Footwear for children
When should my child start wearing shoes?
If your child isn’t walking yet, they don't need to wear shoes. If they've just started walking, shoes can help prevent accidental injuries. Shoes with higher ankle support don’t necessarily offer better support than shoes with low-cut ankles. However, a shoe with a higher ankle might help at this stage since they are harder for your toddler to remove.
Some people think that shoes are needed to support a child’s developing leg and foot muscles and bone structure to help prevent future problems with walking. Your child’s feet will develop naturally and will almost never require any special footwear.
Your child’s feet will change quickly as they grow. Before 18 months of age, their feet will probably grow by more than one-half a shoe size every 2 months. A toddler’s feet grow an average of one-half a size every 3 months. Once your child is 3 years old, their feet will grow by about 1 size every year.
How do I choose the right kind of shoes for my child?
Shoes have become softer, wider, lighter and more comfortable. Your child’s shoes should:
- Protect their feet.
- Offer some grip on smooth surfaces.
- Ensure comfortable walking on different types of surfaces (e.g., pavement, gravel and sand).
When choosing shoes for your child, make sure they:
- Fit snugly at the heel to stop the foot from moving forward while walking.
- Allow room for the toes – approximately 1.25 cm (a thumb’s width) between the longest toe and the tip of the shoe while your child is standing up.
- Have a 5 mm space between the edge of the shoe and all toes.
- Have a small crease in the material if you pinch the shoe while your child standing.
Your child should always try on shoes before you buy them.
Shoes used to fix problems such as flatfoot or intoeing are called corrective footwear. Most children don’t need special footwear. Your child’s feet and legs will change naturally as they grow.
What is flatfoot?
The arch of the foot between the heel and the big toe (the natural curve at the bottom of the foot) develops before 6 years old. Almost all children younger than 18 months of age have flat feet. This can also be common until your child is 6 years old. A small number of children still have flatfoot by the time they are 10 years old.
If your child continues to have flatfoot but it doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort, corrective shoes or orthotics are likely not necessary. If your child complains of pain while walking, contact your doctor to discuss your choices.
What is intoeing?
Intoeing happens when the feet turn inward instead of pointing straight ahead when walking or running. It is common in children and usually gets better as your child gets older, without the use of corrective shoes.
Reviewed by the following CPS committees
- Community Paediatrics Committee
Last updated: July 2018