What Parents Should Know About Shopping for Children's Shoes

Get the Right Fit and the Right Material

Daughter trying on shoes with mother and salesperson
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Shopping for children's shoes can be a trying experience. Unlike many adults, kids don't really enjoy shopping for footwear. But at the rate they outgrow shoes, trying them on is a must. Use the tips that follow to help you be certain that your children's shoes fit properly. With any luck, your next trip to the mall for kids' shoes won't be a pain.  

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 indicate it's time for a new pair of shoes as well.

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 your 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 many cute and trendy shoes available for kids, unless it's for a very special occasion, it's best to avoid overspending on shoes since children grow so quickly and new shoe occasions are 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. Always have both feet measured because one foot is usually larger than the other. Buy shoes to accommodate the larger of the two feet.

When your children are 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 children'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.

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 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 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 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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