The Society of Shoe Fitters has announced that National Shoe Fitting Week; under the banner Keep Feet ‘Fit’ will start this year on Saturday March 28th 2015. The SSF, which operates on a not-for-profit basis, wants to raise national awareness of the importance of well-fitting footwear and the vital service independent shoe retailers, like Little Wanderers on Tonge Moor Road in Bolton, provide to the public.

The Society’s Secretary, Laura West, explains “If everyone working in shoe shops trained to become professional Shoe Fitters we could save the NHS thousands of pounds over the coming years, which our members and organisation already do in a small way. If the public realised the importance of footwear, how it is made, and the detrimental effect it can have, then many jobs could be created and money on health care saved". Adults can obviously make up their own mind if they want to feel uncomfortable, but children should not be allowed to make the same mistake with the very young unable to communicate their pain. Parents should take responsibility for their children’s health and well-being and be diligent about their footwear. By self-fitting shoes or buying cheaply made fashion items, you are creating all sorts of problems that may affect the future health of your child which are often irreversible.

Footwear is wrongly treated as merely an accessory, but it is vitally important, as it’s the only item of clothing that can seriously damage your health in the long term. Our worry is that independent shops can’t compete with supermarkets and they are the only ones offering a good, in some cases professional individual ‘fitting’ service. If these shops close the public are forced to buy badly constructed footwear without any advice and care from the High Street. Young feet are amongst the most vulnerable and worst affected. Children's feet are developing (up until the age of 16-18) and therefore the damage that can be seen in later life is often a result of the trauma’s their feet have suffered when developing. Parents think they are doing the right thing having feet measured and then try to buy cheaper than the shop that measured them, what they don’t realise is that all gauges are calibrated differently and the size the gauge says is merely a starting point to a qualified or experienced shoe fitter. A gauge won’t tell you if a child has a high or low ankle bone, high or low instep, flaccid or rigid feet, pronate or supinate; the start of a bunion or flat feet…the list is long and is taken into account by a professional.

With the closure of independent shops the SSF is concerned this will have a knock on effect for many of the footwear brands (both children and adults) that supply them and depend upon them as the main showroom for their goods. If independent shoe shops are scarce, then the fashion high street stores and supermarkets are likely to take over (as they are already doing to some extent), and eventually will only want their ‘own label’, reducing the number of brands available – no point making shoes if there is no-one to sell to! This reduces the choice of sizes and shapes of shoes, and decimates the shoe fitting skill base, the very people who give FREE advice at point of sale, i.e. the fitter.

Shoe fitting expert, Laura West, regularly advises the public on their shoe buying and foot health problems, commonly caused by ill-fitting or inappropriate footwear and works closely with the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists as the public are suffering at a much earlier age from bunions, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendon problems, all of which were generally seen much later in life. Laura is very concerned that without advice of qualified shoe fitters, the future health of the British public will be at risk: How many GP’s hours are wasted due to people with neck, back, shoulder, hip, knee and leg aches and pains, many of which have been brought about by ill-fitting and inappropriate footwear when they were young? Changing the way you walk to compensate for your footwear throws out numerous joints, and those joints in turn ‘wear’ incorrectly causing pain with arthritis, rheumatism etc., even migraine can be a side-effect of ill-fitting shoes. People with diabetes have to be particularly careful about what they wear on their feet and how it is fitted and despite Diabetes UK recommending the Society of Shoe Fitters members, many are unaware of how important their shoe fitting is, in fact diabetes can sometimes be detected by the bloom on a shoe.

Now, is the time for the government to help the industry to work together to ensure a future for shoe fitting, quality brands, independent shops and shoe repairers too. The shoe repairer’s job has been harder with the demise of component part companies due to UK factory closures. Shoe repairers are unwittingly ‘eco warriors’; they know that low-quality footwear is unlikely to be repaired, it simply becomes landfill, whereas good, well fitting footwear will give the wearer greater service and worthwhile looking after. The footwear trade was a mighty industry with a skill base second to none, but no national education programme to inform the public of the risks they take other than from the SSF who do not have the budget to fight back.

We hope everyone will support Keep Feet ‘Fit’ - National Shoe Fitting Week to educate the public to support their local shoe shop and shoe repairer. Use them or lose them – but we will all suffer if we lose them”. says Laura West.