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Having worked in my family's children's shoe business for many years, I have established some helpful hints for you when you are getting ready to purchase your children's shoes.

1. Remember that it is very important for your children to have a quality pair of shoes. It is better to buy inexpensive clothing than shoes. If you are going to buy shoes at discount stores such as Wal-Mart or Target, remember that they run very wide and long, and generally offer no arch support. If your child really begs for the shoe, get it as an occasional shoe.

2. Rule of thumb, children's feet tend to grow a half size every three months. While this can get expensive, it is not a good idea to size your children's shoes too large in order to get an extra three months. This is particularly true of first walkers. If there is too much extra toe room, the child will stumble. With older kids, the extra toe room will crease the shoe and make the shoe look old very quickly.

3. It is not necessary to put children in shoes before they are walking. If you need a foot covering, get a slipper or a crib shoe - something soft-soled. Once the child is beginning to walk on his own, then it is time to get a proper pair of walking shoes.

4. As your child's foot structure is important, develop a relationship with a children's shoe store. It is extremely important that you deal with someone who knows how to properly fit a shoe.

5. On a growing child's foot, the proper amount of growth room is approximately the length of the top portion of your thumb. Generally this will be a half size above the size the child measures. Very importantly, however, this varies from shoe company to shoe company. Nike, for example, runs approximately one size short in children's gym shoes. So if your child measures a size 11, you will probably want to get a size 12 1/2. They also run narrow, so if your child has a wide foot, this would not be the brand of shoe for them.

6. Bring your children to the store when they are not sleepy or feeling sick. This makes the shoe buying experience much more difficult for you. Try to find a store that is very child-friendly, where there are toys to play with and the kids can have some run of the store. Also remember that many babies and small children are afraid of being sized and fitted, as they tend to associate it with being with a doctor. If they cry, don't get frustrated or angry.

7. Most sandals have very flat surfaces, offering little or no arch support. If your child wears sandals often in the summer, pay the extra money and get a sandal with more support. A shoe with no support worn often will flatten your child's arches, making it more difficult to get back into the heavier, leather back-to-school shoes.