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Picking the Perfect First Shoes: The Right Fit Matters

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Being a parent is a tough business, and a thankless job on most days. If you have kids under the age of three, then you know what it means to be run ragged by a pint-sized tyrant. Each day, there are so many things to do, from planning and preparing meals, to washing stains out of clothes, to picking up all the toys, to repairing the broken stuff, and drying a few tears. And among the many joys (or miseries) of parenting small children is shopping for clothes and shoes.

Shoes are one of the most important items in our lives, and the first shoes that we buy for our children are very important too. They help them learn to walk and run, and ensure the healthy development of their feet. Getting the right fit matters, especially when the kids’ feet are still growing. If you don’t have the right shoes, it could make learning to walk more difficult, and could also result in pain or blisters—even if the shoes are too big.

So what is the trick to buying the perfect first shoes? Well, there isn’t just one rule of thumb, but many. We’ve made a list for you here, so you can be sure to get the best fitting shoes for your little one.

How to Pick the Perfect First Shoes

1. First of all, you should know that kids don’t really need shoes until after they are walking. Prior to walking, shoes are either strictly for show, or maybe for warmth. But they aren’t necessary until he or she has taken their first little barefoot steps. Learning to walk barefoot is the best way, because their feet can easily grip the floor, and they learn to stabilize their own body.

2. The first step is to go to an actual shoe store, especially when they are very young. Be sure to go shopping at the end of the day when their feet are largest (feet swell throughout the day). Have a professional measure the length and width of your child’s feet.

3. It’s best to choose quality brands made especially for toddlers. The shoes should have a rubber outsole, and the upper should be made of a flexible, lightweight material such as nylon or mesh. The shoes should also have double stitching, otherwise they are likely to come apart since kids are so hard on shoes. That’s why a good quality brand is worth the money. For example, the right sized Clarks kids shoes will be both durable and comfortable.

4. When you try the shoes on your toddler, make sure you fit them with the socks the child will normally be wearing with the shoes.

5. Then, once you’ve got them on their feet, let them play around in the store for a bit. Check that your pinky finger can fit snugly between the back of their heel and the shoe. Also check that there is about ½” between the end of their big toe and the front of the shoe. After several minutes, take the shoes off and then see if their foot is red in any places, indicating rubbing or tightness, or if the shoeshave any extra material, glue, or anything that might stick out, rub their little feet and cause blisters.

6. You may be surprised to find out that you really don’t need to worry about the shoes having arch or ankle support. Children naturally have flat feet, and need to allow those muscles to develop on their own. High tops are also no longer recommended because high tops are actually more dangerous for ankle injuries when kids fall.

7. Little feet grow fast. On average, toddlers may go up one shoe size every 2 months or so. This can be hard to keep up with, so pay attention. If your little guysuddenly starts taking his shoes off all the time, you might need to go up a size. And even though it is tempting, resist the urge to buy shoes that are too big, as this can hinder their walking and foot development. Shoes that are too big can rub, cause blisters, cause them to stumble and fall, and will likely be worn out by the time they are the right size.

8. Along these same lines, you should also avoid the temptation to give them used shoes, from an older sibling for example. Even though they may seem alright, used shoes are already molded to the shape of another foot. It’s best when toddlers are learning to walk, to have new shoes that will mold to their own feet.

If you can manage to follow these tips and get the perfect first shoes for your newly walking toddler, you have succeeded! And while they won’t thank you right away, or maybe ever, you can be sure their little feet will be happy and healthy in their well-fitting shoes.

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