Buying shoes for your child can be overwhelming at times. With so many styles to choose from — not to mention the picky and ever-changing fashion tastes of youngsters as well as their growth spurts — finding the right footwear isn’t easy. But if you want to start your child off on the right foot for a lifetime of healthy feet, taking the extra time to select the best-fitting shoes as they grow is worth the effort (and cost).
You’ll most likely need to buy quite a few pairs of shoes for your child as they mature. Up until age 18, your child’s foot will grow about a half size every three to four months. To ensure your child slips into comfortable yet supportive footwear along the way, here are some buying tips.
General Tips for Buying Your Child’s Shoes
For children who are just starting to walk, or are walking already, you can follow these general guidelines:
Get the Right Fit. At the shoe store, don’t try to guess your child’s shoe size. Instead, ask an employee to measure your child’s foot for length and width. For a more accurate measurement, have your child put some weight on their foot as they stand.
You may be tempted to buy a shoe that is a half-size larger than their current size to allow for a growth spurt, but a too-big shoe will make your child feel unsteady as they walk. A too-small shoe will pinch your child’s feet and cause pain. Always have them try the shoes on before buying, as the shoe must feel comfortable from the start. Don’t expect to “break in” a new pair. Also, remember that shoe sizes vary between brands, so a size in one brand may not be the same in another.
Roomy Toe. The shoe should match the shape of your child’s foot, meaning wider at the toe and narrower at the heel. A shoe with a roomy toe area provides enough space for the child’s toes to move. Note that a pointy toe is not recommended for youngsters. If the toes are scrunched, your child could develop painful foot problems, such as callouses, hammertoes, blisters, or bunions. Ideally, the space between the longest toe and the front tip of the shoe should be around the width of a thumb.
Flexible Yet Supportive. Footwear should have both flexibility and stable soles that provide traction. The shoes should be able to bend to allow for maximum foot movement. However, if the shoe can be twisted too easily, it’s probably too soft for proper support. The back of the shoe should fit snugly around your child’s heel for stability. Look for support around the ankles, too.
Pick Natural Fibers. Children’s feet tend to sweat profusely. To maintain a dry foot and avoid fungal infections, choose shoes made with natural fibers, such as leather. This will allow the foot to breathe.
Lace Up. Shoes with laces are optimal, because they provide some growing room while also keeping the foot firmly in place.
Best Shoes by Age
The best shoe for your child depends on their age. As your child grows, keep these suggestions in mind:
Baby Shoes. Because the child isn’t yet walking, a soft booty to keep the feet warm is all you’ll need.
Toddlers. Toddlers from 9 months to 3 years old are learning how to walk, so a lightweight shoe with a smooth rubber sole can prevent them from slipping and falling. Shoes with ties will provide a more secure fit, as well. As far as arch support, children don’t fully develop arches until 6 to 8 years old. If your child has a high arch, pick footwear with cushioning and a softer midsole.
School-Age Children. At this stage, your child can choose from a variety of styles, from sneakers and athletic shoes to sandals. Shoes should be lightweight and flexible, with enough padding to absorb shocks at the heel and sole. Look for a pair with treading along the bottom for traction.
Starting on the Right Foot
Your child’s feet play an important role in their development as they learn to walk and play. If your child experiences foot pain, the experienced staff at Kids’ Health can examine their feet and suggest the proper footwear. Contact us for a consultation....