How to choose the right shoe size for a child? What factors affect the fit of the shoe and can the child himself tell if the shoe is suitable?
The fit of the shoe is affected by the inner length, the width of both the heel and the toe area, the circumference, the height and the shape of the toe. The use of shoes that are too small has been linked to the alignment of the big toe inwards, i.e. the risk of the so-called hallux valgus formation, even in children. The smaller the shoe in relation to the length of the child's foot, the more the big toe turned towards the other toes.
It is worth noting that up to 66% of Finnish children have been found to wear shoes that are too small, in which case the margin has been less than 10 mm. The sense of touch of the child's feet is just developing, and the child himself does not recognize shoes that are too small. A small child's foot grows at a fast pace, and feet should be measured regularly.
The foot is always measured in a standing position, because the ball of the foot lengthens when weight is placed on the foot. A child's foot grows 1.5-2 mm per month during the first three years, and about 1 mm per month for 3-6 year olds. With 5 mm of room for growth, the service life of the shoes usually lasts through the season. Of course, the feet can take rapid growth spurts, in which case the shoes have to be renewed in the middle of the season.
Walking barefoot has been found to have a positive effect on the healthy development of the feet and the big toe in a straight line. It is therefore good for children to move as much as possible barefoot, and when that is not possible, choose well-fitting and appropriately sized shoes for the child.
The advantage of barefoot shoes compared to conventional Western shoes is the anatomical toe model, i.e. a wide toebox, so that the toe does not narrow too early on the side of the big toe. Also suitable for barefoot shoes is 12 mm and a maximum of 5 mm for growth. In addition, the time of year and the thickness of the sock used also affect the margin left in the shoe. A smaller allowance is left for summer shoes than for winter shoes.
In the picture on the left is the insole of a barefoot shoe and on the right is the insole of a "standard western shoelace". In a barefoot shoe, there is room for walking in front of each toe. In the insole on the right side, instead, you can see how there is room for walking only in front of the second and third toes and the toes are pressed close to each other.
Author: Leena Airaksinen, Master of Health Sciences, physiotherapist
Kinz, Groll-Knapp & Kundi 2020. Hallux valgus in pre-school-aged children: the effects of too-short shoes on the hallux angle and the effect of going Barefoot on podiatric health
Kinz, Groll-Knapp & Klein 2015. Kinder in zu kurzen Schuhen
Saarikoski 2016. Healthy legs; Allowance for growth and walking in the shoes of children and young people.
Photos: LUMO footwear