Is it wrong to be slightly envious of the shoe styles available for toddlers these days? When I was little, I could choose from three different styles: loafers, sneakers, or sandals, and in three different colors: brown, black, or white. 

Today’s toddler shoes come literally in a rainbow of colors that stand out with sequins, glitter, and even flashing lights. While it’s fun to bring some bling to your little one’s tootsies, parents should also remember that their toddler’s feet are still developing, and substance is more important than style. Follow these tips when selecting shoes to help protect their feet.

1. Choose Lightweight, Breathable Material

Soft leather or cloth are good choices. Stiff leather can hinder the foot development and synthetic material doesn’t breathe as well.

2. Head to a Kids’ Shoe Store

For their first pair of shoes, considering taking your toddler to a shoe store that specializes in kids' shoes. The selection will be larger and the sales assistants will offer guidance on how proper shoe fit.

3. Allow Room to Grow

A general rule is to allow a half-inch of space between the end of the big toe and the front of the shoe. If there’s more space, your child could be unstable. Less room constrains the foot.

4. Offer Enough Wiggle Room

In the heel area, your child’s foot should wiggle some so that the Achilles tendon isn’t strained, but not too much that their foot slips out. A good test is to insert your pinky finger to the first knuckle. If you can go further, the shoe is too big. If you can’t get the finger in that far, the shoe is too small.

5. Remember Your Toddler’s Big Feet

Little kids often have wider feet, and shoes should accommodate this fact. Push across the top of the shoe. If the material doesn’t ripple at all, the shoe is too narrow. If you’re able to push the material into a ridge, the shoe is too wide. 

6. Bring Socks 

Kids should wear socks when trying on and wearing shoes to add further protection. Additionally, feet tend to swell toward the day’s end. Shopping at this time will give you a more accurate sizing.