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!

startrite-logo

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!