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How To Determine Shoe Size – Why Your Child Is Probably Wearing The Wrong Shoe Size

Brannock Shoe Sizer

Are you having hard time finding the correct shoe size for your child? Don’t assume just because your child measures a size 10, that size will automatically translate to the shoe size he needs. Any experienced shoe fitter knows that shoe sizes are inconsistent, that different shoes in identical sizes and widths will measure and fit differently. How to determine shoe size is a matter of both length and width, the latter being a detail that most parents tend to ignore.

Parents are always asking me how they can make sure their children are wearing the correct pair of shoes. I always recommend parents taking their children to their local kids’ shoe store where a shoe fitter can properly fit their kids’ with shoes, but if you don’t have one in your area there are certain guidelines that you can follow in order to make sure your child is wearing the right shoe size.

Once I move the child’s foot away from the Brannock device (standard foot measuring tool) the parents will immediately ask me:

What shoe size is she/he?

My answer tends to be: Your child measures a certain size but he/she might take a half a size longer or even a whole size longer depending on the shoe. Sometimes they might even take a smaller size than they actually measure! I decided to create a post on how to determine shoe size to inform parents that this would only be the first step in figuring out what shoe size your child will actually end up wearing.

Baby Feet

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I recently created a new article along with a video that explains how to measure your child’s foot size from home and you can find that article here:

How To Measure Kids Shoe Size From Home – In Less Than 30 Seconds!

Why Are Shoe Sizes Inconsistent? There Are Many Reasons

The reasons for this inconsistency are many, and some of them are:

  • Style affects size: For example, a pair of New Balance shoes in a given size and width will fit differently than a pair of Saucony shoes of the same size and width.
  • Materials can affect size: Two shoes of identical style and size, but one with a leather upper and the other one with urethane upper, will often fit differently.
  • Construction/Shoe Manufactures affect size: The process by which a shoe is made can sometimes influence size.
  • Lasts affect size: Lasts are designed on countless different shapes, each with its own volume or inner space allowance, which in turn affects the dimensions and the fit.
  • Heel height affects size: Shoes on high versus low heels will fit differently on the same size.

I know what you are thinking, you probably didn’t need to know all that, but I wanted to break it down for you so you have a better idea of why shoe sizes are so inconsistent. It is not to make your life harder when finding shoes for your child, trust me!

While size is obviously important, we tend to over-magnify its importance by the assumption that if the shoe is the right size, it will automatically deliver the proper fit. This is UNTRUE, so please stop making that mistake.

In order to determine shoe size, you must have your child fitted at your local children’s shoe store that you trust. Knowing the size your child measures is just starting point in realizing what child he will end up wearing. Please avoid taking your child to have his feet measured at big retail stores such as Nordstrom’s, Stride Rite, or Payless. I can guarantee you that your child will end up wearing the wrong size shoe. You can find why I feel that why in this post:

The Best Place To Buy Kids Shoes – Avoid Stride Rite, Nordstrom, Payless…

The Process Of Finding Shoes – Rely On Experience

Once the shoe fitter measures your kids’ feet, he will end up telling you what shoe size and what shoe width your child might need. REMEMBER:This is just an starting point, since then you will have to find shoes that fit depending on how the shoe is cut. Some shoes are cut smaller or longer than others, and some shoes are cut wider or narrower than others. It depends on the brand and the shoe style. If you are having a hard time finding shoes for your child and you don’t have a local shoe store in your area, contact me directly and I will be able to help you.

I have been fitting children shoes for almost 5 years now, and I have fitted all the quality and durable brands that make children’s shoes. I am familiar with how the styles fit and what type of support each shoe has to offer for your child.

Do We All Have A Half Size Difference Between Our Feet?

Most of us do. A half a size difference is very common and we always must fit the longer foot to the pair of shoes. I have seen children that have a whole size and a half difference between their feet and if this happen we might have to compromise and not leave as much growing room to avoid compromising your child’s stability.

Does your child has more than a half a size different between his feet? I wrote a post that you will probably benefit from reading called:

Shoes For Different Size Feet – The Best Shoes For Kids With Different Size Feet.

For those children with a more than a whole size difference between their feet, there is a need to purchase different shoe sizes to effectively accommodate the problem of a whole size difference.

How Often Does My Child Need A New Pair Of Shoes?

Best New Shoes

My answer is: Before the shoes become outgrown.  The frequency of new shoe purchases for children is a budget problem for many families. In fact, the human tendency to postpone buying new shows is one of the most threatening problems for healthy foot development.

Because young children shoes are worn for such short periods and hence never wear out, the tendency of some parents is to allow the child to continue to wear the shoes, even though they might be outgrown, because the shoes “still have a lot of good wear left in them”. STOP doing that!

Breaking In Shoes- Necessary Or A Way To Wrap Up The Sale?

I am sure you have heard of the term “break in period”. After fitting children shoes for five years I never understood what the break in period means. I believe sales people use that term as a way of wrapping up the sale, or parents might even use them when they are feeling impatient and try to convince their children that the shoes fit so they can walk out the store.

I have an adamant belief that shoes should be comfortable before you leave the shoe store.  One of the main reasons people break in shoes is because they are not aware of the true size and shape of their feet so they might be getting the wrong pair of shoes. I always have the child walk and run in a hard floor surface to make sure the shoes feel good. They have fun doing it, and they might get distracted and enjoy the running around part too much, so I keep telling them to focus on how the shoes feel. Next time you are at your local children shoe store buying new shoes: Test-Don’t Break!

Hand-Me-Down Shoes – Don’t Do It!

Some parents will come to the store with hand me downs shoes that were passed through family members or friends asking my opinion on whether I believe their child can wear those shoes. Once a child has worn a pair of shoes, these tend to mold to the shape of their feet, which might have an impact in the shape of your child’s foot.

There is not such thing as two feet alike. Yes, we might have two children that measure a shoe size 10 and they both have extra wide feet. However, the volume of their feet might be different. The instep of the foot also keeps a huge role when fitting children shoes. Do you know what the instep of the foot is? It is the top part of our kids’ feet.

Some children might have a high instep, which not only will require a wider shoe, but also a deeper shoe. If your child has a high instep and you want to learn more about what does it exactly means, you can find all the information and the best shoes for a child that has a high instep here:

The Best Shoes For High Instep – Stop Getting The Wrong Shoe Size For Your Child!

Another reason why I do not recommend hand me down shoes is that if you grab the shoes and look at the heel part you will notice in most cases how stretched out it will look, since children tend to take their shoes off without undoing the velcro strap or undoing the shoe laces. This issue can also be seen with older kids where they do not take the time to undo their shoe laces or velcro straps and all they do is stretch out the heel of the shoe.

Hand-Me-Down Shoes

Hand-me-down children’s shoes should be worn only under extreme conditions of economic necessity. It is better to purchase the very cheapest new shoe than a hand-me-down worn shoe.

Economizing is a part of everyone’s life, regardless of one’s income bracket.  As I have illustrated in later posts and on my homepage, well-fitting, quality shoes is imperative to overall foot, leg, and back health.  Buying shoes for our children that FIT should be a priority, not an after thought.

Shoes play a huge role in keeping our kids feet and legs healthy. NEVER underestimate the importance of having your child feet properly measured, and providing them with the correct shoe size. It will save you a lot of money in the long run by keeping his feet healthy.

Below you can find a selection of the best fitting shoes for children that I have fitted before and that come in different widths such as medium, wide, and extra wide!

This first selection of shoes fit “short”, which means that you need to go a whole size longer of the size that your child measures in the shoe measuring scale (Brannock device) in order to prevent their toes from rubbing against the front or the sides of the shoes and allow for growing room.

The shoes below fill fit better if your child has really wide feet (wide or extra wide).

This selection of shoes fit “ true to size”, which means that you need to go a half a size longer of the size that your child measures in the shoe measuring scale in order to allow for growing room.

Are you having a hard time finding shoes for your child that fits? Certainly contact me via e-mail or in the comments section with further questions that I will most likely be able to answer.  I will continue to post informative articles penned by me that address important topics such as this one.


I created this webpage to help parents understand the importance that shoes have in healthy foot development and how they can prevent foot problems in the future.Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kid’s feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kids’ feet and get my guide for free: The 5 Most Common Mistakes Parents Make when Buying Their Kids’ Shoes

16 Comments on How To Determine Shoe Size – Why Your Child Is Probably Wearing The Wrong Shoe Size

  1. That is really interesting. I always just thought that foot length was the determinant of shoe size, and always wondered why the different companies couldn’t all have the same sizes! I understand now! It’s really reassuring that you can often return shoes you buy online for free, so there is no risk involved with getting the wrong size.
    I just have one question for you: what are “Lasts”?

    • Emily,
      I am glad you found the post helpful. You are correct about being able to return the shoes if purchased online, however, if you are buying shoes for your child that can be extremely time consuming. To answer your question the last is the mold over which the shoes is made. In other words, the way the shoe is design.

  2. My children are older and can buy their won shows now, BUT, I was glad to read that buying new cheap shoes is still better than hand me down shoes. We didn’t have much money way back then and couldn’t afford anything expensive.

  3. When I was a kid my feet were a lot narrower than the shoes that were, supposedly, my size. This is a great article that all parents should check out before buying shoes for their kids. My solution was to put on the new shoes and walk around the store to see how comfortable they were.

    • PJ,
      I always have children walk and run up and down the hallway before they leave, that way they might speak up if something does not feel right. The only problem with this is that they end up enjoying it a little bit too much, and it takes extra time for them to come back to their seat, but it is all worth it.

  4. I enjoyed your post on “How to determine shoe size”. I agree about not wearing hand me downs. Unfortunately I had to wear them as a child and it wasn’t a enjoyable experience. Thanks for the great information.

  5. You are spot on when you say shoe sizes vary. The style and make of the shoe, where it was made etc., can all affect the size. When I go into a shoe shop the staff ask what size I take and I always say, “It depends”. This is a very useful post, definitely one to be referred back to. Thanks for writing this.

  6. When shopping for shoes it is very important to try the shoes on for comfort. The information provided in the post is accurate and should be considered a good guideline for your shoe shopping experience. Thanks for the value you provide.

    • Vena,

      I am glad that you found the post informative. I always emphasize the importance of trying on shoes and finding the pair that feels good in the store. If it does not feel good in the store,you are most likely trying the wrong size shoe.

  7. I thought this was very interesting to read about. I have three young boys and both of my older boys are starting to grow out of their current shoe size but the pair I bought that is the next size up is way too big! I then bought another pair of shoes the same as their current shoes and they fit just fine. So though the shoes say they’re the same size they’re definitely not the same.
    It was interesting to read about where those differences come in and why they’re there.

    I’d also never heard a reason as to why hand-me down shouldn’t be given. It does make sense though. I’ve noticed that anytime I borrowed another persons shoes they’re worn out and fit their feet. When i use them they’re uncomfortable.

    • I am sure you live a pretty hectic life with three boy’s. It’s like you don’t have enough to worry about, now shoe companies are making your life hard, wouldn’t it be nice if the actual size of the shoe meant something? Unfortunately it is just a starting point.

      You have three boy’s, so do not hesitate in keeping snow-boots or rain-boots to pass them to the younger ones. This type of footwear will be okay to wear even though they have worn, since they tend to keep their shape and they will only wear them for a couple of hours once in a while. I am glad you found the post helpful!

  8. I agree that parents really need to take the time to get the right dimensions for their kids’ shoe sizes. I read somewhere that most children are not wearing the right shoe size at any given point in time because parents don’t know how to properly measure their kids’ feet. So there is a great deal of wisdom in recommending that they consult with a shoe fitter first. Otherwise, wearing wrong shoe sizes might lead to serious foot deformities, and no responsible parent wants that for their child.

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