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Shoes for children

shoe; child; feet; foot; wearing shoes; gumboot; thong; bare feet; buckle; shoe-lace; sneakers; plastic; plastic shoes; sandshoes; sandal; second hand. ;

Most children do not need shoes until they have been walking for at least 6-8 weeks, and even after then, shoes are generally only needed to protect their feet from the surfaces they are walking on. Bare feet are best.


Choosing shoes

In the first 5-6 years, choose shoes carefully. It is better to have one good pair of shoes than two pairs of poor quality shoes. They need to fit properly. For new walkers, soft soled, non slip shoes are best.

Things to look for when buying shoes

  • Fit. It is better to take your child to an experienced fitter. The foot is not fully formed until the child is about 6 years old. The bones are soft and the ligaments (muscles, tendons, nerves etc) are easily stretched. Poorly fitting shoes and shoes that are too small can damage a young foot.
  • Buckles or laces. Buckles and laces are better than velcro and elastic fasteners as they are more supportive.
  • Leather. This is better than vinyl as the leather moulds around the foot.
  • Light and flexible. The foot bends near the toe, and so should the shoe. Check where the sole (bottom of the shoe) bends, particularly if the shoe is chunky and the soles are stiff.
  • A firm heel cup. This means that the shoe or sandal should have a solid back. Sandals need an enclosed heel. If you grasp the sides of the back of the shoe, you should not be able to squeeze the sides together or push the back down. This is a firm heel cup.
  • A Straight Last. Turn the shoe over and look at the sole (bottom). The shape of the sole is called the 'last'. Some shoes curve in, but a child's foot doesn't. Choose a shoe with a straight last (ie that doesn't curve in).
  • Brands. Don't choose a shoe by the brand name. Expensive shoes are not always better. Choose a shoe by the things listed in this section.

What sort of shoe?

  • Gumboots and Thongs
    Gumboots are great for when it is wet outside and thongs are great at the beach but they should not be the shoes that children wear most of the time.
  • Sneakers
    Many sneakers are fine, as they fit the guidelines listed above for shoes in general.
  • Plastic shoes
    Cheap plastic shoes are not recommended, but if you have them they should be used only for short periods of time.

Second hand shoes

If you need to use second hand shoes:.

  • Second hand shoes should not be pushed out of shape by the person who wore them before.
  • Scuff marks on the shoes are OK.
  • Make sure the heel is worn down evenly.
  • Look at the shoe from the heel end and make sure the cup looks straight.


See your physiotherapist or doctor, or child health nurse if you have any worries about your child's feet.

Pregnancy, birth and baby   Pregnancy, Birth and Baby is a national Australian Government service providing support and information for expecting parents and parents of children, from birth to 5 years of age. 

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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