Introduction: Adolescents participate in up to 120 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day, of which 23% is performed during school hours and in school footwear. The aim of this study was to ascertain the most important factors influencing school footwear selection among adolescents, their parents and secondary school principals.
Methods: An online survey performed through Qualtrics was distributed to principals, secondary school students and their parents across Australia between March 2021 to April 2022. Participants responded to questions regarding school footwear use, footwear characteristics and factors influencing footwear choice.
Results: 122 secondary school students (average [SD] age: 16.08 [1.53] years), 140 parents and 80 secondary school principals responded to the survey. Secondary school students spent on average 8  hours per day in school shoes for 3  days per week. 24% of students reported foot, ankle, shin, or knee soreness when wearing school shoes. Most principals (95%) and parents (91%) considered footwear to be important to musculoskeletal health, compared to 66% of students. 93% of parents, 85% of principals and 73% of students rated comfort of the shoe as important for footwear choice. Appearance of the shoe and meeting school uniform guidelines was considered important by 58% and 54% of students, respectively. Presentation of the school in the community and student uniformity was considered important by 84% of principals, with recommendations provided by health professionals important to 66% of principals. 70% of principals reported that they would consider changing the school footwear requirements for students.
Discussion: Shoe comfort is the most important factor in the selection of school footwear chosen by secondary school students and their parents across Australia. Nearly a quarter of secondary school students report lower limb soreness when wearing school shoes and this may influence participation in physical activity. Principals rate comfort of the shoe, student uniformity and presentation of the school in the community equally important when developing school footwear guidelines. Principals placed less emphasis on recommendations provided by health professionals, despite most principals considering footwear to be important to musculoskeletal health.
Impact and application to the field: Better evidence describing the impact of school footwear on lower limb musculoskeletal health may help support principals in the development of school footwear guidelines.
Conflict of interest: My co-authors and I acknowledge that we have no conflict of interest of relevance to the submission of this abstract.