How Fast Do Children's Feet Grow?

How Fast Do Children's Feet Grow?

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).

[Why is the right size so important for kids? SEE OUR RELATED POST: Wikler's Quest for Healthy Children's Feet]

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.

How fast do children's feet grow?

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 2). 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.

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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54 Comments

  1. Amy
    I'm laughing because you left out ages 10-12....... I've got 7 children, so I can tell you ages 10-12 is CRAZY on shoes. So far, at that age, I've seen most of my kids go up 4-6 sizes in only 6-18 months. It's amazing to watch. My oldest child at 12 was fitted into men's size 7 in August and men's 10s in January. After that, he slowly went into a size 11 by age 17. My "baby" boy is 11 this year- started out in a men's 6, and is currently in a men's 9 1/2. He didn't gain any weight or height, but his feet exploded out!

    What some of us need is a shoe rental program between the ages 10-12. They truly need a new pair of shoes every month at this age. ;)
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      So true Amy! We focused on the early years for this post because the early teen years is a whole different ordeal. Kids are far more unpredictable at that age with potential for fast and big growth spurts, so it's very difficult to say what to expect.
      Reply
  2. E Hofwijks
    I have 5 children. 3 of them wearing Soft Star Shoes. My youngest daughter is in a size 6 with 15 months old.
    My son will become 3 in June. He has a size 12!
    And my daughter of 4 years old has a size 10.

    The feet of my daughter of 4 don's grow very fast. The feet of my son grow tremendously! I guess he needs size 1 of the youth collection when he is 3,5...
    Reply
  3. Ellen
    Your metric measures are off.
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Ellen. Could you tell us where you see a mistake? We double-checked and everything looks like it adds up okay. We did round up .71" to 3/4" for simplicity.
      Reply
  4. Jennifer Saranow Schultz
    Jennifer Saranow Schultz
    Thanks for the helpful info regarding how fast kids' feet grow! I linked to it today from my blog, which focuses on daily hints to make parenting easier and cheaper:

    http://hintmama.com/2013/09/17/todays-hint-have-your-child-wear-used-shoes/
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Thanks Jennifer! You may want to check out our new Soft Star resale page: http://www.softstarshoes.com/resale
      Reply
  5. Debra rosenbloum
    We created a product to help parents measure kids feet at home. It's Squatchi kids shoe sizer and foot growth chart. Marking and dating each time you measure your kids feet will help you reference their size but also create a foot growth chart of your children's feet
    Reply
  6. Christimathews
    You right Martin the children feet grow at faster rate. I have seen this happen to my nephews and also the foot growth of children depends on the nutritious food.
    Reply
  7. HubbaBuba
    You people with so many children need to stop overpopulating the planet!
    Reply
    1. elf Martin
      Ha ha.
      Reply
  8. Motherof3
    My 9 year old daughter was in a size 6 at the beginning of the school year and now since she has been having a lot of growing pains, I just had her feet measured and she is a size 9 like myself. How in the world did she jump 3 shoe sizes in 8 months? If her feet don't stop growing she is going to have big feet!
    Reply
  9. Dylan
    I'm 13 years old and I grow about 2 shoe sizes a year. I up to a size 17 now.
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Wow Dylan! You might be the exception. Size 17 was the largest shoe we've ever made.
      Reply
  10. Dylan
    I'm also 6ft 1. People call me Shaq Jr. Because of my height,and shoe size. I just ordered 4 pairs of socks for $40. It's ridiculous!
    Reply
  11. Chelsea
    Some great information here on how fast those little feet can grow!
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Thanks Chelsea!
      Reply
  12. missy87s
    So iam having problems looking for winter shoes for my son who will be 2 next month. We have been wearing sandals or flip flops most of the summer. The problem is i want soft/durable/flexible shoe for him. And when i go to pediped or other places his feet are to big for the shoes made fir his age. Hes wearing a open toe size 10 sandal currently. He is over the 90th percentile for height and weight. Im really cinfused bc he is still young and i dont want to damage the develpoment of his feet by buying shoes for young youths that are stiffer harder and heavier. What should i do.
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Missy. I have a nephew who was over the 90th percentile for his size when he was that age, and it was definitely a challenge finding shoes and clothes for him, especially with how fast he was growing. I think the best you can do is to just keep going up in size and do your best to find the right size to give him growing room without making shoes so big that he trips over them. My nephew's growth spurts leveled out in the following years and is now average for his size, so that may also happen with your son. If you're interested in our shoes, then I recommend contacting our customer service elves directly at 866-763-2525 or elves@softstarshoes.com. They can talk to you about size and width options and may ask for measurements to find the best fit. Good luck!
      Reply
  13. Lisa
    Great info- just trying to work out what size winter boots I might need for a current size five (toddler!)
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      I hope it helps, Lisa. Feel free to contact us if you have any other sizing questions!
      Reply
  14. Lisa
    Thanks for this article. I am having a terrible time trying to find he right size shoe for my toddler, who seems to be in between sizes. Her foot is 6.25". A size 9 seems to not give extra room in the toe. But a size 10 seems big and slips at the heel. Ive had her measured and they said her toe was right on the line of a 9. What size should she be in if there are no half sizes? I am confused because I keep hearing that we should have 1/2" of space at the toe, but not in the back. But when my daughter walks, her feet just push to the front of her shoes an if there is any extra space, it ends up in the back of the shoe and the heel slips up and down. So I'm not sure how I can get the extra 1/2" of space without the shoe falling off or being uncomfortable. She also has a narrow foot, so I'm not sure if that is why? Do we need less wiggle room with a narrow foot? Thanks for your help.
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Lisa. We can understand the difficulty you're having sizing your toddler. It's true that shoes will often slide forward if they're too big, but as long as there's room there then the child will still grow into the shoes—f there isn't heel room then there will be too much pressure on the toes. When it's a close call, we always recommend going with the larger size. It may be too floppy at first, but she'll quickly grow into them, whereas if you get the smaller size then they'll quickly be too tight. If she has a narrow foot then the narrow width may help a lot with the fit. Our narrow shoes have less upper material in addition to being slightly narrower, so there is less room for the foot to slide around.

      It may help for you to try this printable sizing guide for our size 10 shoes. It shows width standards so you can see at a glance if she would do better in a narrow shoe. You can also find these guides for other child sizes on our sizing page:

      http://www.softstarshoes.com/PDF/10_shoe_200801.pdf

      I hope that helps. Feel free to contact us with any questions. If you're still unsure, you may want to contact our customer service elves directly to discuss it further: 866-763-2525 or elves@softstarshoes.com. They may ask you for instep or heel measurements.

      Good luck!
      Elf Martin
      Reply
  15. KFH
    When I was about 11.5 years old, I could get into a size 10, I'm about 12.3 years old now, and I get into a 10.5.
    Reply
  16. blablabla8hj
    love help
    Reply
  17. Jessica
    what if you don't think feet are growing enough? My almost 4 year old is in toddler size 9 shoes, has been for at least 6-7 months, as I can't remember if his shoes were the same size before current pair, and if we try a size 10, most are close to 1/2 or more too big. He's comfortable and has a little room in the 9s still....
    Reply
  18. Elf Martin
    Hi Jessica. Children have unpredictable growth spurts and it's not uncommon for them to go several months without any change. One of Soft Star co-owner Tricia's daughters wore the same shoe size for nearly a year when she was a toddler, then shot up 2-3 sizes within a few months. If you're worried about his growth rate overall, however, then we recommend seeking a doctor's opinion.
    Reply
  19. Lynda Tate
    My grandson who I always buy school shoes for and is getting on for 10 his feet have not grown for over a year and still is a size 2.5 junior (not child). I am worried as even the width has changed he was an H and is now between F and G width. Is this normal?
    Reply
  20. Elf Martin
    Hi Lynda. Bear in mind we're not doctors, but yes, we see this happen a lot. Soft Star co-owner Tricia has a daughter who stayed the same size for over a year... then suddenly shot up two sizes within a few months.
    Reply
  21. adam
    My son went from a men's 7.5 to a 10.5 in 12 months. He's 13 year's old. Recently, I've been changing sizes every 3 to 4 weeks. I found a shoe he likes and bought every size up to 12 when it went on sale.
    Reply
  22. Sarah
    What is too big where it might lead to problems? I bought my 14 month old a little larger size (she has a thumbs width, about 1/2 inch of space). Would going up to the next size, an inch, be too big? These are shoes for the winter so I want her to be solid on her feet but I would also like them to last until at least March since winter in Wisconsin can drag on!
    This is my first child so I have no comparison.
    Thanks!
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Sarah. We find that having a thumbs-width of space is ideal. It will last most kids the better part of a year without being so big that they stumble in their shoes. Unfortunately, we can never predict when kids will have a surprise growth spurt so there is always some guesswork involved. Going up to the next size would only add 1/3" to the overall length of the shoe. If she's had her current size for a while then the next size up would probably be the safest bet.
      Reply
  23. Mamo
    Thank you for a great article and for making me realize my 4 year old grand daughter is fully normal! I thought something was wrong as we have to buy new shoes - size up, every 4 months for her.
    Reply
  24. Elf Martin
    Glad we could help, Mamo!
    Reply
  25. Ashton of Dressu
    Ashton of Dressu
    This is where we are at with my son's shoes - he just outgrows them after a couple of months! It is so hard to avoid buying those cute tiny footwear but it is not worth the money especially since I know he will outgrow really quickly.
    Reply
  26. Ana Maria
    my son will be 2 in 3 months. Is buying shoes half an inch bigger than his foot, too big?
    Thank you.
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Ana. Half an inch sounds like a reasonable amount of growing room for that age, though the best way to tell is to try on the shoes. If he can still run in them without tripping then it should be okay.
      Reply
  27. Nicole
    I must have small feet. I'm 15 and I am in a kids 3-5 (depending on the brand)
    Reply
  28. jenni
    My 4 year old daughter is a 7 and has been for about 10 month now, I can tell we are about to head in to an 8 very soon so hopefully they stay like this for another 10 month :)
    Reply
  29. Tessa Weikert
    My 4 year old will be 5 in November and has been a size 9 since he was 3. (Like literally because he got size 9 shoes on his 3rd birthday) Its nice but I'm starting to be comcerned.
    Reply
  30. Elf Martin
    Hi Tessa. It certainly isn't unusual, but if you have any concern about his health then you may want to consult your family doctor.
    Reply
  31. Tanya
    My sons feet have not grown in 2 years he is 6years old and is a size 10 should i be worried he has got development delays.
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Tanya. It's not unheard of for kids to go through that, but if you have any concerns then we recommend consulting your family physician.
      Reply
  32. Chelsea
    My son is 3 years old, he will be 4 in a few months, and is in a size 1 youth shoe. His growth has been rapid since birth. His pediatrician recommended some soft shoes because he has flat feet. He said that new studies have shown that less support means more of a chance for muscle growth. What is the difference between Soft Star and Robeez? Any specific recommendations?
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Chelsea. Good questions! We definitely recommend our Roo moccasins for soft shoes to promote growth. The next best would be our child Rambler, which has a rubber sole—not as soft and flexible as our leather-soled Roos, but more durable for the playground.

      As far as the differences between us and Robeez, here's what we wrote for our FAQ:

      Soft Star Moccasins have been made with the same great fitting design since 1989. Robeez shoes were introduced later, and adopted our elastic closure system. However, the similarities stop there.

      Soft Stars are the only shoes with soft, moisture absorbing natural sheepskin soles. The sheepskin sole wicks away moisture and also provides more cushiony protection against toys, gravel or other objects under your toddler's toes.

      Our shoes are handcrafted here in the USA, unlike other children's shoes. Most of our leathers come from US based tanneries, which have stringent rules and regulations for worker safety and environmental standards. No formaldehyde is used in the tanning of our leathers (not the case with many imported leathers and shoes).

      Finally, our moccasin sizes don't stop at age 4 like the competitors—we make them for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, youths and adults!
      Reply
  33. Rachel
    My 3 year old daughter has been a size 6 for over a year now. Aside from the fact that it seems rather small, should i be concerned about the lack of growth?
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Rachel. That's not unusual to hear—many kids go through ebbs and flows of growth spurts like that. Nonetheless, we're not qualified to give medical advice about this and only a doctor can tell you whether or not there are any health concerns.
      Reply
  34. Liza Leal
    I have a 13 year old son that is size 9 and he wants to but expensive shoes how long will the shoe last
    Reply
  35. Oliver volk
    I'm 15 years old and my height is 5'8 and still my shoe size is us 8 how can i increase the length of my feet with what excercises?



    Thnk u
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Sorry Oliver, but we don't know of any way to increase the size of your feet. Sometimes, people who have worn tight, constricting shoes for a long time find that their feet spread out and may go up a size after switching to roomy minimalist shoes like ours, but beyond that there isn't much you can do except to let your body grow into it's natural size. It's not unusual for someone who is 5'8" to have size 8 feet, though it's possible you'll still go through another growth spurt.
      Reply
  36. Lee
    Our grand daughter has just turned 9 yo and has been undergoing a series of growth spurts since she was 3 yo. Currently she has graduated to an adult size 10 with the width of her feet (she has flat feet) also demanding we look for wider fits. Her dad is 6.2' tall and wears a size 13 shoe but at her current rate of development both in height and shoe size we wonder whether an open toe sandal is the best way to go until her growth rate slows knowing we might have to sacrifice some ankle support in the meantime? What are your thoughts?
    Reply
  37. Stephanie Cox
    Hello! I have an extremely important question for the professional, I'm assuming that's Elf Martin? Okay so, I'm dealing with a HUGE problem...

    [Note from Elf Martin: We edited out the rest of this comment due to its long length and the inclusion of personal information, but the question is asking about the dangers of wearing shoes that are way too big.]
    Reply
    1. Elf Martin
      Hi Stephanie! I'm not sure I'm really the professional you'll need to answer this question as I don't have a medical background. Plus, we usually deal with problems that arise from people wearing shoes that are too small. I don't know if we've ever encountered kids wearing shoes with as much extra space as you describe. We try to help our customers find shoes for their kids that will allow adequate growing room while still fitting comfortable so their shoes will last as long as possible, and our common "rule of thumb" is to allow a thumb's width of space between the end of their longest toe and the remaining space in the shoe (with their heel all the way back). Any larger than that and we're likely to see kids tripping over their own feet. That's usually reason enough to avoid going any larger, so we haven't had much experience with medical issues that could arise from having excess space. If their feet are not able to move naturally in the shoes (for example, if they're tensing their feet or moving abnormally to adjust to the shoe flopping around) then that could possibly hinder their natural foot development.

      I did a search online for other information about this and unfortunately couldn't find much. I did, however, come across this brief comment by a doctor that touches on the subject: https://www.doctorslounge.com/pediatrics/forums/backup/topic-20175.html. I hope that helps!
      Reply
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