Shopping: Fitting Kid’s Shoes

child in adult shoe

As I have mentioned before, I used to work for a very well-known shoe retailer. I worked my way up in the company to become a Manager of a store and I took the role very seriously and was extremely passionate about what I did. Those who worked for me will fondly remember the strict training I put them through, although I always made it as fun as I could with games and quizzes. It’s funny how this passion has never left me and even though I have now left and therefore no longer get my discount (oh how I miss those!) I still buy my son’s shoes from there and ensure he is correctly fitted.

With purse strings being tightened and bargains sought after, it is extremely tempting these days for parents to buy shoes straight off a sale rack or take hand me downs from friends or buy used ones from sites such as ebay. I do completely understand this and I will also look around for a better price  ̶  just the other week I popped to Gunwharf Keys to try and save a few pennies (although I think I paid the saved ones in car park fees!) My worry is that to try and save a few ‘bob’ you are putting your children’s foot health at risk and causing unnecessary discomfort. I am not here to lecture, after all, I do not know everyone’s situations and a pair of shoes is better than no shoes at all, but I feel with my knowledge I can advise you to make some improved decisions.

First off if you are not going to buy in a shoe fitting shop, at least get measured in one so you have a guide of what you should be looking for elsewhere. The most important thing to remember is that a foot measurement is only a guide! It is not an exact science, it is not a magic number and every single shoe you try will most probably differ from the last  ̶  yes, even if you are in the same shop! So say you are in a fashion store and you see the perfect ‘mini me’ style. The first thing you need to do is bend them. Do they even bend?! Most don’t, they have the thickest, hardest soles and there is absolutely no flex. You may think oh good this sole won’t wear out. The trouble is your poor child will not be able to bend their foot and will end up stomping around everywhere! For an everyday shoe, this is not ideal. The next problem I have found is just getting some styles on. If you struggle, do not buy them, you will be hurting your child every time and it’s usually an indicator that the style is too narrow. Next to look for will be what they are made out of, there will usually be a sticky label somewhere inside to inform you. Plastic will make a child’s feet sweat, smell and be uncomfortable all day. Suede may look good but unless you are prepared to pay for the protector spray they will not be waterproof, so be prepared for wet feet. Canvas is great for the summer but is obviously not at all waterproof or warm for colder months. Leather is always your best option as it is breathable, it moulds to your child’s foot and to some extent is waterproof (no not 100% as most people like to believe, leather is skin, skin has pores, pores are holes and holes let water in!) Goretex is your 100% waterproof shoe but this will cost you.

Right, so you have picked your style and now it’s is time to try them on. Here is the list of 6 points you need to check:

1. Length – In a fitted shop ‘growing room’ is built in. In most retailers, this won’t be a feature. So, what you are looking for is a thumb width of space at the end of the shoe from the big toe. Anything more will become a trip hazard.

2. Width – The width in a fitted shop come up as D, E, F, G and H. As a guide for you a D is extremely narrow and may be difficult to come by. E is narrow, F is average, G is wide and H is extra wide. These letters are just as important as the length. To check the width is ok you need to feel down the sides of the shoes to make sure no part of the foot or toes are pushing out anywhere. If there is pressure or you can clearly see the outline of the foot, the child will end up with sores, blisters and possibly hardened skin. If there is too much space inside they are too wide and will cause the foot to move from side to side, leading to blisters.

3. Depth – What you are checking is that when you rub your thumb over the top of the shoe you have some movement in the material. If it is tight and doesn’t move there is not enough depth to the shoe to be comfortable. If there is too much depth the foot will not be supported, this is where insoles will help as they lift the foot up in the shoe *please note insoles do not make a shoe shorter and they shouldn’t be relied upon.

4. Toplines – the toplines are the areas surrounding the ankles. Does any part of the shoe hit the ankle bone? If so this could rub and hurt your child. Does the fastening sit nicely up the foot? Are there any gaps? If you can get your finger down the side of the ankle these do not fit.

5. Slip test – Make sure you have put the shoes on and fastened them whilst the child is sitting. Now get them to stand and re-check the fastening. The foot shape changes from sitting to standing so check they are secure enough (do not cut off the blood circulation!) Now pop them back on the seat and give them a tug. Do they stay on? If not, they will cause rubbing which could lead to blisters. One thing people do not think about is the fact that if the shoes do not stay on well the child will instantly grip with their toes to keep them on  ̶  ladies think about when you wear slip ons and how they stretch and become a little too big. This gripping with the toes can cause later issues in the bones and often leads to bunions (I have seen young girls with bunions from having worn cheap slip on shoes from fashion shops and the only way to rectify it is with surgery). 

6. Can they walk in them?- seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Can they walk? Do not just put them on, look at them, think they look pretty and buy them. Get your child to walk round and round. Get them to jog a little and jump. They need to be comfortable and you need to be sure as once worn outside, most shops will not do a refund.


So, what if you get measured and fitted in a shop but decide to buy a few extra pairs in the sale, you know, for when they grow. A couple of issues can arise:

  1. They may miss that size out completely and you have wasted your money
  2. That style may not actually suit them or fit well

Just be careful with this idea.

My personal pet hate are used shoes being handed down or even worse, people actually buying them on selling sites. I really do not know why anyone would buy these:

  1. They could have been used anywhere, trodden in anything, be full of someone’s dried sweat or may have been weed on (!) plus be smelly.
  2. Leather shoes mould to the shape of that person’s foot over time. So you are probably better off buying some cheap rubbish that doesn’t fit from a shop, as the pair that are bought will be out of shape and have indents of the last child’s foot inside.
  3. You are wasting your money and not doing your child’s feet any good.


So, please please do think more when getting shoes. Feet are one of the most important parts of our bodies, they take us everywhere!

My key points are:

  • Get measured
  • Yes, the width is important and those letters do mean something
  • Check the shoes when they are on
  • Make sure your child can walk
  • But most of all make sure they are comfortable and hear your child say so (if old enough)


Good Luck and happy shopping!


Em xx


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