How to Fit Your Shoes

Here at Happy Little Soles we are passionate about helping parents and carers develop the confidence to fit their own children’s shoes.

We believe that correctly fitting shoes are critical to the healthy development of your child’s feet and therefore your child. We also know that no one cares more about your child’s feet than you do. We feel it is therefore vital that parents develop these skills.

We are here to help and we have given some guidelines here. Please do contact us if you are worried or you need some more help. We are always happy to talk you through it or look at photos to help you decide.

1) To start

It is best to fit their shoes towards the end of the day as feet do spread during the day through walking and as they get hotter. It is best to wear socks during fitting, especially if they are shoes that will be worn with socks. Socks can make a big difference to a fit on a small foot and a thicker sock can really help if a shoe is a bit big or wide at first. Just make sure you aren’t fitting with a sock that is significantly thicker or thinner than they would normally wear. For a sandal it is fine to fit barefoot or with a thinner sock if this is how they will be wearing them.

2) Length

Fit the shoes to your child sitting down. Get them to tap their heels on the floor to ensure that the foot is at the back of the shoe and feel where their toes come to. In a seating position you should feel that you have around a thumbs width between the end of the longest toe and the shoe. Bear in mind that the foot will spread on standing but at least you have an idea now of how much room there is.

Give a gentle tug on the shoe at the heel to check that it doesn’t easily slip off before getting them to stand up.

On standing check that you can feel the end of their longest toe and gently push down to ensure that you can feel a fingers width between the end of the toe and the end of the shoe. Sometimes a foot will sit centrally in the shoe with space all around, this isn’t a problem provided the shoe is secure on their foot (see step 5) but it can be deceptive when checking the amount of growing room. This is why we suggest checking sitting down initially to get a feel for the room involved.

Our philosophy is to try and get as much space around the toes as you possibly can, extra space on the width or length isn’t necessarily an issue provided the shoe is secure on the foot and your child can walk nicely in the shoes, without any tripping or slipping.

3) Width

Assuming that the length feels right you can check the width. Feel around the baby toes to check they have space too, this is to ensure that they won’t ‘catch’ on the side before the big toe is at the end.

Then stroke your thumb firmly across the top of the shoe at the widest point. You should see and feel the leather ‘give’ when you do this and see a slight roll of leather move across the shoe with your thumb. It is really important to ensure that there is sufficient width here to allow feet toes to relax and spread. Feet grow in every direction so it is equally important to ensure they have width to grow into as well as length. Remember that feet change during the day and will be wider at the end of the day than at the beginning, they will also be wider when hot and after being active. As with length a little extra width isn’t a problem provided the shoe is secure on the foot (see stage 5).

4) Depth

For depth you need to check the space at the top of the foot, for an enclosed boot or trainers style this is the same test as width – just make sure there is room and give everywhere. A shoe that isn’t deep enough will generally be hard to put on the foot as well.

Depth is a real issue in a girls Mary-Jane style shoe. You need to make sure that you can comfortably put your little finger between the top of their foot and the upper. You need to watch for the tell tale bulge on top of the foot that shows there isn’t enough depth. Bear in mind that as they grow the deeper part of their foot will move forward so ensure there is plenty of room there to start with. Again a bit of extra room or even a bit of ‘gappiness’ isn’t a problem provided the shoe is secure on the foot (step 5).

5) Overall fit

Once you are satisfied that length, width and depth are all good it’s finally time to have a walk in the shoe! Watch them walk carefully, they will be a little self-conscious at first and lots of children will start to ‘moon walk’ as they stare at their new shoes! Try and distract them into forgetting they are wearing new shoes, ask them to fetch something or spot something out of a window. If they are older ask them to run and jump.

You are looking for a natural walking action, making sure that they are not adopting any habits that they don’t have barefoot. If you are unsure ask them to walk barefoot first so you get an idea of their natural gait.

You are also looking to check that the shoe is secure on the ankle as this is the key to a good fit. If they can ask them to stand on tip toes to check the shoe is moving with the foot and there is no slippage. If they aren’t old enough to stand on tip toes get them to bend down to pick up a toy to see if you can get them to squat which naturally puts them on their tip toes. You will soon see if the shoe slips off in this position.

In summary!

Provided you have sufficient growing room in the length, space around each toe and give across the width, room on the top for depth, a natural walking action and a secure fit on the ankle – you are there!

Finally, remember, if your child walks very differently with shoes on when compared to how they walk barefoot, then the shoes are not right for them or don't fit correctly and shouldn’t be worn.

How to Fit Adult Shoes

The principles for measuring and fitting shoes to feet that have stopped growing is the same as for a children’s shoe.

We always recommend measuring in centimetres and you still need some space in the shoe to allow the expansion of your foot during the day and in warmer weather and to allow that all important wriggle room for your toes.

We advise having at least 0.5cm of space in the shoe for expansion and wriggle room. You can allow up to 1.5cm of space but this is a lot and unless you have very wide feet or are used to a lot of space then you will find this a bit much. We recommend 0.5cm for a sandal, 0.8cm for a shoe and 1.2cm for a boot to be worn with thicker socks

For fitting follow the same steps as for children’s shoes, ensuring you have space around the toes and the shoe is secure on the foot when you walk and not slipping.