Most European kids wear house slippers or other indoor shoes in pre-school and kindergarten. According to a recent study conducted by the “Children’s Feet – Children’s Shoes” research team in cooperation with the Salzburg Regional Health Insurance Fund, over half of these kids are wearing shoes that are too short in length.

Five-year-old Lea thinks “Do your shoes fit?” is a silly question. Of course they do – they’re her favorite shoes! But both Lea and her mom are surprised by the results of the researchers’ examination: Leas’s shoes are four sizes too small. “This was a particularly drastic case in this year’s investigation,” says Dr. Wieland Kinz, head of the research team. But even if most kids aren’t wearing shoes four sizes too small, over 60% of the 283 children tested were wearing indoor shoes that were too short in length.

The researchers have found two reasons for this:

  • First, most children’s shoes are mislabeled: The size marked on the outside of the shoe is not the size on the inside. Over 90% of all children’s shoes are shorter in length than they should be – up to six sizes too short. In Lea’s case: The shoe was marked a size 28, but the inside measurement was only as long as a size 22. There is no legally required standard for shoe sizes, which allows manufacturers to print whatever size they want on their shoes.
  • Second, young children can’t tell if their shoes are too small. Studies have shown that children up to age 10 will often claim that too-small shoes fit comfortably.

This is a serious health risk: Too-short shoes can cause damage to children’s feet, often resulting in a permanent deformation of the toes, for example hallux valgus.

For a good fit, children’s shoes need at least 12 mm of extra length at the toe. You can test this yourself easily with a simple cardboard template: Have your child stand on a piece of cardboard and trace the outline of her foot. Add 12mm to the end of the longest toe and cut a strip, about as wide as 2 fingers, from the longest part of the outline. If the cardboard strip can’t fit in the shoe without buckling, the shoe is too short.