The first few months of life can be confusing for a newborn, but they can be just as confusing for the parents.
There are a million little things to find out, look at, and either buy or find. And some things are even more complicated since they either don’t work the same way as adult things or are completely different.
Shoes are one of these things.
While the idea of buying shoes sounds simple at first glance, there will probably be a lot of questions that begin to arise when it actually comes to buying them. Does your baby even need shoes? How does sizing work? Is it the same for boys and girls? What do you look for in a pair of baby shoes? Are there particular characteristics you should be looking for?
Things become even more complicated with the youngest ages since they’re growing so fast—turning shoe shopping into a seemingly daunting task. The complexity is further compounded by the fact that we usually worry if a toddler can properly express their feelings about a certain size and fit.
We’ve looked at these questions, what to expect when your young ones grow older, and more, down below.
While you will be able to find a shoe size to fit the smallest of feet, you probably don’t need to buy any shoes until your child begins walking.
Feet grow best when they’re not confined by shoes (and we all know how fast babies grow), so shoes are really only needed for warmth in the first few months. And even then, socks or booties will usually be more than enough to keep the child’s feet warm enough.
And even when the child becomes mobile on their feet, shoes are still only really necessary outside and in public spaces. Inside, assuming the area has been baby-proofed, shoes are not essential at all. Shoes, at least in the early stages, are only useful for protecting your child’s feet from things that might hurt them.
You don’t really want to be dishing out serious cash very often, especially in the early stages. The first few pairs of shoes won’t last longer than 2 or 3 months because of the rapid rate of growth—if the child doesn’t need shoes, then it’s usually better to not buy any.
One of the biggest gripes to get around with infant shoe sizing is the different measurements and inconsistent language used between retailers and brands.
Not only that, but the age and expected shoe size will also be wildly different for children due to their own individual growth. While some brands might label the shoes by age and use wider ranges for babies (jumping by factors of 6 months, for example), some brands may have a different way of sizing their shoes.
Furthermore, brands can have varying ways of identifying what age group a shoe is for. For example, one of the more common ways is “T” delineating that the shoe is for toddlers. However, other brands may use “K” or “C”. This highlights the importance of finding the sizing chart for the brand that you’re looking at.
Most websites that sell children’s shoes have a printable sizing chart that helps in finding the correct size. All you have to do is print it out in its actual size and place your infant’s foot on the paper.
Young children’s shoe sizes will usually run from 1 to 13, with a letter that signifies that it’s meant for smaller feet. These are for the youngest children. Then, bigger kids’ shoes go from 1 to 7 usually, but this also depends on the brand. If using this system, that means that the size 1 in “big” kid’s sizes will be larger than the size 13 in the toddler sizes. That is, assuming that the shoe brand uses this system.
This leads us to the next question you might be asking—well, what even is a “big kid”?
Not only is there confusion when it comes to the actual sizes, but there’s also confusing terminology involved between brands. Different companies will use different ways to describe the age ranges, which will probably differ from brand to brand.
For example, you could have groupings such as big kid, little kid, toddler, baby, youth—it all really depends on the company. This highlights the importance of finding a sizing chart for the specific brand that you’re looking at. An even better idea is going into the store and trying out the shoes, regardless of the language used.
It can be helpful to remember that men’s shoe sizes are a continuation of children’s sizes. That means a men’s size 8 is a direct continuation from a children’s size 7. This is useful to know if the child is beginning to outgrow their smaller shoes. On the other hand (or foot), there are women’s sizes. These are sized at about 1.5 sizes larger than a man’s shoe. So for example, that means a women’s 9.5 is about the same as a men’s size 8.
While terminology and sizes differ from brand to brand, it useful to use a general chart to help as a jumping-off point on your shoe-searching mission.
Keep in mind that just because a shoe is marked for a certain age doesn’t mean that it will fit your young one. After trying on a few pairs, however, you’ll get a much better idea of whether the child is either above or below average.
Below are some general size charts going from babies to kids.
U.S. Euro Inches CM
0.5 16 3.25 inches 8.3 centimeters
1 16 3.5 inches 8.9 centimeters
1.5 17 3.625 inches 9.2 centimeters
2 17 3.75 inches 9.5 centimeters
2.5 18 4 inches 10.2 centimeters
3 18 4.125 inches 10.5 centimeters
3.5 19 4.25 inches 10.8 centimeters
4 19 4.5 inches 11.4 centimeters
4.5 20 3.625 inches 11.7 centimeters
5 20 4.75 inches 12.1 centimeters
U.S. Euro Inches CM
5.5 21 5 inches 12.7 centimeters
6 22 5.125 inches 13 centimeters
6.5 22 5.25 inches 13.3 centimeters
7 23 5.5 inches 14 centimeters
7.5 23 5.625 inches 14.3 centimeters
8 24 5.75 inches 14.6 centimeters
8.5 25 6 inches 15.2 centimeters
9 25 6.125 inches 15.6 centimeters
9.5 26 6.25 inches 15.9 centimeters
10 27 6.5 inches 16.5 centimeters
10.5 27 6.625 inches 16.8 centimeters
11 28 6.75 inches 17.1 centimeters
11.5 29 7 inches 17.8 centimeters
12 30 7.125 inches 18.1 centimeters
U.S. Euro Inches CM
12.5 30 7.25 inches 18.4 centimeters
13 31 7.5 inches 19.1 centimeters
13.5 31 7.625 inches 19.4 centimeters
1 32 7.75 inches 19.7 centimeters
1.5 33 8 inches 20.3 centimeters
2 33 8.125 inches 20.6 centimeters
2.5 34 8.25 inches 21 centimeters
3 34 8.5 inches 21.6 centimeters
3.5 35 8.625 inches 21.9 centimeters
4 36 8.75 inches 22.2 centimeters
4.5 36 9 inches 22.9 centimeters
5 37 9.125 inches 23.2 centimeters
5.5 37 9.25 inches 23.5 centimeters
6 38 9.5 inches 24.1 centimeters
6.5 38 9.625 inches 24.4 centimeters
7 39 9.75 inches 24.8 centimeters
There are a few ways to measure a child’s foot in order to get the best measurements. The easier is using a foot measuring gauge, which you can either buy or readily find in any shoe store. If you’re trying to do this at home, there are two good ways to go about it.
The most common method to use is to simply trace your child’s foot. All you need is a blank piece of paper, a marker, ribbon, ruler—and the feet of course.
Have the child stand with the back straight and heels against something solid, like a wall. They should be standing on top of the piece of paper and on a hard surface in order to make tracing easier.
Once you’ve traced the foot, measure it from the heel to the highest point on the big toe. Record the results.
Next, take the ribbon and wrap it around the foot, where the ball of the foot is located. You want to make sure that this is where you wrap the ribbon since it’s the widest part of the foot. Place a mark on the length of the ribbon that’s needed to wrap the foot, and then measure it. That’ll be the width of the foot. Some shoes are specifically made for wider feet, which is something you might have to check.
These are useful since you can sometimes get them straight from the brand that you’re interested in. The benefit of doing this is that you’ll be able to know to a much more certain degree whether the shoe will fit—at least when it comes to that specific brand.
The most important thing to remember with this method is to make sure to print to actual size, and not to the page fit. Depending on the default settings on your printer, it might be set automatically to print the actual size. You can also set the printing scale to 100% which will give you the real, intended measurements on the guide.
Each guide will differ slightly, but most will have a curved line at the bottom of the page where the child places their heel. It’s best to cut the paper in such a way so the bottom of the curved line sits right against the wall. This will give the child’s heel something to be supported on, giving you a better idea of the measurements.
Depending on the guide, you may or may not need a ruler to measure the foot. This will be easier to work with if you tape the ruler to the ground and also place it against a wall or another fastened surface.
After you’ve measured the foot and found out the length in regards to shoe size, it’s time to measure the width. This can be done the same way as with tracing—either a ribbon, shoelace or some other piece of string.
While measuring feet and finding out shoe size is simple enough, some complications can arise and it’s best to be prepared for them.
There is a chance, especially when they’re young, that a child’s feet may not be the same length. The severity of this difference will differ from child to child, but when this happens it’s definitely best to go with the larger foot when buying shoes. Sizing up will ensure that your child is comfortable and prevent any issues arising from a lack of space to grow.
The same applies for if your child is between sizes. Always err on the side of going too big rather than too small. It’s quite common to be in between sizes, and it’ll be much more comfortable for the child to walk around in a shoe that’s slightly too big than too small.
Lastly, it’s important to remember how often to measure your child’s feet.
Young feet grow fast, especially in the first 6 years of life. A study done showed that children aged from 1 year to 2 ½ years required a shoe size change every 2 to 3 months. Following that, a change in shoe size happened about every 4 months until the age of 4. And finally, from the ages of 4 to 6, it was found that the shoe size changes every 6 months.
Therefore, it’s recommended to check your baby’s shoe size every two months—especially when they’re young. After the age of 2 or 3, foot growth significantly slows down.
Shoes come in all different shapes and sizes, and while you can get away with more as an adult, it’s important to find the right shoe for young ones who are at important developmental stages.
Non-skid soles are essential. Especially when your child is first feeling out upright walking, you (and they) want to be certain that they won’t slip and fall. At least not in a way that can be blamed on the shoe. Better traction will prevent unnecessary falls.
Shoes should also be flexible. A flexible shoe will allow for the natural development of the foot, rather than it being constrained. This builds off the point that young infants don’t necessarily need shoes until they’re walking around outside.
Furthermore, the shoe should be comfortable. This is really what makes or breaks any kind of shoe for whatever age group. Unlike adult shoes, however, a shoe meant for very young children shouldn’t have to be broken in to wear comfortably.
While shopping with a young child can sometimes be a burden, you’ll definitely want your little ones alone for this shopping trip.
You’ll get a much better idea of their shoe size and what they find comfortable if you bring them along and try them out at a store. It’s also helpful to bring some of the thickest socks they regularly wear in order to properly gauge how the shoe will fit in those circumstances. If you’re buying online, try to find a store that allows for easy returns.
Additionally, don’t be in a rush. Have your child try on different shoes and walk around in them for at least a little bit. This will give you a much better idea of what they find comfortable and prevent unnecessary returns.
When trying on shoes, feel for the longest toe at the end of the shoe. There should be some wiggle room between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. A good way to check is to stick a finger in the heel of the shoe, down to the sole while the child pushes their foot to the front. If there’s no room for a finger, the shoe is probably too small.
Even If the Shoe Fits…
While you may be tempted to get used shoes for your child, it’s usually not a good idea. This is especially true for young children who are at an important point in their development. Not only could a worn shoe wear against a child’s foot, but it could also cause the child to walk or run improperly.
It’s also important to ignore fashion trends. While it may be tempting to go for a shoe that’s particularly cute, it’s best to stick to the tried-and-true methods and basics of shoes. Depending on the shoe, these often don’t have the flexibility that a children’s shoe needs.
And lastly, even if the shoe fits in the store and afterward, it’s still important to keep making sure that it fits well.
Going into the future, your child will go through many, many shoes, and each of them will be important for good development. But even in between shoe buying, it’s always a good idea to check in and make sure everything’s going smoothly.