How to Buy and Size Kids Shoes

What to look for and how to choose the best fit

shoe shopping and sizing for kids
Taking your preschooler shoe shopping? Here is what you'll need to keep in mind. Thomas Barwick

Is it time to go shoe shopping with your preschooler? While there are a ton of options available, from sneakers to dress shoes, from sandals to hiking boots and so much more, buying kids shoes is more than just heading to your local shoe store and choosing a pair featuring your little one's favorite character (although your preschooler may argue that is the most important part!).

According to Dr. Lori Grant, a foot and ankle surgeon at Orlando Health, choosing the right pair of shoes could actually affect your preschooler's overall health.

She has developed four questions for parents who are going shoe shopping with their preschooler in order to determine if they are a good choice.

1. Are they the right size?

School-aged children’s feet typically grow at least one size per year until their mid-teens. Get your child’s feet professionally measured at least every 4-5 months during this period. Because different shoe brands use different sizing guidelines, measuring before each shoe purchase is a good rule to follow during this high-growth period.

​​​​2. Are they comfortable?

Ask your child how the shoes feels on their foot. Shoes that don’t fit properly will aggravate the foot. Listen to what your child says as they are testing them in the store. Most people have one foot that is larger than the other. Make sure the shoe is comfortable on the larger foot.

3. Are they appropriate for your child’s lifestyle?

When selecting shoes take into account your child’s age, activity level and overall lifestyle.

If your child plays sports they will need an athletic shoe designed for that sport. If your child walks to school each day make sure they wear a high quality, durable shoe.

4. Does your child like them?

After the shoes meet the technical criteria then ask your child if they like them. If a child is forced to choose a shoe that they don’t like, they may opt to wear old, ill-fitting shoes instead.

How Do I Know if My Child Is Ready for a New Pair of Shoes?

If your preschooler is complaining that his or her shoes are tight, that's a pretty solid sign that a trip to the shoe store is in your near future. But there are other things you'll want to look for and consider as well:

  • Are your preschooler's shoes worn out in any places?
  • Are the laces or Velcro fastenings frayed?
  • Has your preschooler gone through a growth spurt?
  • Are the sides of the shoes bulging out (may mean they aren't wide enough)?
  • Are the tips of the shoes turning upwards?
  • Is your child suddenly walking in a strange manner?
  • Does your child constantly ask to remove their shoes or does he or she remove them on their own?

If a shoe is causing your child pain, it's likely they'll say something about it. But often times a child will be so used to wearing their shoes that they won't even notice if they aren't fitting properly. 

When it is time to go shoe shopping with your preschooler, try to go in the afternoon or evening. While this might conflict with your preschooler's napping schedule, feet do tend to swell as the day goes on.

So going later in the day will help ensure a better fit. If you can, see if the salesperson can size your preschooler's feet for you and help your preschooler try on the shoes. A salesperson will have a good idea if certain brands run small or large or if there are different options available. 

While it might be tempting to go a size when buying shoes, it's not a great idea. Shoes that are too big can cause your preschooler to trip or walk incorrectly. Also, don't buy tie shoes with the expectation that your child will learn to tie them right away. Most kids aren't ready to tie their shoes until they are about five years old. If you buy tie shoes for your little one, expect that you will be tying them!


Dr. Lori Grant, Orlando Health

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