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We all know how uncomfortable a pair of ill-fitting shoes can be; feet can be pinched in shoes that are too narrow, rubbed sore or blistered, and can ache as a result muscles compensating for a lack of adequate support.
For children, with growing feet, a more active lifestyle and that baby-soft skin, getting the right fit is even more important!
Here are some tips to ensure that you pick a pair that will fit your child well;
Once your child begins wearing shoes their feet should be measured, and the shoes checked, regularly to make sure that they are wearing the correct size. Children’s feet grow extremely fast; on average 2 sizes a year up until age 4 and then a size a year after that. Experts recommend measuring feet every 6-8 weeks to ensure that your child is in the right size.
Our feet are uniquely shaped and have a number of different qualities. Children’s feet, in particular, vary widely in terms of width for example. It can be helpful to know how wide your children’s feet are when shopping for shoes as many retailers are now offering a variety of width fittings.
Another important factor to note is the length and prominence of toes. Many children (and adults!) have 2nd toes that are longer than their “big toes” so of course this must be taken into consideration when selecting a shoe size, usually by sizing up.
Flat-footedness, sometimes called “fallen arches” is a condition in which the entire sole of the foot appears flush to the floor. Most babies and toddlers feet are ‘flat’ but this is usually outgrown around age 2, for those that do not outgrow their flat feet this is usually not a serious problem though supportive shoes will help. Flat feet are often accompanied by a wider spread of the foot, so check width fittings carefully and size up if needed.
Another common condition in childhood that may affect shoe sizing is hypermobility; which is where joints are ‘looser’ than expected. As a result, children may appear clumsy or uncoordinated and struggle with running and balance and will often tire more easily. For children with hypermobility, well-fitting shoes are very important and whilst it may be tempting to size up in order to make shoes last longer this will not support a hypermobile child’s feet adequately. Shoes in the correct size with a higher rise over the ankle are the most supportive option.
Many online retailers of children’s shoes provide tools and print outs to help you determine your child’s size. Check the site you are ordering from for their size chart and any additional information they have to offer, for example, ABCKIDS has diagrams of common feet shapes and advice on whether to size up. Some retailers even have their own fitting tools you can order to physically measure your child’s feet, though beware these are store specific and will cost you!
In a physical store, it is relatively easy to ask for advice on correct sizing, but now online retailers are making it easier for their customers to get advice on fitting their own children’s shoes too. In addition to providing size charts and sizing advice, ABC Kids now offers an email help service where you can send off your child’s measurements and receive help on the correct size to purchase.
When you receive your child’s shoes it’s important that you carry out some checks at home to make sure that you have the best fit possible. Firstly, put the new shoes on and ask your child to sit down. Check that the shoe is adequately gripping their heel by gently pulling the heel of the shoe downwards.
When your child is standing, use your fingers to feel around the top of the shoes checking that there are no gaps between the shoe and the foot. Pay careful attention at the heel, there should not be a gap between the shoe and the child’s heel.
Conversely, the shoes should not touch the ankle bone as it may rub so ensure that the material of the shoe is clear of the ankle bone in lower cut styles. Obviously, a boot will come up over the ankle bone.
While your child is still standing to check the length of the shoes by gently pressing down to find the end of your child’s longest toe. Ensure that this toe is not touching the end of the shoes and that there is adequate room from growth, usually 1-1.5cm is about right.
Checking the width of the shoes is important too, and you can do this by feeling down the sides of the shoes with your hands, looking out for any bulging or pressure. Either of these would indicate that the shoe does not fit well.
Finally, ask your child to walk in their new shoes and watch carefully, they should be able to walk normally without tripping or struggling and the shoes should not move excessively on the foot. If your child is old enough to express themselves then go ahead and ask them how the shoes feel.
We are so lucky to live in an age where information like this is so widely available, and we are able to order shoes online. This takes the sales pressure and some of the expense out of buying shoes for kids and, considering they grow so quickly, this is a great help to many parents!