As the season of the school cross-country approaches, disagreement has emerged over whether children should run barefoot or wear running shoes.
Tauranga podiatrist John Miller says his North Island foot clinic chain sees "hundreds" of kids with injuries from running barefoot.
"Term two signifies a hectic time ... as many parents seek help for their children following painful foot injuries resulting from running barefoot in school events."
Children's feet were easily damaged as they were still developing. Painful inflammation of a bone growth-plate in the heel was the most common injury.
"The simple answer to reduce foot injuries is to get children to wear appropriate shoes for the duration of the event."
But orthopaedic surgeon Dr Richard Nicol, of Starship children's hospital in Auckland, dismissed the need for children to wear shoes for running, at least for pain prevention.
"Heel pain in children and in adults is very common, particularly in growing children. There's no evidence that wearing shoes prevents that from occurring," said Dr Nicol. A raised heel could relieve such pain once it had started, he said.
"We all got around fine in bare feet as kids and are doing okay as adults. The same can be said for the current generation."
Many parents could not afford running shoes and school shoes and the money might be better spent on educational needs.
But running barefoot exposed children to more injuries from hazards like nails and New Zealand had a higher incidence of such injuries than places where children were more inclined to wear shoes because of a cooler climate.
Shoeless running has some winning precedents: former women's world cross-country champion Zola Budd did it, as did the Ethiopian, Abebe Bikila, when he won gold in the marathon at the 1960 Olympics.
But the principals of two Auckland intermediate schools, Ponsonby and Glen Eden, said they asked children to wear trainers.
"We do it more to avoid cut feet, rather than strains," said Glen Eden principal Gerry Hewetson. About 80 per cent of his pupils complied with the request to wear shoes during physical education.
Ponsonby's Wim Boxen said his school insisted on shoes because of risks like stubbed toes or cuts from glass when running on local streets. But at the start of his teaching career, "25 to 30 years ago", wearing shoes for PE and the cross country was rare.