Getting your child's shoe size right is more important than it may seem--an ill-fitting shoe can cause a variety of foot problems, such as ingrown toenails, corns, calluses and bunions. Getting the right fit isn't difficult, but does require understanding a few basic principles.
The best time to start looking for shoes for your children is when they have been walking steadily for a few months. While it is tempting to purchase baby shoes for them, it is best for children who are just learning to crawl and walk to be barefoot the majority of the time. If cold weather dictates that their feet must be covered, look for soft-bottomed shoes that will allow them to still feel the ground beneath their feet and get used to the job of walking.
There are two main types of shoes for young children after they have graduated from the soft-bottomed bootie stage. The first type are shoes worn by children who have just learned to walk unaided, and are best for children between the ages of 9 and 18 months. The second type is suitable for children from 18 months up who are ready for more hardy and supportive footware.
Children who are walking steadily need shoes based on the length of their feet. Draw a long straight line on a piece of paper. Put the paper on a flat surface and have the child stand with one foot parallel to the line, with part of the line extending beyond the child's toes and the other side of the line extending past the child's heel. Mark where the tip of the big toe and the back of the heel fall on the line. Repeat with the other foot. Measure the distance between the marks. This method is more accurate than simply tracing the foot or attempting to mark the toes and heel.
Children's shoe sizes are divided into Walker, Toddler, Little Kid and Big Kid categories, based on the length of the foot. For Walker, Toddler and Little Kid sizes, there is no difference--other than design--between girls' and boys' shoe sizes. Walker shoe sizes, which normally fit children between the ages of 12 months and 24 months, fall within these measurements: 4 5/8 inches = size 4 1/2; 4 3/4 inches = size 5; 5 inches = size 5 1/2; 5 1/8 inches = size 6; and 5 1/2 inches = size 7. For Toddler shoe sizes, follow these guidelines: 5 3/4 inches = size 8; 6 1/8 inches = size 9; 6 1/2 inches = size 10; 6 3/4 inches = size 11; and 7 1/8 inches = size 12. Toddler shoe sizes generally fit ages 2 to 4 years. For children aged 4 to 8 years, these Little Kid shoe sizes are usually appropriate: 7 1/2 inches = size 13; 7 3/4 inches = size 1; 8 1/8 inches = size 2; 8 1/2 inches = size 3. Big Kid shoe sizes conform to the same standards as women's or men's sizes and usually fit children between the ages of 8 and 12: 8 3/4 inches = size 4; 9 1/8 inches = size 5; 9 1/2 inches = size 6; 9 3/4 inches = size 7.
Shoes that are either too large or too small for a child can cause foot problems later in life. Make certain your child can wiggle his toes in the shoes. She should try the shoes on with the socks or tights she normally wears. Have the child walk around with both shoes on and observe whether the shoes are bending naturally with the way the child walks. If a shoe seems too small or tight for your child, purchase one half-size larger.