Shoe fitter, becoming a qualified one.
As part of setting up our new business there were certain vital ingredients we knew we needed in order to make it successful. One of these was learning to fit shoes correctly, here’s how I recently became a qualified shoe fitter.
Did you know there is no legal obligation to know anything about feet or footwear to either own or work in a shoe shop? This means that there is no regulatory body to ensure that there are high standards in footwear retail. The damage that can be done to not only feet but overall health caused by wearing the wrong shoes is mind boggling. Shoe fitters with no real knowledge behind them could be damaging feet without realising it.
When Little bRogues was in the developmental stage, we knew how important is was to do everything we could to get it right. How can you have a successful children’s shoe shop without getting the fitting part right? Being new to the shoe world I enrolled onto the Society of Shoe-fitters course. You’d probably imagine that everyone with a shoe shop would do the same, but sadly not. There is a considerable (but worthwhile) expense to doing the SSF course and many retailers are not prepared to fork out for it.
The Society of Shoe-fitters, who are they?
The SSF is an organisation founded in 1959 to assist the trade and public in gathering information about correct shoe fitting and foot health. There are usually 250-350 members at any one time throughout the UK and overseas and they are made up from retail staff, supplier representatives, podiatrists, chiropodists and trainers from different manufactures. http://www.shoefitters-uk.org
To become a member of the society, the student has to qualify a 5 to 10 month course. This is a recognised industry qualification. It is distant learning that includes a great deal of research as well as completing assignments. Then understanding how the footwear industry works. Then anatomy, the foot and how it functions, the vital statistics and ingredients of a shoe, size scales, gauges, measurement, the shoe fitters toolbox and not least fitting. It includes practical workshops on shoe fitting and a visit to a shoe factory. Each paper is marked by your own personal tutor. My tutor was the past president of the Society of Shoe Fitters (so no pressure then!) Only people who has successfully reached the required standard can call themselves qualified shoe fitters and they gain the letters MSSF after their name.
What does it mean to be a qualified shoe fitter?
You only get one pair of feet, so why would you risk damaging them? You wouldn’t let a dentist poke around in your mouth unless you’d seen their certificate hanging on the wall. Ok, it’s not quite the same, but my point is, you can do so much damage by wearing the wrong shoes, you really need to get the right advice. There is no standardisation of sizing in shoes, in the same way there is none in clothing. This means that you could be three different dress sizes in three different shops. One measurement on a shoe gauge does not necessarily mean that size of shoe would be right for everyone measuring that number. There is so much to take into consideration, including foot width, toe shape, depth of foot, arch height and that’s just for starters.
A qualified shoe fitter can interpret all the data and have the knowledge to make the right shoe selections. There is no such thing as an average foot. 80% of people have feet of different sizes and all manner of foot ailments. These include bunions, heel spurs, hammer toes and that includes children’s feet so it’s not always an easy task. An experienced fitter can recognise potential foot health issues and can find ways to help correct or stop a problem from worsening.
Now the important bit – the fitting.
Important – A qualified shoe fitter has had comprehensive training, both in theory and in practice. There is so much more to it than simply putting a shoe on a foot and prodding to make sure there’s enough room for toes, in fact that is one tiny part of the process. It is just as dangerous to have shoes that are too big as too small. The foot needs to be held firmly in place so that it cannot slide around in the shoe as this could cause bunions, heel spurs, blisters and sores. This is often where people go wrong wanting their children’s shoes to last too long, particularly school shoes. https://littlebrogues.co.uk/product-category/school-shoes/
It is false economy when shoes are fitted badly as this can often mean that the child will not be able to wear them.
So what does it mean to me to be a qualified shoe fitter? Doing the Society of Shoe Fitters course was something I took seriously. If I’m going to do something, I want to do it right. I knew the more I put into my course the more I would get out of it. I cannot tell you how much more I know since doing my qualification.
When I’m in the shop, measuring and fitting feet, I have to get it right. I don’t want anyone leaving the shop unhappy. The in-depth knowledge I have gained from doing the SSF course means that I offer a very professional service with real knowledge behind me.
I always have children’s foot health at the forefront of my mind and can offer advice on anything foot related. I fit children’s feet properly and if it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t be sold. It’s great to wear my Society of Shoe Fitters badge with pride. My certificate is proudly displayed in the shop. It was really hard work, took a lot of my time, but was totally worth it. I mean, who doesn’t want letters after their name?!