The most important part of any child’s outfit is their shoes. Too tight, too loose, too narrow, too wide – any of these things can cause damage to growing feet that can cause trouble even into adulthood.
Because children’s feet grow so fast, you should get their feet measured every time you buy them new shoes, particularly school shoes, which they’ll most likely wear more than any other. Indeed, it is estimated that the average child will take one million steps in them.
Because less than a third of children fit a regular size, consider shoe ranges with half sizes and different widths. Never go bigger for them to grow into – poorly fitting loose shoes can cause blisters and don’t support growing feet. Conversely, don’t take the attitude of waiting to buy your child a new pair until you absolutely have to. Shoes that are too tight can be agony and can cause foot deformities including bunions. Until they’re four of five years old, children grow two full sizes a year on average – and even after that, it works out about a shoe size every year.
Think carefully about the particular stage of your child’s development – are they crawling, cruising, wobbly walking, confident walking, stomping (toddlers) or properly walking (starts around the age of three and five). Their shoes need to provide the right weight, support and flexibility to cope with the task in hand.
Durability matters. You don’t want your child’s shoes to be worn out before they grow out of them. And think about how easy the shoes are to get on and off – it’s no good buying lace-up shoes, for instance, if they can’t even tie a bow confidently.
Read on to find out our pick of the best children’s shoe brands on the market. They all stand out for different reasons – Mothercare for affordability; Keen for outdoorsy families, to give just two examples – but the one thing they all have in common is a commitment to producing well-thought through, child-focused shoes that are comfortable and long-lasting.
Not all the brands we tried made it into our round-up. Some were too brittle, others lacking in support. Some showed undue wear and tear almost instantly or were good but dramatically overpriced. Children make good testers – they’re critical, honest and blunt, just what we needed to find out which footwear brands are top of their game.
The concept behind Bobux shoes is mimicking the benefits of going barefoot, thereby allowing natural movement and flexibility of little feet. This is particularly important at the walker stage, says Bobux, when feet have no bones – just cartilage and padding tissues, with bones, ligaments and tendons developing through use. With freedom for toes to grip and spread, bones to grow in the right direction and muscles to get stronger, kids’ feet get the best possible start in life.
As such, all of Bobux’s designs start with the natural anatomical shape of the child’s changing foot and use extremely soft, good quality leather to build around it – and that stands for its shoes for babies right up to children aged around seven or eight. In short, they are never rigid and always roomy, while also being supportive. And they’re a doddle to get on and off too.
We think their its styles are gorgeous – a lot of them downright funky, the kind of shoes that attract compliments from complete strangers. Whether you need sporty, classic or smart, there is a vibrant selection with a refreshing number of unisex styles too.
People of a certain age (over 40 or so) may remember Start-rite being as well-known as Clarks back in the day. Indeed, it’s been going a whopping 225 years. In a saturated market, it doesn’t seem to be quite so high on parents’ radar these days, although we think it should be thanks to the fact that it puts children’s foot health at the very heart of its designs.
Particularly good for tiny tots and school-goers, its offerings are both supportive and comfortable (helped by the fact that all shoes are available in half sizes and with different widths), with a lot of thought having gone into styles that help prevent joint and posture problems later in life. And they won’t just last you a few weeks, thanks to the notable durability.