Children’s shoe fitting – a step by step guide!

Shoe sizing and correct fitting can be confusing. Navigating different brands, sizes and widths may seem daunting at first, so we’ve written a short informative guide to help you get to grips with the essential steps when choosing your child’s shoes.

Children’s feet are particularly vulnerable to the side effects of unsuitable shoes. The bones of the foot, all 26 of them, continue growing and developing into the late teens. During this period of ossification, the feet are particularly malleable to poorly fitting shoes. We only get one pair of feet in our lifetime, they support our body weight and give us the mobility to hop, skip and jump through life, so it is important to get shoes right. Here are a few tips and tricks we’d like to share with you on picking the best shoes for you child.

General steps:

If you would like to check the fit of your child’s shoes at home, here are some basic steps to get you started:

1. Fully open to the fastenings to help the shoe onto your child’s foot.

2. Guide the heel of the foot right to the back of each shoe.

3. Fasten the shoe to secure the foot:

– For lace up shoes at least a 6mm gap is recommended between adjacent eyelets.
– For Mary Jane rip tap straps, at least 80% of the two surfaces should be in contact with one another other.
– For buckle fastened shoes, one hole should be left either side of the buckle for adjustment as the foot grows and if the material naturally stretches through wear.

4. Check the length of the shoe with your child standing and with their weight evenly distributed between both feet. Feel for their longest toe at the end of the shoe. Some shoes have structured and sturdy toe boxes, if you are having trouble feeling for toes ask your child to wiggle their toes or point them to the ceiling to help you!

– Approximately a thumb’s width or 14mm growing room is recommended at the front of each shoe.
– With open-toed sandals less room is advised to minimise the risk of catching the front of the shoe.
– Likewise, first shoes and non-confident walkers may better tolerate less room at the front to help them move comfortably.

5. To feel for the width of the shoe, feel both the inside and outside edge of the shoe down its whole length. Pay particular attention to where your child’s littlest toe is in relation to the shoe’s outer edge. There should be no pressure or pinching on the feet and all the toes should be free to move.

6. The depth of the shoe should also be checked. Run your thumb over the toe box of the shoe to check the slackness of the upper material. A slight ripping effect of the material indicates sufficient depth of the shoe. Taunt material or excess material over the foot may indicate a poor fit.

7. Now check the top edge of the shoe that runs around the ankle. You should be able to run the edge of your finger between the shoe and the skin.

8. Lastly ask your child to walk in their new shoes. This is a great time to check if your child finds the shoe comfy. They should be easy and comfortable to walk in. Make sure to look out for slipping at the back of the foot, this indicates poor grip around the heel.

Remember to check each foot individually, feet are a pair of siblings not twins so the measure and fit may vary between them.

Size is just a number!

There are lots of contributing factors that play a role in how a shoe fits; the brand, shoe style, county of origin and even different manufacturing techniques. Therefore, the size a child’s feet measure on a “fitting gauge” is only used as a guide to determine which size will be the best fit. Gauges are normally specific to a single brand, and as there is much variance between brands, you may receive contradictory measurements.

Fitting by a Shoe Fitter is what will really determine the correct size. The whole shoe from the back to front will be checked to ensure there is the perfect amount of room, followed by a test walk to check for unnecessary movement and all-important comfort. After this your child’s size may go up or down, or perhaps change width fitting. It is this individualised fitting that determines what size shoe is best for your child, not the size on the box!

Materials matter

Natural materials such as leather and cotton are porous and absorb moisture, keeping the feet dry and comfortable. Leather also softens and conforms to the foot over time, creating the best possible fit. Increasing conscientious brands are focusing using materials that are child and environmentally friendly, further promoting foot heath.

Remember socks!

It is important to have your child’s feet measured in clean socks. It helps get the best fit for the shoe’s function, for example if your child favours thick sports socks it a good idea to have trainers fitted in these. Additionally, it is always worth checking the toe seam on socks as the ‘casting off knot’ at the toe can rub against the skin.


How often should I get my child’s feet measured?
As feet continue to grow throughout childhood, it is important to get fitted regularly. Aside from being measured and fitted when buying new shoes, its recommended to check shoe fit frequently. Younger children will require the most frequent checks, but every eight weeks is a good start.

How can I make my child’s shoes last longer?
There are a number of factors that contribute to the longevity of a shoe. Firstly, shoes should be fitted with room to grow at the front of the shoe but also in the width. Secondly when buying shoes, it is important to take into account what and how the shoe will be worn. Each child is an individual and some are naturally harder to shoes that others. For active wearers look for rubber toe bumpers, substantial rip tape straps (or laces) and generous sole units to ensure that the shoe matches its task! Lastly intermittent shoe care can prolong the life of a shoe and keep them looking smarter for longer. Protector sprays can weatherproof shoes from showers and help dirt clean off easier. Likewise, leather cleaner can help buff away scuffs and scraps.

Is it okay for my child to wear second hand shoes?
Shoes mould to the foot of the wearer over time, creating an imprint that is unique to each child. This imprint will be different to a new wearer’s foot and it may cause them to stand or walk differently. To make sure that these changes are not permanent affected, it is highly recommended that children always wear new shoes.

Need further help? Come and visit us in our Penarth shoe store for expert measuring and fitting.