"To me, that is quite an essential thing" – calls for shoe fittings for children to be deemed essential
My six-year-old has gone through two shoe-sizes since the start of lockdowns last year.
And while ordering clothes online is one thing, trying to order shoes is quite the other. I have ordered and returned so many pairs for him at this stage, trying to find the right size, as sizes vary so much between different brands and retailers.
I know I am not alone in this.
And if trying to find shoes for a six-year-old is proving tricky, I can only imagine what parents of babies who have only just started walking are dealing with. At that stage, children should be measured for the correct size shoes, and wearing the wrong size can actually cause actual damage.
However, under the current level five restrictions, all non-essential retailers must remain closed. Including shops where toddlers and children are measured for the correct fitting shoes.
This is a problem, and there have now been calls for these shops and services to be allowed to open, and to be deemed an essential service.
Earlier this week, parents and grandparents phoned into Lunchtime Live on NewsTalk explaining how the closures were impacting their families.
Grandmother Patricia got in touch saying she has a grandson who has started walking and needs shoes. He cannot, however, get them as his feet need to be fitted and all non-essential retail outlets are closed.
"To me, that is quite an essential thing for a little boy, he needs shoes," she explained.
"All the shoe shops where you take them to be measured are closed, and we don't want cheap shoes on him to protect his feet. I think it's a very essential thing, even if [shops] opened and allowed them to be measured and let them buy the shoes."
The family want to be able to bring the toddler outside, but without shoes for his feet, they can't, Patricia added.
"There are lots of other children who are walking this year, he's a COVID baby so everything's been locked up since he's been born.
Another listener said she had a similar issue during the first lockdown.
She measured the child's foot herself and then contacted her local shoe store for advice on suitable shoe size.
Speaking to NewsTalk, Jackie Conway, a podiatrist at Dundrum Clinic, agreed that shoe fittings for children should be deemed an essential service.
"If you think about it, that first shoe is very important," Conway explained.
"The child has been lying down, now they're standing up and walking, they're putting their body weight on that lower limb and damage can be done if the foot is not looked after properly."
She advised families that some companies who make children's shoes have foot gauges on their websites which can give them an idea of what shoe size to get.
There are also videos available online and on YouTube detailing how to measure a child's foot at home.
"It's not ideal, but in these COVID times it's better than nothing," she added.
Conway also explained that once a toddler starts walking, you should give them about six weeks to find their balance and then go to a store to have their first shoes fitted.
Once in the shop, the fitting is assessed both when the child is sitting and standing.
"They look for particular problems that could arise, they look to how the child is standing, where it needs protection, where it needs support," she revealed.
"A child's shoe is not like an adult's shoe, it's a different shape, it's like an inverted triangle."