How to Measure Your Toddler's Shoe Size

Mom tying toddler's shoes

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Once your baby takes their first steps, it's only a short matter of time until they are walking (and running) everywhere. Time to trade those cute baby booties out for a pair of supportive sneakers.

When choosing shoes for your toddler, correct sizing is very important. Their growing feet need plenty of space to develop properly. "The bones in a child’s foot are not yet fully formed," says Alissa Kuizinas, MD, a board-certified podiatrist and footwear expert specializing in holistic and functional foot health. "If a toddler is wearing a shoe size that is too small or narrow, it can lead to potential deformities of the toes and an increased risk of pes planus, or flat foot."

Measuring your child's foot does not have to be complicated, even if you have a toddler who never seems to sit still. Here are some tips to know.

How to Measure Your Toddler's Foot

It can be hard to convince your toddler to stand correctly on those foot-measuring devices at the shoe store. Instead, Kuizinas suggests having your toddler stand on a piece of paper while you trace an outline of each foot with a pencil. "Make sure to hold the pencil vertical so that you do not slip under the foot and get an inaccurate measurement," she says.

Measure the length from the back of the heel to the end of the longest toe to determine the length of the foot. Then add 0.5-1 cm so that there is some extra room at the toes. Refer to a size chart to find your child's shoe size.

Toddler Shoe Size
 Foot Size  Shoe Size
11.7 cm 4.5
12.1 cm  5
12.7 cm 5.5
13 cm 6
13.3 cm 6.5
14 cm 7

Since shoes can vary in fit, it's important to have your toddler try them on before you buy. Have your toddler stand up with the shoes on so you can feel where their toe is. "The correct size will leave some space at the toe area, and will also be wide enough to allow natural spreading, or splaying, of the toes," notes Kuizinas.

Let your child walk around in the shoes for a little bit to see how comfortable they are. Most likely, they will let you know if the shoes don't feel good.

If you are ordering online, you may want to buy a few sizes to try and return the ones that aren't the right fit. You might even want to order a few different styles, to see which ones work out best.

Do Toddlers Need To Wear Shoes All the Time?

Finding shoes that fit well is important, but that does not mean that your toddler needs to wear them all the time. In fact, toddlers should only wear shoes as often as necessary.

Walking barefoot has developmental benefits. Infants don't need any shoes at all but should have socks to keep their feet warm. Even toddlers walk best without shoes on. "Barefoot walking and cruising are important, so the foot has to practice properly grasping the ground," says Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, a pediatrician and medical consultant at Mom Loves Best.

Of course, it is not always safe for toddlers to walk without their shoes. They need some protection when playing outside or when you are on the go. You also need to keep the floors at home clean if you choose to let them walk shoe-free. Grippy socks are another great option for indoors. Soon, after your child starts walking, shoe shopping should be on your to-do list.

What Shoes Are Best for Development?

Toddler shoes should have flexible, non-skid soles so that your little one doesn't slip as they toddle along. "A pair of low-top sneakers works best," says Dr. Poinsett. "Avoid high-top and shoes with rigid bottoms, which do not allow the foot to move properly."

It's a good idea to opt for sneakers with velcro straps as opposed to ties. Until your child can tie their own shoes, velcro makes it so much simpler for them to get their shoes on and off. Plus, toddlers love to feel independent, so getting them shoes that they can learn to fasten themselves will cut down on the "Do self!" battles.

How Often Do Toddlers Need New Shoes?

Children's feet grow rapidly, so that perfect shoe might be too small as soon as a couple months after you bought it. "Most toddlers require a change in shoe size every two to three months," notes Dr. Poinsett. "I recommend measuring your child's feet monthly to check."

If your toddler doesn't grow out of their shoes first, they may wear them out instead. Toddlers love to practice walking, and they may cover more ground than you realize each day. They are also notorious for pushing boundaries and exploring new territory, which means they may wade into a shallow creek or play in the dirt. Moral of the story: their shoes will most likely take a beating.

With all this in mind, it may be wise to choose shoes that don't cost a fortune. Look for shoes that are comfortable, supportive, and the right size, but don't pay more than necessary.

A Word From Verywell

A well-fitting pair of shoes is essential for toddlers as they begin to explore their world on foot. Find their shoe size by measuring their foot, adding a little bit to the measurement, and then consulting a size chart.

Often, the easiest way to measure a squirmy toddler's foot is to trace around both feet on a piece of paper, and then measure the tracing. Exact fits do vary from shoe to shoe, even within the same brand, so always have your child try on shoes before you buy.

Don't spend more than you need to on shoes, because you will need a new pair before you know it. Measure your child's foot monthly and expect to need new shoes about every two to three months.

If you have any concerns about the fit of your toddler's shoes, always reach out to your pediatrician.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Hollander K, de Villiers JE, Sehner S, et al. Growing-up (Habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescents. Sci Rep. 2017;7(1):8079. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07868-4.

  3. Shoes for Active Toddlers. American Academy of Pediatrics.

  4. Adolph KE, Cole WG, Komati M, et al. How do you learn to walk? Thousands of steps and dozens of falls per day. Psychol Sci. 2012;23(11):1387-1394. doi: 10.1177/0956797612446346.

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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.