Checking the Fit of Shoes for Kids and Toddlers

Posted on December 01, 2015 by Alexandra Tham

As you are probably aware we at Little GEMs take pride on making sure that the fit of our shoes to your child’s feet is the best it can be while allowing ample growth for their feet. We do measure feet in store, and we are ALWAYS happy to double check your child’s shoes whether you have purchased them from us or not, however as we also sell shoes online we thought we should write a little guide for you so you can feel confident in what we do and why we do it. Also, for you to check if the shoes you have at home or newly bought elsewhere are in fact a good fit.

Obviously this is just a guide – the best way for us to tell is see the shoe on the foot, and feet do vary considerably, but at least this give you some guidelines to feel confident in using.

Children will not always tell you they need a new pair of shoes until they are hurting them so check your child’s shoes regularly or pop in to a shoe store to get feet measured. A good shop will be happy to measure a child’s foot without obligation. 

Signs of needing a new shoe:

  • When your child is standing, press on the toe from the front of the shoe – if the toes are at the end of the shoes – time for a new pair!
  • Look for significant wear especially in the same area i.e. the heel is worn down completely on one side.
  • Wear on side seams or bulging on one side more than another can also be a sign of needing a new pair.
  • Blisters or red marks – like pressure points – on the foot when you take off the shoe

Techniques for checking for a good fit:

  • foot measuringAlways check a shoe fit when the child is standing – ideally in the afternoon as feet swell up during the day.
  • Look at the fit around the ankle – it should look snug and not gape.
  • Press on the toes, there ought to be a about 1 cm from the end of the toe to the end of the shoe. Much more and you will risk the shoe slipping when worn causing blisters or a tripping hazard – especially with toddlers.
  • Rub your thumb across the foot with pressure in a single sweep action (where the toes meet the foot) this is the widest point of the foot, the shoe should ‘give’ and you should be able to see a shallow ripple of leather if it doesn't it is too tight.
  • Get your child to walk away from you – look at the back heel of the shoe – it should not move up and down – this will cause blisters.
  • Check for the foot bulging – if it does then it’s not a good fit – this happens for example if your child has a high in-step and is trying on a Mary Jane style you will notice the foot bulging up in the gap of the top of the shoe with a Mary Jane style so try a t-bar instead – you will find some styles work better than others for you child, but as they grow feet change a lot.

Urban Myths and bad advice:

  • “Buying a shoe that is a size too big will mean they last longer” – shoe brands and feet vary considerably – even if you have been given a measurement for you child’s feet you are best to fit the shoe to the foot rather than get too hung up on what the size is on the measure, as foot measures are really only true to the brand that provided them. Buying a shoe that is clearly too large for foot will make your child walk differently to compensate, may cause blisters and create a tripping hazard. Follow the above tips to get an optimum fit.
  • “A finger down the back is room enough to grow” – this was a new one on me when a mum did this on advice from her own mum, however I can’t see the logic in this. The room needs to be in front of the toes to allow for growth and spreading of the foot – a finger down the back of the shoe doesn’t really show this – how can it?
  • ‘Breaking in shoes’ – this is not a good idea for anyone as it means the shoes don’t fit well, but you should never need to do this for children, they need to be able to wear the shoes comfortably from the outset – blister and rub free!

Babies, Toddlers and Children have very different needs from their shoes. 

Babies who are not walking need something to protect and keep their feet warm which are not too tight but not much else. As they learn to crawl and cruise they will probably need a shoe of some sort to enable them to go outside or stay warm. For this stage you will need a a pre-walker shoe like the Bobux Explorer. This type of shoe will see you through to walking confidently and the next stage shoe which is a first shoe. 

There are lots of different brands on offer boasting different reasons for purchasing them. You have barefoot brands which advocate the foot being shod in it’s most natural state as can be allowed – typical features include a very thin soft flexible sole coupled with extra room in the toe part of the shoe which allow the foot to move as though it’s unshod with enough room for the toes to spread out naturally as though barefoot. 

Then you have a more traditional brands which have been making childrens’ shoes for over 50 years who offer a more structured shoe in breathable materials and have wealth of experience in shoeing children. Some styles have arch support and almost all styles have structured heel offering support to the ankle. 

Bobux which have a bit of both, they lean towards a more barefoot approach, they create individual lasts for each size which is tweaked for each stage of development, they only make baby and childrens’ shoes so all their R&D is on childrens’ feet and they use natural breathable soft materials and leather to make a really good quality shoe.


These need to be very soft and flexible. Think about your baby learning to walk. When your baby/toddler learns to walk it is all in the micro movements and the foot-to-brain feedback that enables them to learn this new life skill, learn their balance and learn to take steps – so the softer the more flexible shoe is, the better, as this doesn’t disrupt this essential feedback. If possible I always think that barefoot is best! Explorer range is the best for this.


A good comfortable fit is essential whatever style you go for. Enough growth but not too much that the foot is ‘swimming’ otherwise they will trip and walk differently to compensate for the ill fitting shoes. Step-UP is perfect for this.

Walking Children: 

In older children it’s tempting to chose fashion over comfort, however their feet are still growing and changing so make sure the fit is paramount. Avoid heels which are detrimental to feet development. 

Our advice is to try on lots of different shoes in different styles to get one that has the best fit for your child. Get their feet measured regularly and wherever possible – don’t put them in shoes! Let’s face it we are the walking ape, and so it’s best especially for small ones, to let nature works it’s magic un-molested! Yes I am aware that it’s odd advice for a shoe shop, but it’s my mantra!!

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