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Buying Shoes for Toddlers

Take the guesswork out of shoe shopping, and find the perfect fit for your little girl or boy.
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If the Shoe Fits…

The first step in buying toddler shoes is to have your child's foot sized by an expert.

"Go to a store that specializes in children's shoes and work with a knowledgeable salesperson to get a good fitting," Cox says.

There are three key areas of the foot that you should focus on when buying toddler shoes: the front of the shoe, the back, and the width. All three will play a part in whether or not the shoe fits properly.

"First, you want the appropriate length in the front of the shoe," Tillett says. "The general rule of thumb is you want about a centimeter to a half inch of space in the front of the shoe. Too big and they could be unstable; too small and it constrains the foot."

Width is also very important, Tillett says.

Kids' feet tend to be wider when they are younger, and as the foot grows, the length proportionately catches up to the width. So you want a shoe to accommodate a wider foot, and you need it to not be too restrictive or too tight through the arch.

"The key to making sure a shoe is the right width is to use the tongue of the shoe as a guide," Tillett says.

The tongue of the shoe and the edges where the laces or Velcro are usually located should be parallel; if there is too much space between them, the shoe may be too tight, and if they overlap too much, the shoe is too loose.

Finally, the back of the shoe should offer some wiggle room.

"You want to make sure the heel of the shoe is not so loose they slip out of it and not so constricting that it puts strain on the Achilles tendon," Tillett says. "The rule of thumb here is that you should be able to slip your pinky finger in the heel, but only up to the first knuckle. Anything more than that and the shoe is too big, and anything less and it's too tight."

More to Know Before Your Purchase

Your toddler will need a new pair of shoes and a new sizing about every two to four months, experts say. So before you go out and buy a dozen pairs of shoes for your little one, you might want to focus on the basics.

"You really only need one or maybe two pairs of shoes for your toddler," Cox says, "a play shoe like a sneaker and possibly a dress-up shoe."

When you are buying toddler shoes, each shopping trip should be treated like the first -- examine all aspects of the shoe and make sure it fits all around. Kids’ shoes are different from brand to brand, style to style, and sometimes even from shoe to shoe, Cox says. So the "trying on" experience is important.

Also, bring a pair of socks with you when you're shoe shopping for your toddler. "In general, you want your child to wear socks with his shoes to prevent chafing," Cox says.

Finally, follow one last simple test when buying toddler shoes: Ask your little one to walk around in them. You don't need to worry so much about the style of the shoe. Instead, think about whether it looks comfortable and fits well."

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Reviewed on October 17, 2013
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