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

Brannock Shoe Sizer

I am always emphasizing to parents to keep one thing in mind: It doesn’t matter how many features a particular shoe style provides, if the shoes are not the correct size (length and width), your child won’t get any of the benefits that the shoes have to offer. With that said, do you always have a hard time finding the correct shoe size for your child? The most common mistake parents make is assuming that once they know the child’s foot size, that size will automatically translate in the shoe size that the child needs.

Any experienced shoe fitter will tell you that shoe sizes are inconsistent, that different shoes in identical sizes and widths will measure and fit differently. For example, a shoe size 10 in a medium width (“M”) will fit different depending if the shoe was made by the shoe company New Balance, Saucony, or Stride Rite. Even among the same shoe brand, shoe styles will 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 that their children are wearing the correct pair of shoes. I always recommend them to take their children to their local kids’ shoe store, where a shoe fitter can properly measure your kids’ feet and find shoes that fit properly. The issue is that most parents don’t have a shoe store in their area that they trust, and they must end up getting their kids’ shoes online.

If you are going to be getting your kids’ shoes online you must know your child’s exact foot size.

Keep in mind that we always want to provide kids with a half size longer (there should be 3/8 of an inch between the longest toe and the end of the shoes) of the size that they measure at the standard foot measuring scale (Brannock device) in order to allow for growing room.

While working at the shoe store, once I move the child’s foot away from the Brannock device (standard foot measuring tool) the parents immediately ask:

What is my child’s foot size?

My answer tends to be: Your child measures a “shoe size 7” , but he/she might need a half a size longer or even a whole size longer depending on the shoe style that you choose. Sometimes they might even need a smaller shoe size of the size that they actually measured (if the shoes fit long).

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I recently created an article that describes the simplest, yet most effective way to measure your child’s foot size from home. This process involves 2 simple steps that you can do from home:

How to Measure Your Kids Foot – 2 Simple Steps to Determine Foot Length and Foot Width

Baby Feet

Why are Shoe Sizes Inconsistent? – There are Many Reasons

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

✅ Style affects size: 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 you are probably thinking that you 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, parents 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.

Knowing your children’s foot is just a starting point in realizing what size they will end up wearing.

Measure Kids' Shoes

Some shoes are cut smaller or longer than others, while some shoes are cut wider or narrower than others. The final shoe size that your child will get depends on the shoe brand and that particular shoe style among that brand.

For example, let’s say your child measures a foot size 8, this doesn’t mean that your child will need a shoe size 8 1/2 (in order to allow for growing room) in all shoe styles. There are certain shoe styles that can run short, long, narrow, or wide, and depending on how they run, you will need to adjust the size that you get for your child. If the shoes run “short” then you will need to provide your child with a whole size longer (shoe size 9), and if the shoes run “long”, you might have to provide your child with the same size (shoe size 8).

Makes sense?

The good news is that I am familiar with how most shoe styles fit, so if you are in doubt about how a particular shoe style fits, please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will be able to tell you.

Please avoid taking your children to have their feet measured at big retail stores such as Nordstrom’s, Stride Rite (they have closed most of their stores), or Payless. I can guarantee you that your child will end up wearing the wrong size shoe. I explain the reason in more detail below:

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

Do Most Kids Have a Half Size Difference Between Their Feet?

Yes, they do.

A half a size difference is very common and we always must fit the longer foot to the pair of shoes. I have helped certain children that had a whole size and a half difference (or more) between their feet and if this is the case with your child, you need to compromise on the amount of growing room to avoid compromising your child’s stability. You might need to purchase different shoe sizes to effectively accommodate this issue. I explain this in more detail in another article. Go to the link below:

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

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’s shoes for 10 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, and parents give in when they are feeling impatient.

I have an adamant belief that shoes should be comfortable before your child leaves 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.

I always make sure that the child walks and runs in a hard floor surface to make sure the shoes feel good.  Next time you are at your local children’s shoe store buying new shoes: Test-Don’t Break!

Happy Kids

Hand-Me-Down Shoes – Don’t Do It!

Some parents will come to the store with hand-me-down shoes that were passed through family members or friends asking my opinion on whether I believe the child can wear them.

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.

It’s important to understand that there is not such thing as two feet alike. We might have two different children with a foot size 10 with extra wide feet. However, the volume of their feet might be different. The instep of the foot also plays a key role when fitting children’s shoes. If you don’t know what the instep of the foot is, you can’t possible be getting your child the correct shoe size.

Some children might have a high instep, which will require a wider and deeper shoe. I explain what the instep of the foot is in more detail here:

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

Another reason why I don’t recommend hand-me-down shoes is that if you pay close attention and look at the heel counter of the shoes (the back part that provides ankle support), you will notice how in most cases it will be stretched out.  Most children tend to take their shoes off without undoing the Velcro strap or undoing the shoelaces.

How Often Does Your Child Needs a New Pair of Shoes? – Let’s Find Out!

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 shoes 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.

In order to determine your exact child’s foot size from home, you will need the standard foot measuring tool called the Brannock device:

Foot Measuring DeviceFoot Measuring DeviceFoot Measuring Device

Now that you know how to determine shoe sizes and the importance of well fitted shoes, let me show you a selection of the most durable, comfortable, and supportive children’s shoes that I have fitted before.

The Best Children’s Shoes  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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. Disclosure: Keep in mind that I may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases.

ToddlersToddlersToddlersToddlersToddlersToddlersLittle KidsLittle KidsLittle KidsLittle KidsLittle KidsLittle KidsBig KidsBig KidsBig KidsBig KidsBig KidsBig Kids

In order to allow for growing room, I highly recommend that parents order this shoe style a half a size larger than the size their children’s feet measure. This translates to 0.3 inches or 0.7 centimeters of space between your child’s longest toe and the end of the shoes.

Are you having a hard time figuring out your child’s foot size? 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 kids feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

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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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