How do I buy kids’ shoes online?
We’ve heard from a lot of parents about how hard it is to buy children’s shoes online: Because kids’ shoe sizes are almost always incorrectly sized (we have found differences of up to 5 sizes between marked and actual size!), parents often order several pairs in different sizes from online shops. And if you’re lucky and one pair actually fits, the others all have to be returned. We conducted a survey of 3843 parents in 2011 and got a surprising result: Of 522 pairs of children’s shoes purchased online, 450 pairs had to be returned – that’s 86.2%!
Here’s how to order kids’ shoes that really fit:
- Using the plus12: Place your child’s foot on the plus12 and measure the length from the back of the heel to the tip of the longest toe. Make a note of the length in millimetres indicated on the measuring tape. The plus12 automatically adds 12 mm (approx. ½ inch), so you now already know how long your child’s shoes have to be inside to fit well. Brand new shoes can have up to 17mm extra space to make sure they’ll fit for a few months, so be sure to add 5mm to the length indicated on the plus12. Remember this number: This is the inside length any shoes you order need to have.
- Using a cardboard template: Have your child stand on a piece of stiff cardboard and mark the back of the heel and the tip of the longest toe. Then add 17mm beyond the length of the toe and measure the distance between that point and the back of the heel. Remember this number: This is the inside length any shoes you order need to have.
- Inform the online supplier of the inside length you need and ask them to email you with the exact inside length measurements of the models you are interested in purchasing. This way you won’t have to return shoes that don’t fit.
Can I use the insole of a shoe to test the fit?
A useful but tricky method!
During our investigations we noticed that often, the length of the removable insole didn’t match the inside length of the shoe. Some are too short and slide back and forth inside the shoe, others are too long and curl up at the toe. According to several children’s shoe manufacturers we contacted, this is because the shoes and the insoles are made by different companies. <br> For this reason we recommend making sure that the inside length of the shoe and the insole match before using this method.
1. Removable insole test: Can removable insoles be used to test the fit of a shoe?
Using the plus12: Take the insole out of the shoe and measure the inside length of the shoe with the plus12. Then place the plus12 on top of the insole (using the plus12 like a measuring tape or ruler) and measure its length. Only if both measurements are identical can the insole be used to check the fit of the shoe.
Without the plus12: See if you can slide the insole back and forth inside the shoe. Remove the insole from the shoe and check to see if the toe area is curled up. If the insole doesn’t slide around inside the shoe and the toe is not noticeably curled, the insole can be used to test the fit of the shoe.
2. Using removable insoles to test shoe length: Do the shoes fit?
It’s a common mistake to line the child’s heel up with the back edge of the insole.
However, our measurements show that inside the shoe, the heel rests about 1cm away from the edge of the insole. That must of course be taken into consideration when doing the insole test:
- Place the foot on the insole so that the heel is approximately 1cm in front of the back edge of the insole.
- Measure the distance from the tip of the longest toe to the end of the insole. If this extra space measures 12-17cm, then the shoes fit.
Can I buy properly fitting shoes without taking my child along to the store?
Of course! And it’s easy, too!
First you will need to measure the length of your child’s foot.
We recommend using one of 2 methods:
- Using the plus12: Place your child’s foot on the plus12 and measure the length from the back of the heel to the end of the longest toe. Make a note of the length in millimetres indicated on the measuring tape. The plus12 automatically adds 12 mm (approx. ½ inch) when measuring, so you now already know the minimum inside length you’ll need. Brand new shoes can have up to 17mm extra space: This ensures they’ll fit for a few months. Add 5mm to the length indicated on the plus12 and remember this number. Take the plus12 to the shoe store and measure the inside length of shoes until you find one in the length you need.
- Using a cardboard template:Have your child stand on a piece of stiff cardboard and mark the back of the heel and the tip of the longest toe. Then add 17mm of extra space to the length of the toe. Cut out this template in a strip about 2 fingers wide and take it with you to the shoe store. If the cardboard strip can be moved back and forth inside the shoe then it’s too long; if it can’t fit in the shoe without buckling, the shoe is too short.
Do sandals also have to be 12 mm longer?
One of the main advantages to sandals is that they are open at the front and can't put pressure on the toes. This means that sandals could have less than 12 mm extra space without being detrimental to the heath of the foot, if the sandal straps allow the child's foot to be secured firmly to the shoe. However, we still recommend allowing 12 mm extra space, for two good reasons:
- The front edge of sandals can be quite sharp, and if the foot doesn't have enough extra space, the toes slip over this edge with every movement.
- " Children's feet grow, after all (How fast do kids' feet actually grow?) and to make sure that the sandals will fit for a few months, 12 mm extra space are just right.
How do I measure the size myself?
1. The Thumb Test
With the thumb test you can see straight away if the shoe fits or not. With the shoes on, have the child stand up (yes, this does make a difference!). Pressed against the toe cap of the shoe, the thumb should fit between the end of the shoe and the end of the longest toe.
Good advice! To make sure that the toes are not bent in the shoe, press the toes lightly with one hand while you measure the fit with your other hand. Always measure both feet.
And by the way: we have often wondered just how wide an average thumb is, and the answer is surprising - approximately 18 mm. This makes the thumb test, correctly applied, ideal for testing new shoes!
2. Making a stencil
This is a good method to make sure that the child's foot has enough space inside the shoe.
- The child should stand barefoot, or with close-fitting socks, on a piece of cardboard.
- Draw the outline of both feet with a felt tipped pen.
- Measure an additional 12 mm out from the longest toe (or 17 mm for new shoes).
- Connect the lines and cut out the cardboard form.
The plus12 is the first precise measuring device - independent of brand and shoe size.
How it works: (How the plus12 works)
Can kids actually tell if their shoes fit well or if they're too short?
We asked ourselves exactly that question, because during our "Measuring Days for Kids' Feet", we were often astounded to find kids wearing shoes that were 4 or 5 sizes too small! First we checked to see if any research had been done on this subject and discovered that the issue had not yet been investigated.
As part of our second research project (funded by the Austrian Ministry of Health and the Fonds Gesundes Österreich - the fund for a healthy Austria), we developed a shoe-test track for children: Kids were given one shoe that was much too short, the other foot was fitted with a correctly-sized shoe. The test subjects were asked to walk a few steps in these shoes and were then interviewed about the fit of the shoes.
The surprising results: Children cannot feel the difference in fit clearly, and describe even shoes that are markedly shorter that the foot itself as a good fit. This is why it is particularly important to check the inside length of children's shoes on a regular basis.
How wide should kids' shoes be for an ideal fit?
The question of width is a tricky one. First of all, no research has been done to determine how wide shoes should be to fit well (just as wide as the foot? A little narrower? A little wider?), and secondly there is still no simple, dependable method of measuring the width (or girth: the circumference of the shoe at the ball of the foot) of children's shoes.
Some manufacturers do offer children's shoes in different girths (that's the circumference of the shoe at the ball of the foot), but initial investigations have shown that here, just as with length, this information is not always dependable: instead of making shoes with different widths, the shoes are often the same width, with just a different girth. This seems confusing, but all it really means is this: The shoes are just made higher at the ball of the foot, increasing the circumference but not the width. This is anything but a healthy solution, because every child's foot has a different width.
We're working on solving this problem, but until we do, the only advice we can give you is this: As troublesome as it may be, have your child try on a number of different brands. You will find that kids' shoes have different girths inside. With enough patience, you should be able to find the shoe that fits best. Although it is difficult to test, occasionally there is some extra space between the upper and the foot. Use the laces or the Velcro fastenings to adjust the girth of the shoe to fit properly.
What about shoe sizes: I've heard that they're usually incorrect and that the shoes are much shorter inside than they should be. Is this really true?
During our Austrian research project, we examined the street shoes, house shoes and slippers of around 800 children, and we discovered that only approximately 3% of all of the shoes tested had the correct inside length. Interestingly, almost all of the shoes we measured were too short; hardly any of them were longer than indicated by the labelled size. Then we asked ourselves if brand-name shoes were better than no-name shoes, if cheaper shoes were not as good as expensive models, if smaller sizes were more carefully sized than larger ones, etc. But we were surprised to find out that there was no difference: whether expensive, cheap, no-name or what have you - the shoes produced by almost all manufacturers were just too short.
You might ask yourself how this could be. It probably has to do with the fact that this subject hasn't been made public before now, and therefore - although shoe manufacturers have been aware of the problem for many years - has been consistently ignored. And interestingly enough, no initiative has been made to make standardized shoe sizes in the EU mandatory... So it will probably be a while before children's shoes really are the size they're labelled...