Top Tips from a former Shoe Fitter

I moved to London in 1997 to go to University. It was my dream to move to the big smoke, and I was so happy to be leaving Devon. But no one explained how expensive a city to live in London really was. It became apparent pretty early on that my grant (yes that’s how long ago this was) was not going to cut it and I knew I had to look for a part time job. I applied for various positions, did a week in catering (HATED it) then found a position as a shoe fitter in an independent children’s shoe retailer in Fulham.

Shop front

I wish I had a better photo of this beautiful shop. Gillingham’s of Fulham.

We stocked many different brands of shoes and I was trained to fit by Start-rite. The shop I worked for was in the second generation of the same family and was run by some very knowledgeable and committed people. I came to know the different makes of shoes, the anatomy of the shoe (toepuff anyone?), how they were made and the history of the shoe industry! I was there for three years, first part time and then, when I left university, full time. Ben even got a job with them too. Yes, for a time, children’s shoes became our lives!


Shoe fitting was our life!

So when I hear people talking about shoe fitting, I can’t help but interject. And as the season for thinking about new school shoes fast approaches you may be interested in my top tips for children’s shoe fitting and the dreaded back to school:

Be prepared.

Never just ‘pop in’ unprepared to have your children’s feet fitted. If you pop in with your kids feet filthy, covered in sand and without socks it’s going to make it both difficult to fit and gross.

There is a reason good shoes cost money.

Yes, leather shoes are expensive. That’s because of the materials and technology that go into making them. We’re talking real leather, with stiffeners and toe puffs and things to support your children’s feet as they grow. They’re also built to last. By skilled craftsmen and women. Cheap shoes, I’m sorry to tell you, are not.

Fitters are trained. You are not.

You think you can fit shoes yourself? That’s fantastic. Don’t bother going into the shop then. Seriously. Asking Clark’s to measure your child’s feet and then taking them to Matalan to buy shoes is like having your eyes tested at Specsavers and then buying off the shelf reading glasses from the chemist. The fitter takes all sorts of things into account when finding the right shoes for your child. The size is just one tiny aspect of it. Also, how one place measure’s and another brand fits is an entirely different thing. Just saying.

Choice can be overwhelming

Asking your (often too young to give a toss) child which pair they like in a shop filled with hundreds of styles is a recipe for disaster. It’s overwhelming and if they are able to chose a pair, and it is appropriate for what you’re looking for, it might not fit, or even come in their size. It’s much better to have a shop find pairs that are appropriate and fit. Then you and your child can decide if they like them.

Trust your fitter

All reputable shoe shops have trained their staff. It’s not in their interest for them to sell you shoes that do not fit. So trust them and listen to their recommendations. Any good fitter will take you through their thinking for the pairs they’ve suggested if you ask them to. You don’t have to buy what a shop has to offer, but have the grace to listen to their opinion. It is after all what you’re there for!

But most of all

Back to School sucks.

It does, for everyone involved. The shops ramp up for their absolute busiest time of the year and fitters will work non stop, with very little break, every day for weeks. But parents are also stressed, because, like every other local parent, they’ve waited until the very last minute to get their children’s new school shoes. I understand why parents do it. They don’t want to buy shoes too early and then have their children’s feet grow. I get it. But if you are going to wait, you can’t whinge that the shop is heaving and “a nightmare”, when the reason it’s heaving and a nightmare is because everyone has had the same idea as you. Be aware that everyone is in the same boat.

Be patient, be nice to one another and be especially nice to your over worked fitter.

Happy Shoe Shopping!



  1. I used to work in a shoe shop as a student too. I used to hate the just before school rush but must admit I now am the mum who complains when it’s too busy (and I don’t even need to buy shoes in August) or too expensive. This is a good reminder why that is the case.

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Did you? Oh bless you – solidarity sister! It is tempting, but I just know from friends who go for the supermarket option (for school at least) that they always end up buying several pairs as they just don’t last. False economy to me!

      • My son got through 2 pairs of £48-50 pairs of good leather shoes by February this year. He only wears them as indoor shoes (except he ends up wearing them to afterschool club and not changing them which means they got wrecked). In contrast, the £15 pair of leather shoes bought to get him through from the summer half term still look immaculate. I know why mums buy cheap shoes. I don’t like it, but when the kids wreck the expensive ones without growing out of them, it makes sense.

        Having said that I do prefer to go to our local independent shoe shop because they’re the best ones at fitting. I just wish they had cheaper shoes and more plain options.

        • mrssavageangel says:

          Plain options are something I’ve noticed lacking somewhat. I don’t want to put my son in flashing things with pictures of dinosaurs on. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those, just my personal preference is for more simple designs. O has had the same style of shoes for the last two years. Different colour ways but always the same style, because they are plain and I like the fit. School shoes is another thing entirely! I don’t understand why boys shoes have to look so chunky or like nasty 80s trainers?! Ahh maybe its just me!

  2. Lovely to hear things ‘from the other foot’ – sorry I couldn’t resist that. My sister in law lives in Fulham, such a lovely place to live and work. Popping by today from #TwinklyTuesday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Hahaha don’t apologise I love a good pun! Fulham has its charms for sure! Wouldn’t go back now though!

  3. Great advice. We always get our girls’ shoes properly fitted but the cost really does mount up, especially as the youngest has gone up an entire shoe size every 8 weeks so far!! Aaargh! We are lucky that there is a Clarks Outlet store relatively close to where we live, though, so we tend to go there. I’m glad you posted this, though, because I do sometimes wonder whether it’s worth it when the supermarkets are selling much cheaper shoes and our finances are tight. You have confirmed in my mind that properly fitted shoes are worth it! #DreamTeam

    • mrssavageangel says:

      I can feel your pain – a whole size every 8 weeks? It can happen but hopefully she’ll slow down a little soon! Properly fitted shoes really are worth it in my opinion. Your children’s feet only grow once!

  4. rhian226 says:

    I need to take my little one to have her feet measured again so will make sure I reread your blog beforehand! Thanks for sharing and now I am off to Google ‘toepuff’… #dreamteam

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Hahahaha love it. FYI a toepuff is a piece of leather under the toe of the shoe that provides strength and keeps the toe’s shape. Without it (or if it gets broken by someone heavy standing on it) the shoe loses its shape quickly and looks very scruffy.

  5. I definitely need to get my little’s feet fitted! She always wears hand me downs or presents so I’m still guessing she fits her shoes when she doesn’t complain.

    • mrssavageangel says:

      This might be true, but as little ones bones are so soft they may be pinching her without her really feeling it. It could however be stopping the bones from growing as they should.If she has a pair she wears a lot, for school or nursery, I would highly recommend getting a fitted pair.

  6. Fab post and so very true – I used to work in a school uniform shop and the amount of times people would just ‘pop’ in and expect to get their uniform sorted in 5 mins flat! My little one is 15 months and to be honest I haven’t had her measured yet as she’s so wriggly and I just feel too bad for the fitter….maybe I should brave it soon though as you are right and it’s so important to get them measured properly. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteam xx

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Its crazy isn’t it? Now I’m a parent I do kind of understand that you sometimes gotta do what you can when you can, but seriously? Some of the customers that were the least prepared weren’t there because that was the only time they had, they just were that unprepared! As for your daughter, unless she is walking and walking well, you’re probably OK not to have proper shoes yet. But when she does its actually a lovely experience. Fitting First Shoes was my absolute favourite!

  7. we had a back experience in clarks once and my daughters shoes did not fit well at all but they did re measure and get the right size but apart from this we always get school shoes properly fitted they are wearing them 5 days a week they need to fit well and be comfy! #twinklytuesday x

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Good for you for going back. Its the service you’re paying for so if you’re not happy you should always speak up! I agree. If you had to wear uncomfortable shoes 5 days a week you’d be miserable. Why should it be different for children?

  8. I seldom shop for shoes but I make sure I find what I really want and need.
    Will keep these tips from a reliable source in mind. 🙂

  9. I’ve always trusted Clarks until recently when they actually measured Clem’s feet wrong. The shoes were too big, rubbed and made her foot bleed after only 20 minutes of wearing them. We ended up going back in, getting her re-fitted and getting the right size.x #dreamteam

  10. We’re guilty of never getting our kids shoes fitted properly, they are just so expensive! My son gets through shoes so quickly that it just doesn’t seem worth spending much on them x #picknmix

  11. I think it’s so important to get your kids feet fitted as they are still growing and developing. A poorly fitting pair of shoes could cause issues further down the line. My son also has over-pronation and sees a podiatrist who always advocate shoe fitters. It must have been nice meeting all those children and hopefully you didn’t come across too many smelly feet! Tor x #Picknmix

    • mrssavageangel says:

      If your son has pronation then properly fitting, supportive footwear is a must Tor! Your podiatrist is right! It was lovely meeting the children. I can honestly say we hardly had any difficult children, although we did sometimes have difficult parents! 😉

  12. This may explain the pile of shoes by the door that my daughter refuses to wear. #effitfriday

  13. This is a great post from a different perspective, I always have my sons feet measured and last time we went because it was quiet the girl was showing me the new tablet way they son loved it..I was always so impressed when he was smaller how they cajoled a rowdy toddler into shoes! thanks for linking with #ablogginggoodtime

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Oooo we’ve not seen the tablet yet. How exciting! I don’t know if the shop we go to has them yet, but I’ll certainly be asking next time we go in. Which will be in the second week of Sept, as Oscar starts school later than most others! Perfect!

  14. Buying the first pair was a nice experience with the little photo they took – just a shame little one grew out of them so quickly! Now he’s moved into infant shoes the choice seems really tiny now! 97 was a great year to start uni in and yay for being the last year that had grants!! #effitfriday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Do you know lack of choice is boys clothing in general. I was horrified at how little choice there is for boy’s when O was tiny, but I’m starting to get used to it now 🙁 Hahaha were you a 97 student too?

  15. I remember growing up and having the routine ‘last week of August’ trip to the one and only Clarks shoe shop within a 30 mile radius – my poor mother! Now I shudder at the cost of the shoes but I do agree that proper shoes are incomparable to the rubbish you get at Shoe Zone and similar. I have been guilty of getting my daughter measured then buying the desired shoe second hand from ebay, mainly because I’d be buggered if I was going to send her to nursery in a £35 pair. Thank you for linking up to #effitfriday and giving a different perspective!

  16. This was an interesting post to read. I’m in the early stages of show-buying as my son is only two, but i do love Clarks’ shoes, and rarely buy shoes from anywhere else, as at least you know you are getting a good fit. #effitfriday

  17. I always always get Zach’s feet measured in Clarks before we buy shoes! Even though it hasn’t been long since we bought his proper shoes, he needed sandals a few weeks later and already needed half a size bigger! I also always buy from Clarks – I would never buy him shoes from a supermarket – I can scrimp on clothes and stuff but when it comes to shoes they have to be fitted by a professional. HIs little feet are of the utmost importance! Thanks for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

  18. Monkey starts school this year so we will be needing to buy school shoes. I had no idea it was such a big ordeal! We’ve even booked an appointment at Clarks so with any luck it will mean it won’t be quite so heaving!! Thanks for the tips #TwinklyTuesday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Booking an appointment sounds like a great idea (although I always worry it’ll be like my doctors and get behind, so take plenty to keep the little ones amused anyway, just in case. Like the doctors hahaha)
      Enjoy buying your first school shoes experience!

  19. Although I buy cheaper shoes for the things they won’t wear often, like jelly shoes for beach/splash park in summer, I do always get my little ones’ main shoes properly fitted & bought from Clarks or independent children’s shoe specialists. They are so expensive, but I would rather they had one or two expensive pairs that fit right and are comfy than lots of cheaper shoes that may be bad for their feet. I agree about the choice. Although it is sometimes annoying & there have been times when I haven’t been that keen on any of the options offered (usually if they are not colours I want), I think it does ultimately make more sense to only look at ones the fitter deems suitable & keep the choices limited for small children. #ablogginggoodtime

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Oh I do the same! Yes I think the choice thing is partly down to the shop’s ability to physically stock them. Shoes aren’t like clothes, they have to keep a very bulky stock in a physical building. They arent kept on the shop floor.

  20. I’ve always had really marrow feet and my kids are the same. I’ve always made sure I get their feet measured and shoes fitted, I would hate to do their feet some damage. Because if the narrowness we always have to get shoes with width fittings. Thanks for linking to #picknmix

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Wow marrow feet must be really hard to fit!!! hahaha I’m sorry I couldn’t resist.
      But you’re absolutely right. Shoes that are too wide are as damaging as shoes that are too tight. When shoes are too wide the child will end up clawing their toes, scrunching them up to try and keep the shoe from slipping. This can lead to terrible problems with toe joints!

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