How to Choose Children's Shoes

Before buying shoes for your infant there are some things you might want to consider to help you make more intelligent decisions.

Shoes or bare feet

The purpose of wearing shoes is to protect the feet from injury (from sharp or scratchy surfaces and rough terrain), from the cold or burns from hot asphalt surfaces. When walking inside the house, sand or grass, your child need not wear shoes.

Before your child is able to walk, keep your child’s feet warm during cold weather with socks or booties.

When your child has learned how to walk, he/she will want to walk barefoot because it allows him/her to better "grasp" the ground, and it gives him/her a better sense of where his/her feet are. Walking barefoot also allows your child to use his/her toes for balance. Walking with shoes may inhibit these functions and interfere with learning how to walk.

Shoe types

During your child’s first year of walking, opt for moccasins over sneakers. Moccasins usually have softer soles that allow for healthy ‘foot roll’. Toddlers who wear sneakers sometimes have too much traction; catch the rubber sole on things and then fall.

When your child is a little older, you can buy your child sneakers (tennis shoes) or other types of shoes that have flexible soles that allow the feet to move freely. Sneakers or tennis shoes are comfortable, are well ventilated and have excellent traction.

As for hand-me-down shoes, they are okay to be used as long as they are still in good condition (soles are still skid-proof). 

Shoes with heels are not advisable for any age. They can cause tripping during the first two years. High-top shoes do not provide any additional function, except when your child’s feet continue to slip out of low-cut shoes. Sneakers are fine for flat-footed children and do not necessarily have to wear special shoes (or heels).

Shoe size and fit

Parents eventually learn how to determine if a shoe fits. To check the fit of the shoe, let your child try it on standing up with his weight on the shoes. The shoes should be about half an inch longer than the big toe. To check if the width of the shoe is right, see if you can grasp a small piece of shoe at the widest part of the foot.

Check the heel area. It should be snug enough to keep the shoe from slipping and from flopping up and down when walking. ‘Maximum flex’ should be where the foot flexes, not in the middle of the shoes as most of us think.

Growing children

Children grow up fast. Shoes can get too tight for them even before they wear out. During ages 2-3, children can grow a lot that they sometimes need to change shoe size at least 3 times in year. Therefore, make sure your child has the right size by checking every two months.