientele that like to go shopping in the centre. The choice in models occurs in the first room, where the brand’s collection is on display, while in the more private adjacent room, each shoe-fitting begins with the measurement of the foot: “We have a special graduated foot measuring device which, while keeping the heel fixed in place and moving the pointer to the right position, allows us to correctly determine the foot’s size. – explains Angela Ferrero, the store’s manager – The measurer, however, only indicates the size and does not tell us which model is the most suitable for that foot type: here, the experience and training of the sales clerks comes into play. Observing if the arch length is wider or thinner, if the instep is high or low… we propose the best shoe for that kind of foot. There is then another aspect that we consider: the child’s tastes, which is not necessarily the best choice for the foot… Sometimes, for example, if a child falls in love with a certain shoe, they will say it is perfect even if it hurts when wearing it. And vice versa, if they don’t like it, they will say it hurts… This is where a little psychology comes in handy, along with the ability to create a certain feeling of complicity with the child, while always remaining professional: at this point we recommend trying a number of different modes that are closest to the style liked by the child (or mother), while at the same time respecting the shape of the foot”.
“In choosing the most suitable Falc shoe it is of great help: – continues Angela Ferrero – there are Falcotto shoes for infants, the Naturino First Steps line that arrives up to size 26, the Mini line, and finally the first Naturino line. The difference is in the soles, which are softer for infants and with greater support as the child grows, while also the constructions change to respect the specific characteristics of the foot at different ages. And for older children, we have a fashion proposal by the brands Voile Blanche and W6TZ, with the same construction as the one used for younger kids: heel counter, anatomical arch support, a flexible sole… but an ‘adult’ style. We are also ready to help children with serious feet problems: braces, arch supports, etc.… in this case, we try to adapt the shoe to their arch length. If it’s not possible, we do not force the sale. Our job is to give advice on the best possible choice and then respect the buyer’s wishes. Sometimes it is even the mother who insists in saying ‘but I like it’ and we reply to her, ‘Whatever you feel is best, but please understand that it is not the best choice for your child’s foot. But if you like it’… And then do you know how many times they have returned to the store to tell us we were right? We have had the pleasure of being hugged by children countless times for making their feet happy”.
The historic Milan brand of children’s footwear, bought out by the Chinese company Dragon Crowd Enterprise, has chosen via della Spiga 31 as the location for its boutique. In an extremely popular area that features the most renowned high-fashion brands, this choice reconfirms the brand’s high-end positioning in the market and is ideal in intercepting the many tourists passing through this area.
“The culture of shoes for the littlest set has changed a lot: everyone says they want the right shoe, which does not damage the foot, but then we come up against fashion that is completely to the contrary. “ – Giuliana Alfiere, head of the boutique, starts off with a small criticism – Today, fashion steers the choice towards gym shoes: I have nothing against this kind of footwear, but it’s important to understand that using them every day, without switching them around with other models and allowing both the shoes and the foot to breathe, is damaging. Leather shoes, with a calfskin interior, instead guarantee comfort, good breathability, and antiallergenic and antifungal properties. The use of natural materials guarantees the well-being of children’s feet in shoes…”
The Gusella brand is synonymous with traditional footwear, and its sale in Italy is often associated with ceremonies and formal occasions, while in China, where it is present with more than ten points of sale, between boutiques and corner stores in prestigious malls, it is used both at school and for all important occasions. “I believe a shoe must be tried on, leaving a free space of half a centimetre to one centimetre in the toe area, while also taking into consideration the height of the instep and the shape in order to guarantee the right shoe is selected… even the origins of the child make the difference: Chinese children, for example, have an extremely high instep when compared to Italian children, or, since the new generations are heftier, they have larger ankles… as a consequence, Gusella has corrected the construction of its shoes, by raising the heel collar and widening the shoe in the ankle area with longer straps. Minor adjustments, which are necessary. Sales personnel recommend the most suitable shoe in consideration of these needs. There are then some things that must be kept in mind for each model: we recommend that Oxfords, for example, be fully opened with their laces, because it allows for their complete adjustment along the length of the foot. Velcro shoes are practical, but with small children, they can be a problem: they’re easy to open, with the increased risk of the child taking the shoe off on their own and losing it. Flats are not for everyone: with some foot shapes, there is the risk of ‘shuffling’… In other words, the experience of personnel is essential when it comes to choosing the right model and right size, even if it’s necessary to arrive at a compromise with mothers, grandparents, and children themselves, with their different tastes. It’s a question of equilibrium”.