Getting the Perfect Fit for Your Toddler's Feet

Newborn baby booties in parents hands

When buying shoes for your 2-year-old, don’t count on buying the same size as your friend’s 2-year-old. Children’s feet grow at different rates. One child may be one shoe size, while another child of the same age may wear two sizes larger or smaller. Since children’s feet sizes vary so much, the best way to get shoes that correctly fit your toddler’s feet is to have her feet measured and trying on the shoes.

Sizing Your Toddler’s Feet

If it’s possible, take your child to a shoe store to have her feet measured, preferably at a store that specializes in children’s shoes or has a separate department dedicated to children’s shoes. To measure your child’s foot, store personnel usually use a shoe sizer. A shoe sizer measures foot length, from the heel to the big toe, which tells the corresponding shoe size. The clerk will have your child put her foot into the shoe sizer and stand up. Have your child wear the same kind of socks that she’ll usually wear for the type of shoe you’re buying. For example, if you’re shopping for winter boots, she should have her foot measured while wearing thick, heavy socks.

Have both feet measured. You may be surprised to find that your child’s left foot and right foot aren’t the exact same size. If one foot is larger, buy the larger size.

Toddler Foot Growth

Children grow fast, especially their feet. Since children’s feet grow an average half size every three to four months, you should measure their feet that often too. Since children’s feet grow so quickly, you may want to buy a shoe sizer to use at home, so you can always find the best fit for your child, even when shopping online. Some shoe manufacturers and stores also have printable shoe sizers on their websites. Follow the sizer’s instructions as to how to measure your child’s feet. If your child is in-between sizes, order the larger size so he can grow into the shoes.

Toddler Shoe Sizes

Typically, a foot length of 5 inches means a toddler wears a 5.5-size shoe. A foot length of 6 inches means an 8.5 shoe. A foot length of 7 inches means toddler shoes in size 11.5. When buying shoes online, try to find a shoe size chart that tells you what size to buy based on your child’s foot length. The shoe size chart may also include the equivalent European Union or United Kingdom size, which you’ll need to know if buying shoes from a European or British maker.

Also consider the width of your toddler’s foot. Some children’s shoes come in different width sizes: narrow, medium, wide and extra wide. Narrow width sizes are B, C and N. Medium width shoes are D and M, while width sizes are E and W. Extra-wide widths are EE, WW and XW. If your child has wide feet, shoes in a wide width mean less pinching on the sides. Many shoe sizers have markers on them that tell the foot’s width size. According to the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society, 70 percent of children wear shoes in D (medium) and E (wide) widths, while most boys wear E width, and most girls wear D width.

If you don’t know your child’s width, consider buying a shoe with a fastener at the widest point of the foot, such as shoelaces or Velcro straps, so you can narrow or widen the shoe to fit your child’s width.

Be aware that shoe sizes may vary by manufacturer. If you can’t have your toddler try on the shoes, such as when buying shoes online, try to buy shoes from a store with a flexible return and/or exchange policy.

Toddler Shoe Sizes for Girls and Boys

If you’re buying shoes for both a girl and boy, be aware that they may wear different shoe sizes even if they’re the same age. A 2-year-old boy may need shoes one size larger and wider than a 2-year-old girl.

While most manufacturers and shoe brands have the same sizing for girls and boys, which means that a particular foot size translates to one shoe size for both girls and boys, check with the store’s personnel and/or website to ensure they don’t have different sizing for girls and boys.

Toddler Shoe-Buying Tips

When your child tries on a pair of shoes, have her wiggle her toes, bend her feet and walk around a bit. You should be able to feel about ½ inch between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe. When she bends her foot, the widest part of the shoe should bend where her foot bends. The top of the shoe shouldn’t press on your child’s toes.

The shoes should be comfortable from the first time she wears them. Since toddlers are so active and sweat a lot, flexible, lightweight shoes made from breathable material or with mesh areas, especially around the toes, are a good option.

If you’re buying shoes as a gift, ask the child’s parent what size shoes to purchase. If the present is to be a surprise for both parent and child, perhaps you can stealthily find out what size shoe the child wears by looking at the pair of shoes she has on. Again, it’s always wise to buy children’s shoes from a store with a flexible return and/or exchange policy.