How to measure your child’s feet – and buy shoes that fit

Need to buy new shoes for your child but can’t. get them measured in store? Read our step-by-step guide from a shoe fitting expert.

Properly fitted children’s shoes play an important role in healthy foot development. But checking you’ve got the right size is more difficult than you might expect.

That’s why I’d always recommend visiting a qualified fitter when your child needs new shoes (or when you think they might).

However, with this option off the cards during this time, I wanted to share my advice for getting the best possible fit at home.   

Take an initial measurement

Whichever method you use to measure your child’s feet, make sure to do so while they are standing against a flat and even surface, so that their feet are fully ‘spread’, and include socks if they’ll be wearing them with the shoes.

We wouldn’t recommend that you rely purely on the resulting size recommendation when determining whether your child’s shoes are suitable, as there is lots of variation between shoe designs. I’ll explain how to check the final fit below.

If you already have a child’s foot gauge or manage to purchase one, this will really come in handy. 

Otherwise, we have a free printable measuring gauge that you could use. If you don’t have access to a printer, use a blank piece of paper instead and carefully draw around each foot.

It’s then a case of measuring in a straight line, in centimetres and millimetres, from the back of their heel to the end of their longest toe. Note the measurement from the longest foot and use the chart below to find the right shoe size.

Do your research and place an order

There can be quite a lot of variety between shoe types and brands so, if you have the time, it could be worth doing a bit of extra research once you’ve found a pair you like the look of. Here’s what to look for:

  • What do the reviews say? Check whether other parents have mentioned that the sizes seem to run large or small.
  • What are the shoes made from? Materials such as canvas and leather tend to be more flexible and can therefore offer a better fit.

If you’re still not sure what size to get, it could be worth buying multiple pairs with a view to returning the ones that aren’t suitable later. Alternatively, you could keep larger sizes to one side, ready for when their feet have grown.

Avoid the temptation to buy larger shoes so that your child can wear them for longer. As well as being uncomfortable, shoes that are too big can affect your child’s ability to walk and play properly and could even hinder their foot development. As a general rule however, we would recommend that you buy the next size up if they’re in-between sizes.

Check (and keep checking) the fit

Once the shoes have arrived, it’s time to check the fit. While your child is standing on a hard surface, check the following:

  • Length: You probably know to check the end of their shoe to see how much wiggle room is there, but make sure you’re not only paying attention to their big toe, as it’s common for the second toe to be longer. 
  • Depth: ‘Pincer’ from either side of the laces (or that region). There should be a little give, but not enough that the material can form a ridge.
  • Width: Feel the shoe at the widest part of the foot. The fit should be snug without putting pressure on the foot. 
  • Ankles: Unless there is appropriate padding, the shoe shouldn’t cover your child’s ankle bones.

Next, gently hold your child’s ankle while they’re sitting down and pull the shoe back and forth. You shouldn’t be able to generate much movement at the heel. Finally, let your child run and play in the shoes a little and see what they think.

Children’s feet grow quickly, so it’s a good idea to check their shoes still fit well every month. Of course, it’s also worth remeasuring and buying a different pair if they seem uncomfortable in their shoes. 

Rachel Clinkard is Ecommerce Director at Charles Clinkard, which has been fitting children with their first shoes at UK stores for over 70 years. They offer lots more shoe fitting advice, as well as a wide range of children’s shoes and footwear accessories, on their website.

Photo by Zan