Lets talk about my kids’ feet. The Girl is 3 and has a smallish foot (size 6), but nothing crazy. The Boy is 2 and a half and has a doughy foot with a layer of protective blubber on top. I understand that baby feet are chubby, but by now, shouldn’t that hoof have slimmed down a little and started taking on its human form? Don’t ask me how this happened. Physically, my husband is an elf and I am a gnome. We wear thimbles for shoes, so how we gave birth to someone with hobbit feet is beyond me.
After months of struggle to find a shoe that fit him when he first starting walking (around 15 months), I finally caved and went to Stride Rite. As most of you know, Stride Rite is like Christian Louboutin for kid piggies — indulgent, overpriced and unnecessary. It didn’t matter, I was desperate! I had purchased all sizes and types of shoes from Target and Kohl’s only to find myself unable to get the shoes on the feet without shoe horns and various cooking oils. In the rare instance that I could get a shoe on, he would fall every third step and fuss until I took them off. Toddler shoes are not just a plague for my son, my daughter suffers from a disorder whereby she finds walking in 90% of shoes to be a task equal in concentration to unicycling across the rocky surface of Mars during an earthquake (or would it be a Marsquake?).
Back to Stride Rite. I figured that any place with those metal foot measuring slider devices would be able to hook me up even if it was at a price. I pried off whatever foot covering I had wedged onto him that day so they could measure him and I shared my trials in shoe shopping with the clerk (do we still say clerk or is it pediprofessional or something?). At the risk of sounding like my grandmother, the ‘clerk’ went in the back to get an extra wide. Sweet! Who knew there was such a thing!? I may have heard about wide shoes for adults in passing (my perfectly shaped feet will be a topic for another blog, but they are awesome and don’t require to me to dabble in ‘special’ sizes), but I had never even thought about it for toddlers. She brought out the XW. $50+ later, I left with a fresh pair of extra wide toddler sneakers. The pediprofessional said ‘These should fit him for at least another 2-3 months’.
Somehow, once the shoes left the safety of the store and were exposed to the stale mall air, they shrunk 3 sizes. Within a week his meat loafs had expended to a width that dared the velcro to even catch. After some online sleuthing with my new keyword ‘wide’, I found out that Stride Rite carries an XXW – that clerk had been holding out on me! If you look at toddler boy XXWs on the Stride Rite site, there are 2 styles that I will call Nurse Shoes and Basket Sandals. My husband would confiscate Nurse Shoes immediately if spotted on Boy, and since Basket Shoes had holes for the fankle (like a cankle only in the foot area) to seep through and would inevitably cause waffle-foot, those were out too.
If you have struggled with buying shoes for your toddler, I have a few basic tips to share:
1. Think Cheap – Don’t be lured into expensive kids shoe stores. After all of my struggles with the Boy, the shoe we finally found to fit was a Healthtex Classic Wide Width shoe for under $13 at Walmart! Ding ding ding! Unfortunately he is in the largest size now, so short of some Chinese foot binding, we are going to have to resume our searching.
2. Trace Their Foot – If you can get them to stand still long enough, trace their foot on a piece of paper and you can either 1) take it shopping with you and compare to the bottom of shoes you think will work to figure out what size they need. Note: the paper foot is typically much better behaved than the real foot, which typically kicks and comes with a high pitched whine in my house. OR 2) Measure the traced foot and order the shoes online accordingly. There is a good inches to shoe size conversion list here.
3. Buy in Bulk – Once you find the shoe, buy it up in successive sizes! I learned my lesson with a shoe I finally found for my daughter. She never had a hard foot to fit, but she just had issues walking in 90% of shoes without tripping all over herself. Once she grew out of the ones that finally worked, I went back for more and they no longer carried them. If you find a pair that work, get the next 2 sizes up and stick them in the closet to save yourself trouble as they outgrow their shoes! I have even been known to buy 2 in the same size — one for play and one to keep clean(er)
4. Easily Returnable – Make sure you can return shoes easily from wherever you buy from (in store or online). Since I have not found a way to test for tripocity (the likelihood that my daughter will fall on her face simply because there is a foreign layer of protection between her feet and the ground), other than trying them on her, I often have to get them home and try them on her to test. The other option is having her try them on and walk around in the store. With another kid in the cart, the likelihood of this going off without a hitch is slim to none. I’d rather risk having to make a return.
These are really the only tips that have worked for me. There are about 10 pairs of shoes on the planet that these jokers can walk erect in and I need to find them. Heel room, toe room, breathability, sole rigidity, laces vs. velcro — please. If you Google, you will find all sorts of tips for toddler shoe shopping. I don’t see that I have enough options to be that picky. Can I get it on their foot and can they make it to the play set and back with a 50% or smaller chance of falling? If there is a toddler bunion alert because I didn’t choose the proper toe box, I’ll worry about that after it happens…