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Shopping for Children's Shoes

Top Tips and Advice

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Daughter trying on shoes with mother and salesperson
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Unlike many adults, kids don't really enjoy shopping for shoes. But at the rate they outgrow them, trying shoes on is absolutely essential for growing feet. Here are some tips that will help you be certain that your children's shoes fit properly, and remove some of the nightmare elements of shopping for kids' shoes.

When to Buy New Shoes for Your Child

Unless your child complains that they are uncomfortable, you may not know when it's time for a new pair of shoes.

It's a good idea to periodically check your children's shoes to make sure what they're wearing is still working for them.

Look for particularly worn areas, or stressed seams. If the sides are bulging or wearing out more quickly than the rest of the shoe, then they may not be wide enough. Toes that bend upwards are also a sign of shoes that don't fit properly, and worn out toes or heels can also mean it's time for a new pair of shoes.

Shopping Tips for Children's Shoes

  • Shoe shopping should always be done later in the afternoon or evening, since feet swell over the course of the day.

  • If you're child is particularly not into shoe shopping, look for a store that specializes in children's footwear, as the staff should be well-versed in how to deal with the reluctant shoe shopper.

  • While there are so many cute and trendy shoes available for kids, unless it's for a very special occasion, it's best to avoid overspending as children outgrow shoes so quickly and new shoe occasions are seemingly always right around the corner.

Getting the Right Fit in Kids' Shoes

  • Have your children's feet measured when buying shoes, since what might seem comfortable to them for a minute or two in the store is very different from what will be comfortable after a day of playing. Feet should be measured while standing, and always have both feet measured. Since one foot is usually larger than the other, buy shoes to accommodate the larger of the two feet.

  • When your child is wearing the shoes, and their feet are fully extended (watch for toe crunching!), there should be a bit of room between the edge of the shoe toe and the edge of your child's toes - about a half inch.

  • With the rate children outgrow shoes, it's probably tempting to buy shoes that are too big, but you should never buy shoes that are more than one size too large for your child. Shoes that are too big can cause a child to trip and develop foot problems while trying to walk in shoes that are too large.

  • Obviously a shoe that has too tight of a heel will cause discomfort, but having shoes that are too loose is also very problematic. The heel of the shoes should rest snugly but not tightly around your the back of the child's heel.

  • As adults, we often say we're "breaking in" a pair of shoes - this is really a bad idea for anyone, but particularly for kids. Shoes need to be immediately comfortable - don't allow for a breaking in period or expect shoes to get more comfortable over time - they need to fit and feel good now.

Choosing Shoes for Children

  • Children's shoes should have laces, velcro or some other fastening system. As a general rule, avoid backless or slip-on shoes for kids.

  • Look for shoes made from breathable materials, such such as canvas or leather. In addition to being more durable, they will help to keep the child's foot cooler and dryer, helping to prevent blisters, discomfort, and smelly shoes.

  • While they may look cute, always avoid heels on children's shoes. Not only is it difficult for kids to walk in heels, they are particularly bad for proper foot development. When it comes to children's shoes, stick with flats and even soles.

  • Look for a pattern or textured sole, as this will provide traction and help prevent your child from easily slipping on slick surfaces.

  • Soles should be sturdy and thick enough to protect the feet from pain and injury, but the sole also needs to be flexible too so that it will bend with the foot.

  • Once you've found shoes that fit and are appropriately designed for a child's feet, allow your children some input as to which shoes they prefer. It's bound to make for a better shopping experience if they get to choose a color or design they like from shoes that fit well and are appropriate for growing feet.
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