Read this article for shoe shopping tips and tricks for growing feet and expanding minds. When buying footwear for kids, the support, fit, and comfort of the shoe will be the most important to keep up with their active lifestyles.
Before trying shoes on, physically test and assess the footwear with your hands. First, squeeze the back heel of the shoes wrapping your thumb and your middle finger around the heel cup of the shoe and squeeze the sides. Then push the very back of the heel counter with your thumb. Make sure it’s stiff and is reasonably hard in both tests. A figure skate or hockey skate is an example of a stiff heel counter. Avoid shoes that are soft and collapse when squeezed. The heel counter of the shoe holds your child’s ankle and heel in a stable position when moving in all directions.
Next, hold the shoe at the bottom with the palm of one hand at the heel end and the other at the front, twist the shoe. If flexible, it will twist easily and cause potential injury to the arch of the foot. It needs to be reasonably stiff in order to provide a stable platform under your child’s foot from heel to toe.
The shoes should only bend where our toes bend, at the front. When you find the model(s) of shoes that pass these tests, then determine the size and fit of the shoe for the child.
Fit (Length and Width)
If you can go into a store, have your child’s feet (length and width) measured with a Brannock device. One foot may be wider or longer than the other. When it comes time to try the shoes on, this will help you decide which size is best.
Pull the insole out of the shoe, have your child stand on it with their heel at the back. At the front, the insole should extend out the front under the longest toe by a thumb width, approximately one to one and a half centimetres. Next, check the width. Their big and baby toe joints (bulges) should match to the width of the insole and does not spill (overlap) over the sides. If it does, then a wider width of shoe could be recommended. This process indicates how the shoes will potentially fit before trying them on.
Ordering Shoes Online
Trace the outline of each child’s bare foot while standing. With a pen or pencil vertically straight start the outline of their foot. Put a mark where their big and baby toe joint is; these would be where the toes meet the foot. Trace both feet. Make note if one outline is wider at the arch or on the outside of their foot.
Measure the length and width of the foot at the longest and widest points. The shoe size would be one to one and a half centimetres longer than in the foot measured. Use an online conversion table to determine the size and width of shoes to order. Choose shoes with a wide bottom base (the shape of a shoe box-parallel lines) and that lace up instead of a Velcro closure. When you receive the shoes, test them first before trying them on.
Check the inside of the shoe for imperfections. With the end of a finger inside the toe box, make sure there are no rough seams or knots in the stitching that may irritate or cause blisters to the toes and toenails. Check the heel rim (collar) for the same and that it is sufficiently padded.
Put on the shoes, check that the heel rim padding is just below the ankles. If the rim is too high, this may cause irritation on the ankles and or heels. Squeeze the width of the shoe at the big and baby toe joints toe to ensure there’s flexibility. You want to avoid a tight fit where you’re not able to squeeze in on the toe joints. With your thumb and index finger, you should be able to squeeze the material on the top of the shoe (toe box) 1–2 mm. Toes should be approximately one cm behind the end of the front of the shoe. You want a snug but not tight fit. Allow for growing room but not have the shoes loose on their feet. Lace up the shoes or put the Velcro at its tightest setting and walk in the shoes. If their heels slip (ride up) at the back, then try a half-size shorter. The sooner your child can wear lace-up shoes the better. This will securely hold their feet and heels in place better.
Shoe fitting can become complicated. If you need help, please reach out to your Canadian Certified Pedorthist. You can find one at https://pedorthic.ca/.
Written by Richard May, Certified Canadian Pedorthist