How Fast Do Children's Feet Grow?
One of the most common concerns we hear from parents is the question of how long a pair of shoes will last before a child outgrows them. Toddler years can be an extremely difficult time for sizing feet since many kids seem to need new shoes every few months. Our experienced customer service "elves" spend a good portion of every day helping parents find just the right size to get the most use out of a shoe before those tiny toes are bursting at the seams.
We did our research and found some interesting facts regarding the growth of children's feet:
- Between ages 1–3, feet can be expected to grow as much as 1.5mm in length each month (about 18mm or 3/4 inch per year).
- Between ages 3–6, children's feet grow an average of 1mm in length each month (about 12mm or 1/2 inch per year).
- Between ages 6–10, children's feet grow somewhat less than 1mm per month in length (slightly under 12mm or 1/2 inch per year).
- Between ages 12–17, a boy’s foot will only grow an additional 10% and girls only about 2%.
As you can see on our child sizing chart, most shoe sizes for kids shoes differ by about 6-9mm, approximately 1/4–1/3 inch. Taking this into consideration, the above data suggests that children between ages 1–3 will need new shoes 2–3 times a year, and children ages 3–10 will need new shoes 1–2 times a year.
So is that exactly what you can expect to see with your child's foot growth? Well, consider these variables:
1. Kids are Different!
Not all children hit growth spurts at the same time. Many of our elves have kids of their own, and they will attest firsthand that a five-year-old child can sometimes go close to a year with the same size foot, then suddenly grow three sizes over the next six months. If your child seems to be growing faster or slower than the average rates shown above, don't panic—it's normal. There's also nothing wrong with a child having feet a few sizes larger or smaller than the average. We often see toddlers the same age wearing shoes two or three sizes apart. They could both easily end up the same size after a couple years (and if they don't, that's still normal).
2. You Can Cheat
Sometimes you can "cheat" a size by going a little larger, especially with minimal shoes that are meant give room for feet to stretch and spread. We see a lot of kids in our showroom at the end of the summer in need of new school shoes. Parents want shoes that will last the whole school year, and we often try to find a size that is slightly too big to allow ample growing room. One rule of thumb (literally) is to make sure there is about an adult thumb's width of space between the end of the toes and the front seams of the shoes while the child is standing in them. Of course, you can go TOO big, which can lead to problems. It's important to make sure your child can walk and run comfortably in the shoes without tripping or stumbling (this is especially important for new walkers who already trip and stumble enough on their own). Visitors to our workshop will often notice kids racing across our showroom under close observation.
3. Open-Toed Sandals are Awesome
Toes pushing against the front seam of a shoe are a strong sign that a shoe is too small. It's important to give space for those tiny footsies to spread, as constricting feet can lead to a multitude of foot problems. A sandal with an open toe, however, will give more room for the toes and can sometimes prolong the life of a shoe by almost another size. We see this frequently during the summer with kids in our workshop. If you do try to get more life out of a sandal, it's important to remember to check the rest of the shoe for fit as well. If the sides or instep of the shoe are constricting your child's foot, or if your child's toes are hanging over the front edge of the sole, then it's time for a new pair.
4. Newborn Feet are Special
Between 0–12 months, infants can go through four shoe sizes, but we don't recommend buying shoes for the first 6 months (which is why our shoes start at size 3). Even after 6 months, it is usually recommended to wait until your child begins taking steps before purchasing a pair of shoes. Those tiny feet are very delicate during the first year, and going barefoot will encourage natural and strong foot development. If you do see a need to give your baby's feet protection, we recommend booties or warm, loose-fitting socks.
[MORE INFO: Health Benefits of Going Barefoot and Minimalist Shoes for Children]
So how fast will your child's feet grow and how often will you need new shoes? The most accurate answer: it depends. But if you want a general rule about what to expect, we offer this advice that is by no means set in stone:
2 sizes per year in the first 3–4 years,
1 size per year after that.
Check out our Sizing Page for more sizing tips and shoe size charts.
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