How Fast Do Toddlers’ Feet Grow?

Toddlers are unpredictable. Yours may love macaroni and cheese one day and refuse it the next, or cycle through three different moods in the time it takes to drive home from day care.

And just like the rest of them, toddlers’ feet are unpredictable too. Your child may fit into size 5 shoes for months, then grow out of her size 6 within weeks.

Sweet Feet

Between the ages of 1 and 3, it’s normal for a child’s foot to grow between 1/2- and 3/4-inch per year. That growth isn’t always super-steady, though. Growth spurts may make your toddler’s feet grow quickly in a short period of time. If you were to carefully measure your toddler’s feet each month, you might notice that they stretch by 1/8 inch one month and not at all the next month.

But who has the time or patience to wrangle a toddler into monthly foot measuring? How she fits into her shoes is the best indication of how her feet are growing. Your toddler may need to wear two or three different sizes in a given year.

Yes, it gets expensive to replace shoes that frequently, but rest assured that her growth won’t always be this rapid. After age 3, most kids’ feet only grow about 1/2 inch per year until they reach their adult size.

Sizing for Shoes

Children's sneakers close up.

Differences Between Youth & Infant Sized Shoes

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Make a habit of checking the fit of your child’s shoes about once a month.

When she’s standing in them, press against the ends of her toes with your thumb. If there’s less than a finger width’s of space between her toes and the front seam of the shoe, she’ll soon need a larger size.

In kids’ shoes, the difference between two consecutive sizes is usually anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch, depending on the manufacturer. Just as with adult shoes, not all pairs fit the same way. That’s why it’s important to try shoes on your toddler before buying them, at least when you’re trying a new brand of shoes.

Some manufacturers provide printable shoe charts, so you can accurately pinpoint your child’s size in that company’s shoes. Print it out, have your child stand on the chart and note where her toes end.

Although you may be tempted to bypass one size and buy shoes that your toddler can grow into—for example, buying size 7 when she outgrows size 5—it can be dangerous for growing toddlers to wear shoes that are too large. Coordination is still a work in progress for kids this age. Let your toddler run around in a prospective pair of shoes, and if she stumbles or moves awkwardly, pick a smaller pair or a different style.

Choosing Toddler Shoes

Nonslip soles are the most important design element for toddler shoes because they love to run and may still be awkward on their feet at times. Grippy soles help your child stay on her feet.

Look for shoes that slip on or fasten with hook-and-loop tape. It’s too early for your child to learn to tie her own shoes, so you’ll be the one having to do it every time. The easier the shoes are to get on and off, the more likely it is that your toddler will learn how to do those tasks herself.