Children ‘suffering’ in poorly fitting shoes because of Covid-19 restrictions - consultant

Cork paediatrician says parents resorting to ‘black market’ arrangements to buy shoes for children

Children are “suffering” in shoes that are too small due to the continued closure of shoe shops, with some parents resorting to “black market” arrangements, a consultant paediatrician has said.

At present some children were walking "barefoot" or in socks, as parents were unable to order shoes online that fit correctly, according to Dr Niamh Lynch, a consultant paediatrician in the Bon Secours Hospital in Cork.

Dr Lynch said she had seen a number of cases in the last four weeks, where children were wearing painful, “ill-fitting” shoes.

In a lot of cases parents had difficulty ordering new school shoes online, as children returned to classrooms in recent weeks, she said.

“Trying to order online is like gambling…A lot of kids went back to school in shoes that didn’t fit properly,” she told The Irish Times.

“Short-term it’s painful for the child. Long-term if a developing foot is put in the wrong size shoe, that can affect gait and how the child walks,” she said.

Dr Lynch said she had come across cases where some young toddlers had no shoes, and were left wearing socks, as shoe shops and other outlets selling children’s shoes remained shut due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Other parents she spoke to had been forced to resort to “secret” black market-style arrangements, she said.

“One woman told me of her experience getting three different pairs of shoes online and sending them back, because none of them fitted,” she said.

“In the end she contacted her local shoe shop and she met the lady, in a car park, and that lady brought along a few pairs of shoes like it was some sort of black market covert deal, so she could get shoes that could fit her kid,” Dr Lynch said.

“We can’t expect children to go around with that pain, in shoes that are ill-fitting, chafing, hurting them,” she said. “There’s no way we should have to be driven underground to get our kids’ shoes,” she added.

The consultant said the issue was a major “source of stress” for parents, and “unnecessary pain” for children.

A simple solution would be for shoe shops to be permitted to re-open to sell children’s shoes by appointment, she said.

The issue was particularly pressing for children with joint problems or neurological conditions, who required specifically fitted shoes where ordering online was not an option, she said.

Under current Level 5 lockdown restrictions all non-essential retail, which includes shoe shops, are closed.

The Government has announced retail stores may be permitted to re-open on a phased basis in May, with click-and-collect services and outdoor stores, such as garden centres, likely first to return.