December 9, 2016

How to Find the Best Shoe (and Fit) for Your Child

Choose fit and function over fashion

How to Find the Best Shoe (and Fit) for Your Child

When you go shopping for your kids, are you overwhelmed by shoe choices? It’s tempting to go for the most adorable pair, but choosing the best shoe for your little boy or girl depends on more on fit and function than on fashion. Making the effort to get a good fit now helps develop their healthy feet for life.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“A child’s foot can continue to grow until about age 18,” says foot and ankle surgeon Nicole Nicolosi, DPM. “That’s why proper shoe fit and function are so vital to your kid’s foot health and development.”

In the short term, shoes that don’t fit correctly can create foot pain for your little one, along with calluses, corns, ingrown toenails or blisters.

In the long term, more serious issues like foot and toe deformities can develop. If your child wears ill-fitting shoes throughout his or her developmental years — especially before age 5 — it can also lead to other long-term problems with posture or walking — or it can even cause back pain later in life.

In fact, many foot problems in adulthood begin with ill-fitting shoes or poor foot experiences during childhood, Dr. Nicolosi says.

She offers five tips to help you walk away with the best pair:

1. Get your child’s feet measured

Have your child’s feet measured in a shoe store instead of trying to do it yourself at home. A store associate will have the best equipment to find the correct length and width for your child’s feet.


Additional tip: It’s best to have your little one stand and put a bit of weight on each foot, which elongates it for a more accurate measurement.

2. Don’t buy too big

One of the most common issues Dr. Nicolosi sees is parents buying shoes that are too big for their children. This is especially worrisome for infants and toddlers who are just learning to walk and are often wobbly on their feet, she says.

“Parents often buy bigger shoes thinking their children will grow into them and they’ll last longer,” she says. “But the reality is that shoes a half or whole size too large leave your child vulnerable to trips and falls that could lead to injury.”

3. Always check the toes

Adequate width and depth in the front of the shoe, or toe box, help prevent overcrowding or increased pressure on the toes. Make sure your child can easily move the front of the foot in his or her shoes and wiggle toes freely — without any slippage or squished toes.

Allow between 1 and 2 centimeters (or about a thumb’s width) from the longest toe to the front of the shoe. More than 3 cm is too big; less than 1 cm is too small, Dr. Nicolosi says.

4. Function beats style — go for support

Children are usually energetic and enjoy sports and other physical activities, so it’s best to choose closed-toe athletic shoes with arch support, Dr. Nicolosi says.


Rubber soles are also great for kids because they have increased slip resistance and help reduce the risk of falls. Hard soles allow for better support, while a shoe that you can freely bend back and forth (soft sole) offers very little support and control of foot motion, she says.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society also suggests buying shoes made with breathable materials such as leather, canvas or mesh. Children’s feet tend to sweat more than adults’ feet. These materials can help with air flow.

5. If the shoe doesn’t fit, replace it

If your child is in his growing years, you may need to check and replace shoes as often as every three or four months, Dr. Nicolosi says.

Kids’ feet often grow about a half size in that time, and they need plenty of room to allow their feet to grow properly, she says.

Take the time to measure and fit shoes properly and choose styles that offer good support, and you’ll get your kids off on the right foot for life.

Related Articles

Female swimmer in the water at edge of a pool
December 1, 2023
Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer?

Physical activity and weight management can minimize your chances of getting the disease

Two people standing in the cold.
November 29, 2023
10 Colds Not To Catch This Winter

The flu, RSV, COVID-19, pneumonia and more typically circulate during cold weather months

Parent breastfeeding baby on bed, against the headboard.
November 27, 2023
Looking for Foods To Increase Your Milk Supply? Think Big Picture

No single food will increase your milk, but an overall healthy diet will help

Parent uses manual baby aspirator to open up nasal passages of baby.
November 22, 2023
Prevent Phlegm in Your Baby’s Throat With a Nasal Aspirator

Keeping your baby’s airways clear of mucus helps with breathing and feeding

Two different vaccines and needles displayed in foreground.
November 22, 2023
Which Vaccines Can You Get at the Same Time?

Getting routine vaccinations together can save you time and may be more effective

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 22, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Toddler drinking from a cup while at the table during dinner.
November 21, 2023
Toddler Drinks — What Does the Research Say About These Products?

They aren’t unhealthy, but they’re probably a waste of money

person drinking coffee at computer at night
November 15, 2023
Is It Bad To Drink Coffee Late at Night?

Depending on your sensitivity to caffeine, a late-night cup may be just fine

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try