As a charity our helpline has been super busy since Covid hit. Young parents have been really worried about fitting their children, many of whom resorted to buying a gauge and footwear online, only to find that once the shoes are on their prince/princesses, they can see the shoes do not fit correctly and safely. The worrying thing is how many parents also ordered online, but didn’t notice that the shoes didn’t fit as they should, or could? No doubt some took it for granted that the gauge says X, so the shoes must fit okay.

If we had a £1 for every person who said ‘they’d bought a gauge online, but when they used it in Tesco, Sainsburys, Primark etc. the size didn’t fit’ – in the words of Delboy ‘we’d be millionaires’! The public have
no perception that gauges are calibrated differently, shoes are different shapes because of the Last they are made on, feet don’t conform to size they are shaped differently – even the materials and country of origin may mean they need a different size or style. Fact is, whatever electronic device, or computer aided technique, there is no substitute for hands-on personal shoe fitting and assessment. The public thinking they can measure and fit safely themselves, is dangerously misleading, goodness knows how many problems have been created for the NHS during Covid in the decades to come.

Covid Toe has also been widely reported in the media. At first it was discounted, but it is too much of a coincidence that so many skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, rashes and extreme bruising etc. have suddenly manifested themselves in larger numbers than normal. Scientists have yet to prove the link, but everything points at these skin conditions being related to, or brought on by Covid. Covid Toe is particularly affecting younger people, and for some it is a discolouration around the toes (can be fingers too), for others it is itchy and painful with blisters and sores. One of our members (Sam at Shoedini near Milton Keynes) has referred 152 children for various foot health issues to local podiatrists already this year.

Keeping a record is brilliantly helpful and informative, but how many more in Sam’s area don’t shop at Shoedini and are unaware their child has the start of  a problem needing greater care or correction? “Have I damaged their feet for life?” is the worry, but of course we reply “No it will be fine, you are aware that ill-fitting footwear is a hazard or you would not be calling us, so we recommend you visit X shop (SSF or CFHR member), and they will give you the benefit of their education and experience”.

We also talk to parents about any hereditary conditions, the importance of socks/hosiery and generally keeping feet clean and dry, toenails trimmed properly to avoid ingrown toenails etc., but it is frustrating when you know they have no perception of how awful feet can look and how painful they can feel in later life because of ill-fitting footwear in their formative years. This is why we are still lobbying politicians to put a Government Health Warning on all children’s footwear, to make parents aware of the dangers.

However, it is not just children’s feet/footwear that have suffered from shop closures. Bearing in mind only a third of the population have ‘average’ feet, many adults need extra care or adaptions to their footwear in later life to accommodate some very problematic issues. SSF members are taught to make slight adaptions to shoes to improve the fit of mainstream footwear, but, occasionally, they need to work with podiatrists and orthotists for more extreme orthoses. Hallux Valgus (bunions), claw toes, overlapping toes, pes cavus,
plantar fasciitis etc. are very common ailments. In extreme cases we also recommend our bespoke shoemakers like Bill Bird Shoes, The Cordwainer, Carreduckers, Reed Medical etc. During lockdown although clinics were eventually given permission to open, qualified shoe fitters were not. Some shops worked covertly with local clinics to provide footwear for their patients. It was vital, a matter of public health, but so annoying and unfair when footwear could still be bought in some supermarkets and online.

The S.S.F. and C.F.H.R. bombarded George Freeman MP with emails begging him to allow qualified shoe fitters to open legitimately. George, who has since been reinstated as a minister, Parliamentary Under-
Secretary of State – Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, had always been extremely understanding and helpful, but his office asked us to stop writing. We discovered there is another level between MPs and the Prime Minister, and his boss Lord Bethell had received a letter 7 months earlier pleading our case, but it took him all of that time to send a default reply referring both George and our organisations to the Gov website! However, on the plus side we now have one or two more influential bodies onside, so if this were to happen again, we are hoping they will also fight with us, but fingers (not toes) crossed, doors will stay firmly open.

The footwear industry is lucky to have had The Society of Shoe Fitters supporting it since 1959, but considering how many shoe brands there are, the support is not as reciprocated as it should be. Every brand should donate something to the charity, even if it can’t afford to be an Associate Member, as it is the only tangible link and source of help and education between the public, the trade and health professionals.

Associate Members get huge promotion from the S.S.F. (contact: for
more information). It is just a shame that we cannot put pictures of suffering feet in shop windows because the hands- off to public health approach is costing us all as a nation. It is time that eyes, ears, teeth and feet were all back in focus. Prevention is better than a cure, and our children and families all deserve better,
so if you can support our charity, please do!


Laura West F.S.S.F.
Charity Administrator
c/o The Anchorage,
28 Admirals Walk, Hingham,
Norfolk. NR9 4JL
Tel: +44 (0)1953-851171
Applications by 8th November 2021


Comment from Cheryl Taylor, Senior Managing Editor, Footwear Today: I am sad to report long-term Secretary Laura West will be leaving the SSF in the months to come. Laura restarted the organisation 33 years ago having been Advertising Exec. at Start-rite for 11 years, and she also rescued the Children’s Foot Health Register back in 2018. Laura is a Director of Woteva Ltd. which as the name infers, does all sorts – so she wont be reaching for her knitting and carpet slippers just yet! Laura said she will be pleased to support the new secretary and help the industry in various other ways too. She has also volunteered to help BIRA (British Independent Retailers Association) to lobby on behalf of independents – a cause that has become a passion. With 43 years of passionate industry experience, I somehow doubt this is the last we see of Laura, but she has certainly helped many hundreds of businesses and thousands of people in her long career, including myself.

Apparently two large organisations have expressed an interest in offering an umbrella to the charity, but the Trustees still need a capable administrator dedicated to good footwear and public foot health. Nadia Arden-Scott (President and Trustee) will be holding interviews with the other Trustees via Zoom during October and hopes to have someone in place by start of December. Do you know someone who can tick that box? If so, the Trustees have put together the following job spec.

Contact: for more info.

The Society Of Shoe Fitters is looking for an experienced individual with excellent knowledge of the footwear industry to join them as Company Secretary. The Society of Shoe Fitters is a small charity at the forefront of ensuring consistent campaigning for the continuation/adoption of consistent campaigning for the continuation/adoption of professional shoe fitting.

The Charity is currently looking for a proactive, vibrant personality to support our Secretarial function and both the trade and public in disseminating information appertaining to good shoe fitting and foot health. This role is not a straightforward Secretarial position. This role requires a dynamic, proactive, and vocal individual who will lead our Charity into a future that is dedicated to the welfare of our nation’s feet.

Essential experience and attributes
Extensive experience in Secretarial services with knowledge of
Charities an advantage.
Proven ability to build strong, trusted relationships and influence
at senior level, driving decisions on matters of shoe fitting best
Significant experience of team leadership and the ability to motivate
Experience of working with committees and dealing with sensitive
and confidential information.
Be a self-starter, able to work to deadlines whilst coping with
competing priorities.

If you feel you are worthy of such a highly recognised and crucial role that will not only lead The Society of Shoe Fitters into the next era of professional shoe fitting, but make a real difference to our society, please request an application form and submit with covering letter and CV to

Covid Toe Photo: Dr Ivan Bristow/Royal College of Podiatry