Selecting footwear with appropriate fit in children is challenging due the changes with foot size and dimensions which occur throughout childhood. Access to appropriate footwear is important but recent challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in closure of retail stores for prolonged periods where parents/carers could not physically purchase footwear for their children and the footwear industry suffered disruption to their supply chain, and falls in retail sales. Simultaneously increased use of social media platforms for health information seeking throughout the pandemic have been documented. This likely would have included parents/carers seeking information online to support footwear purchases for their children. The primary aim of this work was to explore how searches for online fitting information for children changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown periods. A secondary aim was to identify how searches were influenced by footwear style.
We employed Google Trends to obtain search engine traffic related to footwear fitting information for children. We collected data spanning the three years pre, during and post the main national lockdown for three eight-week windows: (1) first eight weeks of the U.K. national lockdown; (2) the first eight weeks of the calendaryear; (3) the eight weeks leading up to children going back-to-school for the new academic year in the U.K. The search terms reflected parents/carers searching for footwear fit information relating to children and were grouped by style of footwear: children, infants, babies and toddlers as well as school shoes.
We identified increased searching for footwear fit information for children during the pandemic, which reduced following post pandemic in all except the searches which related to school shoes. We saw reductions in searching related to fit of school shoes as schools closed indefinitely and an increase in online searches with the pandemic. This was also maintained post-pandemic despite shops reopening, suggesting that some of these changes in information reflect new consumer behaviours which may continue.
Increased searches for online resources regarding footwear fit highlights the importance of ensuring high quality accessible online information on footwear fit is available to support those buying footwear for their children.