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Children's Footwear (Child's Shoes)

    Information for health professionals on footwear

Child's shoes

Parents so often worry about their children's teeth, eyes, and most other parts of the body, but do not worry so much over the developing foot. As many adult foot problems can have their origins in childhood, attention to footwear in children can minimize the risk of these problems in adults.


Importance of the shoe to the child:

Poorly fitting children's shoes can cause a number of problems in adults such as hammer toes, ingrown toenails, foot corns, calluses and bunions. Given the high level of pain and discomfort that these problems can cause, it is obviously logical to attempt to prevent these problems by ensuring that the child's shoe is fitted appropriately. Foot problems in children are usually preventable.

Fitting footwear for the child:

The most important factor in shoes for a child is that they fit. Preferably, this means that shoes are fitted by someone who has had some special training in the fitting of children's footwear.

Advice for the fitting of a child's footwear:

* Children should have their feet measured about every 3 months (thus ensuring the need for new shoes as required).

* Generally, for a shoe to be correctly fitted, there should be a thumb width between the end of the shoe and the end of the longest toe.

* When looking at the bottom (sole) of the shoe, it should be relatively straight (not curved in too much) - the foot is straight, so the shoe should be straight.

* The fastening mechanism (laces, velcro, buckles) should hold the heel firmly in the back of the shoe (the foot should not be able to slide forward in the shoe).

* the heel counter (back part of the shoe) should be strong and stable.

* the shoe should be flexible across the ball of the foot, as this is where the foot bends. The shoe should not bend where the foot does not bend (ie in the arch area).

* Leather and canvas are a better material - they are more durable and can breathe. Synthetic materials do not breathe as well, unless they are of the 'open weave' type. Avoid plastics.

* Check that the shoes have rounded toe boxes to give the toes more room to move.

* Shoes should not need to be "broken in". If they do, they are either poorly designed or poorly fitted.

* An absorbent insole is helpful, as the foot can sweat a lot - children are very active!

* A number of retail stores specialize in footwear for the child - use them!

* Fitting footwear properly in adults is also just as important


3 tips for checking the child's shoe:

There should be a thumb width between the end of the shoe and the end of the longest toe = length is correct.
You should be able to pinch the upper of the shoe between the thumb and forefinger (this may depend on the nature of the material) = width is correct.
Does the shoe fit snugly around the heel and instep? How stable is the shoe when trying to 'pull off' the shoe? = good fit.

Growth of the child's foot:

Those under the age of 16-18 months grow more than half a foot size every two months. Toddlers from the ages of 16 to 24 months grow an average of half a foot size every three months. When they are 24 to 36 months old they grow approximately half a foot size every four months. Over the age of 3 years of age, they increase half a foot size every four to six months.


Types of child's footwear:

Pre-walkers (babies and those still crawling) do not need shoes - they need booties or prewalking shoes that do not restrict the foot's movements. They should be flexible and not supportive, and conform to the shape of the foot.

The first "real" shoes can be used when the child first starts to walk unaided (usually around ages 9 to 18 months). Fitting toddlers shoes should follow the guidelines above. Encourage bare foot in protected environments (eg indoors).

A soft and pliable sneaker is usual ideal footwear for children at most ages, as long as it has plenty of room for the toes.


Support from the child's shoe:

Prevention of injury is one of the primary purposes of footwear. It is seldom possible for footwear to be used to correct a child's deformity or alter the growth pattern of a shoe. If there is concern, consult a podiatrist.

The support from children's shoes is controversial.

Links of relevance to the child's shoe:

Foot Problems in Children

Heel pain in children

Sever's disease (Calcaneal apophysitis)

Fitting Footwear

ePodiatry's resources on footwear

Find a Podiatrist

Ask a question in the foot health forum about children's footwear

Book on children's walking:

Is Your Child Walking Right?: Parents Guide to Little Feet


Buy foot care products:

USA & Canada: UK & Europe: Australia & NZ:
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ePodiatry is purely a source of information about children's shoes and should at no time be considered as replacing the expertise of a health professional. We recommend seeking professional advice for all foot problems, especially fitting childrens footwear before embarking on any form of self treatment or management. Neither the content or any other service provided through ePodiatry is intended to be relied on for medical diagnosis or treatment. Do not delay in seeking health professional advice because of something seen on ePodiatry.
©2003. The information contained on this page about child's shoes or children footwear is subject to copyright. No part of the information fitting childs footwear contained on this page can be reproduced in any form without the permission of ePodiatry.

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