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Best shoes for kids: a buying guide

While a majority of people are born with healthy feet, only around 40% of them still have fully functioning feet by the time they become adults. One of the main causes of this drastic drop in the health of feet is the continued buying of ill-fitting shoes, a practice that starts from childhood. 

To ensure the health of your little one’s feet, it is important to buy the right shoes for each stage of growth. Shopping for kids’ shoes can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience, especially with so many options on the market. If you’re unsure of where to start, read on to discover a comprehensive buying guide for kids’ shoes.

Understanding the anatomy of a child’s shoe

The first step of choosing the right shoe for your child is understanding the anatomy of a child’s shoe. The different parts of a shoe are as follows:

  • Sole 

This is the bottom part of a shoe. It should be flexible and slip-resistant.

  • Lining

This is a covering found on the inside of a shoe. It should provide comfort and allow for breathability.

  • Toe box

This is the part of the shoe that the toes fit into. The toe box should be spacious enough to allow a child to have healthy and unobstructed foot development.

  • Insole 

An insole is an added padding that is inserted into the bottom of the shoe. Ideally, it should have odor control as well as antibacterial properties.

  • Anatomical insole

This is simply a custom-fitted insole for the inside of the shoe. It should provide additional support as well as help to improve a child’s balance and posture.

  • Heel 

This is the rear part of the bottom layer of a shoe. A heel should ideally have shock absorption properties to reduce the risk of injury to a child’s foot.

  • Heel stabilizer

A heel stabilizer forms the heel. A well-made one should provide additional support to your little one’s feet and ankles while walking.

Factors to consider when picking shoes for your child

There are several factors to consider when purchasing shoes for your child:

1. Your child’s age

    It is crucial to consider your child’s age when trying to find the most suitable shoe for each stage of their foot development.

    • Infants

    Infants’ feet are made up of extremely soft bones. At this stage of development, their feet contain more cartilage than bone, which fuses and hardens as they grow older. Therefore baby feet are very delicate – if your little one must have anything on them, it should be baby socks or soft shoes. 

    • Toddlers

    It is recommended that you buy shoes every three to four months during this stage of development as the feet increase in size quite rapidly. Make sure you go for shoes that have enough room in the toe box to allow your little one’s toes to move comfortably, while still providing support to the ankle.

    Another must-have feature is adequate insole cushioning, as your toddler is going to spend quite a bit of time on his/her feet.

    • Small children

    Small kids should wear shoes that offer plenty of cushioning on the inside. Their shoes should also be made of breathable materials and also provide proper ankle and heel support.

    If you have school-going kids, they’ll be spending a good number of hours on their feet, so their shoes should be lightweight and flexible. Make sure you check your little one’s shoe size regularly (every six months, at the very least) to ensure proper fit and normal foot growth into the teen years.

    2. Shoe size

      For accurate results, it’s recommended that you size feet for shoes at the end of the day when the feet are at their largest. Some techniques you can use to measure your child’s foot length include:

      • Measure from the wall to the toe

      Have your little one stand up against a wall. Make sure they have their feet flat on the floor before proceeding to draw lines where the big toe (or the longest toe) on each foot ends. Use a pencil to mark this on the floor, and then measure the distance from the line to the wall.

      • Draw an outline

      This technique involves having your child stand on a piece of paper on the floor and tracing the outline of their feet onto it. Younger kids in particular enjoy this technique as they think of the process of tracing feet as a fun game. Once you have your outline, measure from the heel to the longest toe.

      • Consult a shoe size chart

      Once you’ve measured your little one’s feet with either of the aforementioned techniques, use a sizing chart to find their shoe size. In some cases, you’ll find that the resulting measurement falls between two sizes – go with the larger size as one foot is almost always slightly larger than the other.

      • Consider using a template

      For this technique, trace your kid's feet onto a piece of cardboard. Add about 12mm of space to the outline, then use a pair of scissors to cut it out. Place the outline in the shoe, and if it fits, it’s the correct size.

      3. The material used to make the shoe

        Your children's shoes should be breathable, flexible, and contain anti-bacterial properties. The most suitable materials for kids’ shoes are natural ones, such as leather or canvas.

        These materials are effective at wicking moisture and allowing air to circulate within the shoe, while at the same time providing adequate protection for the feet. On the other hand, plastic and synthetic materials hold in moisture, encourage bacteria growth, and create blisters when they uncomfortably rub against feet.

        4. Shoe structure
          • Flexibility 

          Children need shoes with flexible soles that will bend with their feet while still offering adequate support and providing shock absorption and stabilization in the heels 

          • Snug fit

          Shoes should fit comfortably. They should be snug enough to stay on your little one’s feet without the heel of the foot slipping out of the shoe as the child moves (unless they’re backless or slip-on varieties)

          Final thoughts

          When you have the right information, a shopping trip for new shoes for your little one can be a fun and enjoyable experience. Keep their feet healthy by making knowledgeable decisions – with continued application, this practice will carry over into adulthood for your kids. 

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