If the shoe fits-Children’s Foot Development and Footwear

If the shoe fits-Children’s Foot Development and Footwear

When a child is developing, parents often focus their concerns on their children’s: teeth, hair growth, and social and intellectual capabilities, the feet however, are often forgotten about!

This was made clear when previous research reported worrying findings such as:

ill-fitting footwear in over 50% of children’, and another study citing ’83% of primary school children at 5 years of age are wearing footwear that is too small’


Adequately fitting footwear throughout childhood is essential for healthy foot development.

You may be thinking that, everything considered, adequate fitting footwear is not a major cause for concern, children don’t often complain when their shoes are too small.

There is a reason for the possible lack of footwear induced pain complaints from children, it involves the structure of the developing foot.

Children’s feet are not a miniature replica of adults. Size may appear to be the only difference however, a child’s foot is composed of varying amounts of relatively soft/ malleable cartilage (the flexible substance also found in your ears and nose) whereas an adults foot is largely bone. Thus, the younger and softer foot is more vulnerable and susceptible to deformity from abnormal, repetitive pressure. Unfortunately, inadequate footwear can cause permanent structural deformation.

Growth rate

Children’s feet do about half their growing until they are four and from then after they develop at a steady rate. Studies show that during the first ten years of a child’s life the foot grows about one-half inch a year, with the yearly growth rate considerably slowing between the age of 10 and 20.

Newborn and Pre-school Feet:


The foot of a newborn is mostly cartilage. From 2-12 months the foot will develop very quickly and consists of 40% cartilage, thus tight fitting footwear during infancy can, as aforementioned, result in permanent structural damage.

When a child reaches 3 years of age much of the cartilage has become bone and by age of 6 all bones have taken shape. However the bones do not completely mature until 18-20 years old.

So until then the young foot remains partially composed of cartilage, and still susceptible to deformity from abnormal constrictive repetitive pressure.

What is a good shoe?

An adequate shoe can be described as footwear which does not restrict the natural function of the foot and which gives adequate protection from climate and local environment.

How often should you buy new footwear for your child?

During the first 12 months development of the foot structure will occur rapidly, possibly going through 3 or 4 sizes. Recommendations of foot size and footwear checks are made with growth stages in mind.

Feet should be measured monthly the first year, every two months between the age of 12 months and 24 months, and every 3 months from 24 to 36 months. Then after, footwear checks should be carried out every 6-8 weeks and footwear changes every 3-4 months.

Age When to measure your child’s feet measured
Below 12 months Monthly
12 and 24 months Every 2 months
24 to 26 months Every 3 months
36 + months Check feet and footwear every 3 to 4 months

Visit our Podiatrists and trained shoe fitters at any one of our Foot Solutions branch, to maintain your child’s foot health throughout their growing life.


Laura Devlin


Foot Solutions