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Plimsolls – Not feet for purpose

If your child is expected to wear plimsolls for any length of time during the school day, then they could be doing untold damage to their feet.  Plimsolls are made for short-term wear, up to an hour a day (eg for a p.e. lesson) and for indoor use only. They neither provide the support or cushioning for long term or outdoor wear, and the poor quality of many plimsolls available on the market today makes them a much less favourable form of footwear.  It is also difficult to get an accurate size and fit, with most plimsolls having only one standard width.

My School Gate contacted Dr Gordon Watt, a Fellow of the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists (SCP) and a specialist in paediatric podiatry, who has seen hundreds of children over the years suffering from foot conditions caused by inadequate and poorly fitting footwear, including plimsolls.

Dr Watt told us:  ”Plimsolls are a far from ideal form of footwear, and it concerns me greatly that children could be expected to wear them for extended periods of time at school, let alone outside in a playground where the feet have no cushioning to protect them from the hard concrete.  Generally, a child’s feet bones do not fully develop until they are about 15 years old, and because they are constantly growing, it is very important for them to wear footwear that is properly fitted and that provides adequate support and protection.  There are also many children that may have structural foot problems, who require specialist advice about footwear and may require treatment, and for whom plimsolls are totally unsuitable.

“The sorts of problems I have seen caused by wearing plimsolls range from toe deformities,  acute foot traumas such as stress fractures and tendonitis, as well as skin diseases associated with viral and fungal infections.  If the foot isn’t cushioned or supported properly, children can develop a number of heel conditions including Plantar Fasciitis, which is where the ligament in the sole of the foot tears, and becomes inflamed.  This can be very painful and if your child is complaining of ‘heel pain’, you should have their feet checked by a podiatrist.

“Another problem that can occur from over-wearing plimsolls is ingrowing toenails.  These can come about because the rubber bumper at the toe-end of the plimsoll often does not match the shape of a child’s foot, causing the toes to sometimes become deformed, putting pressure on the toe nails causing them to ingrow.”

There are many other foot conditions that plimsolls can cause or aggravate, including athlete’s foot and verrucas.  The materials used in the sole of plimsolls do not allow the feet to breathe and encourage sweating.  After becoming damp with use, they are stored in a warm dark and humid place – the shoebag – where the fungi and bacteria are left to multiply.

Dr Watt continues “The feet are our ‘foundation’ if you like – we place our entire body weight on them and they work incredibly hard. They play an important role in our general health and wellbeing as the feet cannot be regarded in isolation to the rest of the body and damage done in childhood may well be compounded in adult life having a significant effect on our quality of life and activity.

“Plimsolls are not a suitable environment for a developing foot and all children should be given the opportunity to wear proper well fitted shoes all day every day in order to prevent potential long term foot and postural problems.”

If you think your child is wearing his or her plimsolls for extended periods of time at school, talk to your teacher and explain the above reasons as to why it is inadvisable.  If your child wears plimsolls outdoors, speak to the head and request that your child wears trainers.  Always check your child’s plimsolls every half term to make sure they still fit.



Emmie Williams

14th May 2012 at 10:58 am

At my son’s primary school, all the kids are expected to wear plimsolls for indoor and outdoor pe. They’re not allowed to wear trainers!! When it’s wet, they still go outside and they all get wet socks which they then wear them with their school shoes for the rest of the day. This has always been one of my bugbears but after reading this article I am going to approach my school about my son wearing trainers. I can’t see how they can refuse really!!


4th July 2012 at 3:34 pm

Have bought my son trainers for school even though all the kids wear plimsolls. His socks are soaked through every pe day when he’s outside and don’t dry out during the day so he has been getting blisters. So far, no one has said anything and apparently a couple of other kids have started wearing them.


6th July 2012 at 6:25 pm

Mine too. I have since been in and requested that my son wear trainers and although they were not happy about it at first, they have let him. A note has been sent out telling parents their children can wear trainers now for outdoor pe. I have to say though – some parents are moaning about it – because they now have to go and buy a spare pair of trainers as once a few start wearing them they all want them! They should never have been wearing plimsolls in the first place though. You can never please everyone!


19th November 2013 at 4:28 pm

Actually, the only problem with plimsolls is probably the fact that they don’t allow the toes to spread out naturally. The flat, flexible nature of them make them ideal for the development of children’s feet, allowing them to more closely mimic being barefoot, as we have evolved to be. The reason children would get injuries from wearing plimsolls is because their feet are so used to be restricted and contained in “supportive” and “cushioning” shoes, they no longer are strong enough to support themselves. Of course, the points about them not being breathable or drying out properly etc are all very valid, but in terms of support and cushioning, we don’t need it. Trainers don’t allow the feet to bend and flex or spread out as they are meant to do, reduce our ability to feel the ground beneath our feet and therefore our ability to react accordingly. The heels tip you forward so your body is out of it’s natural alignement, putting extra strain on muscles and bones and also cause you to heel strike, massively increasing footfall impact as you run, stopping your feet and legs from naturally absorbing the shock and introducing no end of potential impact injury. Think carefully before wearing trainers – we evolved to run barefoot, what did nature get wrong that we need to be supported and cushioned?


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