5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Shoes For Your Toddler

By Lynn Toh

A good pair of shoes is important to have. It protects your feet from the elements outdoors, and the right fit and style prevents you from tripping and falling over.

However, did you know that while your child is learning to walk, it is actually best for them to walk barefoot as much as possible? The bones and muscles in your toddler’s feet are still developing and will only fully develop in the late teens. By letting them walk barefoot, you will encourage the natural development of their feet.

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That said, when your child is able to walk outdoors, you will need to invest in a pair of shoes for them. With shoes coming in a wide variety of sizes and patterns, there is a lot of choice out there, and while there is no perfect shoe that fits every single child, there are some mistakes that parents make when choosing shoes for their toddler. Here are the five most common ones.

  1. Buying shoes that are too big

As toddlers outgrow their shoes quickly, parents are often tempted to buy shoes that are one to two sizes too big to save cost and avoid making multiple trips to the shop. However, wearing shoes that are too big will cause your child’s foot to move around in the shoe and the heel to come off, increasing the risk of tripping and falling.

Consider bringing your child to a shop that specialises in children footwear, and have a professional properly measure your child’s feet and recommend appropriate footwear. The general rule of the thumb is; it should be one thumbs width (1 inch) from the end of the shoe to the longest toe.

The size should be checked again every six to eight weeks to ensure that the shoes are still fitting right.

  1. Buying shoes that are too narrow

Shoes that are too narrow may cause blistering at the sides of the feet, as well as ingrown toenails. Constant squishing of the toes may also lead to the formation of bunions. When buying shoes, ensure that the shoe especially at the toe box, is as wide as your child’s foot.

  1. Buying shoes without a fastening

Shoes without a fastening over the ankle such as slippers and slip ons do not provide the support your toddler needs when they are playing and running around. With no fastening, your child will tend to use their toes to grip onto the shoes to prevent them falling off, causing unnecessary strain to the toes and possibly leading to claw toes.

Shoes with straps or buckles over the ankle are better to prevent the foot from moving within the shoe, hence providing a better sense of proprioception (sense of equilibrium within the body).

  1. Choosing incorrect material

Children perspire more through their feet compared to adults, so avoid buying shoes made of rubber or plastic material that will trap moisture in the shoe, causing your child’s feet to be smelly and increasing the chances of skin fungal infection occurring.

Instead, look for shoes made from breathable material such as leather or mesh to allow air circulation within the shoe, keeping the feet cool and dry.

  1. Buying trendy shoes

Ballet flats, loafers, high heels and other high fashion footwear may be adorable but they are not the best shoes for toddlers who are still learning to walk.

Ballet flats are usually designed narrow and may cause abrasions at the sides of the feet, while high heels may encourage them to walk on the tips of their toes and cause their calf muscles to tighten overtime. It is best to buy a good pair of shoes for everyday use and one pair of fashionable shoes for use at special occasions.

Lynn Toh is a principal podiatrist at The Sole Clinic. She specialises in high-risk foot conditions, sports podiatry and general foot care. 

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