9 Most Important Features to Look for in a Child’s Shoe

If you feel like your kids are always outgrowing their shoes, you’re not just imagining things. Did you know that children’s feet can grow up to two sizes in one year? For that reason, back-to-school shoe shopping is not the only time you’ll find yourself back in the shoe store. Buying shoes for growing kids is a year-round quest, and the right shoe makes all the difference. Here are eight important features to look for in your child’s next pair.

The best shoe for kids (and the best toddler shoes) should always:

Buy the right size

Kids Shoe Size Chart

Make sure to always buy the right size!

Be measured to your child’s foot

Don’t shop by size alone. Children’s feet are softer and less sensitive than adults’, so poorly fitting shoes won’t necessarily bother them. Always shoe shop with your child present so they can have their feet measured at the shoe store by a professional to get a truly accurate fit. (Just make sure they are wearing the socks or tights they intend to wear with the shoes they are trying on!)

How to use a Brannock Device?

Use a Brannock Device to measure the size of your kids’ feet. Press heel against rear cup and measure foot length and width of both feet. Then go for the longer shoe size.

Have a roomy fit

The shoe should be roomy in both width and length, with lots of wiggle room for toes. Remember to always buy the size of the larger foot (no two feet are exactly the same size). Furthermore, avoid footwear that needs to be “broken-in”. Children’s shoes should feel comfortable from the moment your child tries them on.

How Much Space Should a Child Have in Their Shoes?

Childrens’ shoes should have 1 – 2 inches of additional room for growth.

Resemble the shape of the feet

Bear in mind that a child’s foot is not a tiny version of an adult’s. Kids’ feet are wider at the front, and narrower at the back. The shoe should therefore not be the same width from the toes to the heel like an adult shoe might be.

Have a flat sole

The sole of the shoe you choose should be flat on the ground, and flexible enough to bend at the toes. (However, the shoe shouldn’t be too twisty in the middle.)

Have a sturdy, solid heel counter

The heel counter is the part of the shoe which goes around the back of the heel. It should be rigid for maximum support.

Have fasteners, shoelaces or straps

These features ensure a snug fit to support and protect your child’s foot. They will also prevent the foot from slipping around inside the shoe.

Be made from quality materials

The shoes you choose for your child should ideally not be made from synthetic materials, even if they are cheaper. Go with quality materials, like leather and rubber.

Have a new sole

Although it’s tempting for penny-pinching parents to hand down shoes from one kid to the next, footwear should be checked before being used. As used shoes will be molded to the original wearer’s foot shape, you should always buy a new sole.

Characteristics of children’s feet

Kids’ feet are both softer and less sensitive than adult feet. For that reason, when children wear shoes that are too tight, they do not necessarily feel the pressure on their toes like an adult would. This is why kids sometimes don’t seem to care when their shoes are on the wrong feet, or notice that their toes are rolled under when forced into a shoe that is too small.

The risks of poorly fitting kids’ shoes

Most parents don’t know that poorly fitting shoes on children can result in irreversible foot damage and create lasting foot problems that extend into adulthood. Choosing the proper shoes for your child is about so much more than just comfort — it’s about their health as well. Did you know that over 65% of kids are wearing shoes that are too small for their feet?

Because kids’ feet are so soft and malleable, they are easily deformed by the wrong footwear. You shouldn’t rely solely on how comfortable your child tells you their shoes feel when they’re wearing them. Instead, you should be measuring their feet regularly to make sure there is still a sufficient amount of wiggle room in their shoes as their feet grow. (And they are growing all the time!)

What does a child’s shoe have to be like?

An expensive shoe does not automatically mean a better fit. Children’s shoe and sock size can change every few months, and they shouldn’t be passed down, so pricey shoes can be a waste of money. What matters far more than price is the actual fit, and the only way to know for sure “if the shoe fits” is to take your child shoe shopping with you to get their feet properly measured.

How do I choose healthy shoes for kids?

Children’s feet are mostly made of soft cartilage, so they are easily misshapen by the wrong shoe. Regular foot measurements and properly fitting shoes ensure healthy foot growth and can prevent lifelong foot problems.

Always keep an eye on the heels of your child’s shoes — kids tend to wear through their heels faster than they outgrow the shoes themselves. If you notice that the heels are wearing unevenly, that might indicate a foot problem that should be checked by a podiatrist. Orthopedic kids shoes recommended by a podiatrist can potentially correct improper foot development in children before it becomes permanent.

What does the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommend?

The APMA has a quick three question test to help you determine if your child’s shoe/baby walking shoes “makes the grade”:

  • Does the shoe have a stiff heel? The shoe shouldn’t collapse when you press on both sides of the heel counter.
  • Is the toe flexible? The shoe shouldn’t be too stiff in the toe area, but it shouldn’t fold up too much when pressed either.
  • Does the shoe have a rigid middle? The shoe shouldn’t twist in the middle.