Yes, toddler shoes are probably the hardest item of clothing to choose for your growing bub. It is also the most important as feet are one of the most complex parts of the human body, with 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles and ligaments. Our little toddlers growing feet are extremely soft & pliable so absolute flexibility is a necessity.
When most of us were growing up our mothers were told to buy us thick, sturdy lace up shoes with plenty of ankle support (in fact my mother is still trying to tell me this!).
Thankfully, today studies show that this is not the best choice for healthy foot development. Confining shoes & socks can negatively affect the development of little feet and cause problems through to adulthood.
I have tried many thousands of shoes of many thousands of little feet over the past 10 years and I can tell you that no 2 toddlers’ feet are the same. In fact, your toddler doesn’t even have 2 feet the same. They are usually slightly different in length and width, which can make getting the right shoe even more difficult.
So, how do we choose the best toddlers shoes?
- Expensive is not always Best
Be warned! There are some crazy prices when it comes to toddler shoes but buying the most expensive pair in the store is not always the best choice. You are often paying for a designer name and not the quality of the materials and research involved in the making of the shoes. Buy shoes from reputable companies designed specifically for toddlers and young children. A young child’s foot is a different shape from that of an adult or teenager, requiring a correspondingly much bigger toe area than the shape of an adult shoe. Many shoe manufacturers children’s shoes are simply scaled down versions of adult shoes which will not suit.
- Wiggle Room
Allow at least 0.5cm and no more than 1cm from your toddler’s toes to the top of the shoe. Often a common mistake parents make is to leave the baby in their stroller while trying shoes on. Unfortunately, lots of children’s shoes are made far too narrow so the best way to avoid a narrow fit is to stand the baby up so that he or she can place enough weight to allow the foot to completely expand. That way you can also make sure that there is enough room for your baby’s toes to spread freely which will not only promote comfort and healthy foot development but will also aid balance (which is tricky enough to master at this age!). As tempting as it is when we see the price of some shoes, don’t buy extra large shoes that they will ‘grow in to’ as this makes walking harder and falling easier!
- The flex test
Your new toddler shoes must pass the flex test. This means they must not be rigid and you should be able to bend and flex the shoe, even with a rubber sole. If your shoe passes the flex test it means it will bend and flex with your toddler’s feet ensuring they are balanced and have maximum comfort. Have you ever seen a toddler with shoes on walking like a robot? This is because their shoes are too rigid and have no flex. Tight fitting socks, rigid soles and materials that don’t move and flex can hamper healthy development. Alarmingly, they don’t feel pain until the damage is done.
- Leather is Best
I know how tempting it is to buy the gorgeous looking toddler shoes that are almost leather and ½ the price of the leather version. However, leather is best. Your toddler’s feet do sweat a lot and a natural material like leather will absorb this and ensure there are no smelly little feet too. Leather is a material that will also give which is important as their little foot grows. Beware of shoes that promote being leather by having a Leather Upper. You are looking for a Leather Inner & Leather Upper.
- Check their shoes regularly
On average your child’s feet will grow two full sizes a year until age four or five so regular measurements are essential. Sometimes they seem to change in the blink of an eye but foot health is just as important at having the right fitting shorts!