Toddler Shoe Tips and Baby Shoe Sizes: U.S. Versus European

Finding the Right Size Shoe for Your Baby

Pregnant woman
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Your little one is upright and taking his or her first tentative steps. You couldn't be more excited—you finally get to buy that adorable pair of miniature Baby Jordans. But does your baby really need them? Well, yes and no. When a baby first begins to toddle—typically between 8 and 18 months—there's no need for him or her to wear shoes inside the house. But outside, those tender feet need protection.

Finding the Right Fit

The trick to finding the right shoe is making sure it fits. Though a little extra space in the toe is necessary, don't try to make footwear purchases last longer by buying shoes a few sizes too big. A novice walker has enough trouble without slipping out of his or her shoes.

When your baby's trying on shoes, watch your child's response. If a pair seems to hurt or if they are having trouble walking, take them off. Avoid trendy styles especially those with pointy toes, which can pinch tiny toes and restrict growth. Also avoid clogs, which look cute but fall off easily.

What If a Toddler Can't Try On Shoes?

While the best way to ensure you're getting the correct shoes for your baby is to try them on, there are times when that's not possible. Maybe you're buying baby shoes as a gift and you found the perfect pair but it's a U.K .or European brand. Or, maybe you found a deal online you just can't pass up. Whatever your reason, you'll need a chart to help you determine which shoe size to buy for the special baby in your life.

Tips to Keep in Mind About This Chart

  • Average age is an average. If the baby you're buying for is big for his/her age, the clothing size column may be a better indicator of what shoe size to buy.
  • European and UK baby shoe brands tend to run larger, on average, than American baby shoe brands; a size 18 E.U., for example, is more like a 3.5 U.S.
  • Most brands have specific sizing charts for their shoes; look to see if you can find one on their website to help you make the best choice.
  • Measuring a baby's foot can be a challenge! Here is a video that shows how to get a proper foot measurement of your wiggly little one.
Foot Length (inches) Size (US) Size (UK) Size (EU) Average Age Average Size
3.5" 1 0.5 16 6 weeks - 3 months NB or 0-3M
3.75" 2 1 17 3-6 months 3-6M
4.125" 3 2 18 6-9 months 6-12M
4.5" 4 3 19 9-12 months 12-18M
4.75" 5 4 20 12-18 months 18M
5.125" 6 5 21 18-24 months 2T
5.5" 7 6 22 2 years 3T
5.75" 8 7 23 2.5 years 4T

Other Footwear Tips

Do The Thumb Test: A child's longest toe should be a thumb's width (roughly half an inch) from the tip of the shoe. The back of the shoe should be snug but comfortable. If a baby's heel slides out easily, the shoe is too big; if the shoe pinches the heel, it's too small. Have a salesperson measure both of your child's feet.

What Gives?: Footwear should be porous and flexible. Shoes made entirely of rubber or plastic tend to be stiff and cause excessive sweating. Choose cloth, canvas, or leather, which stretch and allow a shoe to bend.

Go Boxy: The dimensions of the shoe should approximate the shape of a child's foot, so choose square or oval shapes.

Feel The Heel: The back of the shoe should be snug but comfortable. If a baby's heel slides out easily, the shoe is too big; if the shoe pinches the heel, it's too small.

It Takes Two: Have a salesperson measure both of your child's feet. Most babies have as much as a half-size difference between feet. Always buy shoes to fit the larger foot.

Go High Style: For babies between the ages of 9 and 18 months, high-top sneakers and soft leather ankle boots will stay on better than low-cut styles.

Keep Tabs: Toddlers outgrow their shoes quickly. A new pair may be too small after just three to four months. To ensure a proper fit, do the thumb test every few months.

Get In The Groove: Moderately grooved rubber soles go a long way toward preventing a wobbly toddler from slipping. Try roughing up the soles of slick-bottomed shoes with sandpaper for better traction.