Happy customer – ‘The man said they would make me really fast’

Shops selling children’s footwear open by appointment after Government intervention

Zoe Constant (4) from Bishopstown at a shoe fitting in Kirby’s Footwear, Ballincollig, Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/ Provision

Zoe Constant (4) from Bishopstown at a shoe fitting in Kirby’s Footwear, Ballincollig, Cork. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/ Provision


Twirling and giggling in front of a mirror in Kirby’s Footwear in Ballincollig, Co Cork, Zoe Constant said her new shoes came with magical powers.

“The man said they would make me really fast and that they are great at balancing,” the four-year-old said. “They could make my scooter fast because I do put my feet in my scooter.”

Zoe’s mother, Erica Constant, said she was relieved to be able to buy shoes for her daughter and son Alex, who is nearly two, after the Government this week permitted shoe shops to open by appointment to provide footwear for children.

The issue had been raised with the Coalition by medical personnel, and Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said children’s shoe shops should be added to the essential retail list during the Covid-19 pandemic as there were possible medical implications for children with ill-fitting shoes.

Ms Constant, from Bishopstown, said picking the right fit when shopping online was difficult, and that a measurement had shown Zoe’s feet had gone up a size during the lockdown.

“Buying online means you could get the wrong size. It is a lot harder. You want shoes that are supporting their feet properly,” she said.

Huge demand

Ian Kirby, whose family has had the business for four decades, said he was offering individual appointments for children every 20 minutes, and demand is such that he is booked out until April 12th.

“It has been crazy. I have been replying to phone calls, emails and messages up to midnight last night and this morning again. It is mainly young kids,” he said, adding that in many cases it was infants being measured for a first pair of shoes.

“There are a lot of concerned parents out there who are really concerned that their kids have been wearing shoes that are damaging their feet.

“It really is essential... This opening for appointments for kids could have been done a year ago and it would have saved parents a lot of hassle, torment and stress.”

Another customer, Olive Mitchell, who was in Kirby’s by appointment to buy shoes for her five-year-old daughter Ellie, had a bit of insider knowledge as she works in the shop but is currently on maternity leave.

“They need the support of a good pair of shoes,” she said. “They need to be fitted properly. The width, the length, the good support. Getting good footwear at a young age can prevent them from developing a lot of problems. They grow out of shoes very quickly when they are small.”