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Choosing shoes for your child

Your child is ready to wear shoes when they have been walking for around 4 to 6 weeks. There is no exact timeline for this. Every child is different.

Your child does not need supportive shoes until they are walking. Before they walk, being barefoot is best to help strengthen the muscles in their feet. If you like, you can use socks or soft shoes to keep your child’s feet warm in the colder months.

Choosing shoes for your child

Look closely at your child's feet as they are walking in the shoes.

Make sure that:

  • the shoe is not slipping up and down at the heel
  • their foot is not being pushed out of the shoe at the back
  • their socks or tights are the right size

Do not assume that more expensive shoes are better than a cheap option when you buy shoes for your child.

Your child’s shoe size

When checking your child’s shoes, there should be around 1cm of space at the end of the toes.

Always get your child’s feet measured by a professional before buying them new shoes.

If shoes are too tight, they can stop the toes from having enough space. This can stop the foot from growing correctly.

What kind of shoes to get

Choose shoes that are comfortable and provide support for your child’s feet.

Choose flexible shoes

Your child’s shoes should give them foot support. Make sure the heel has a solid back. You should not be able to squeeze the sides together or push the back down.

Aim to buy a shoe that allows your child’s foot to bend. But, if you can twist the sole easily, the shoe is too soft and will not give enough support to the foot. Sandals should have an enclosed heel.

Check the shape of the shoes

Make sure that the front of your child’s shoes are wider than at the heel. Avoid shoes with pointy toes as these can make it harder for their toes to move. This is especially important if your child has wide feet.

Shoes you should avoid

Make sure your child’s shoes have enough grip on the bottom of the shoes. Your child is more likely to slip and fall if the sole is smooth.

Some shoes are not suitable for children as they will not provide enough support and may cause accidents.

You should avoid:

  • very flat slip-on shoes such as ballet flats
  • high-heeled shoes - if the shoe has a heel, make sure it is very small
  • sheepskin-type boots, rubber clogs and jelly clogs
  • shoes that need to be 'broken in' - this means they were not properly designed or not properly fitted for your child’s feet

Choose shoes with proper fastenings

You should avoid slip-on shoes for your child as these make them clench their toes to keep the shoe on. This can cause pain if walking long distances.

Encourage your child to tie their laces if they wear lace-up shoes or runners. Laces, buckles or velcro fastening help hold the heel in place during movement.

When to get the next pair of shoes

Check your child’s shoes regularly to make sure their toes have room to move. This will depend on how quickly your child grows.

Page last reviewed: 5 November 2021
Next review due: 5 November 2024

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 8.