Tempted to shop at the discount shoe stores for your children because they’ll need the next size in a matter of months? Go right ahead – after you read this article on how to obtain a correct shoe fit for your child, that is. Correct fit shouldn’t be sacrificed for low prices, or it could cost your child dearly.

That’s because buying proper-fitting shoes is an investment in your child’s health. Children’s feet are not like adult feet: They are shaped differently, the bones are soft, muscles and ligaments are developing, and the feet are pressure-sensitive.

Selecting shoes that are too tight can cause excessive sweatiness, which can lead to warts, ingrown toenails and fungal infections. Too-tight shoes can cause blisters and bone spurs. Ill-fitting shoes can also aggravate hereditary problems, such as bunions and hammer toes, and can encourage improper foot development.

On the other hand (or foot), shoes that are too large can affect a child’s gait and cause discomfort while walking. Poorly-fitting shoes can retard a child’s performance in sports, leading to poor self-image or disrupted exercise habits, not to mention sports-related injuries such as Severs disease (inflammation of heel growth plates), sprains and fractures.

“Parents must know how to properly fit shoes to their child, or rely on a properly trained sales clerk to do the fitting,” says children’s podiatry specialist Frank Santopietro, M.D. “The price of the shoe is not as important as its design and fit.”

Experts caution parents not to rely on their children to tell them when their feet outgrow shoes, especially smaller children, because nerve endings in young feet are not fully developed and children may not be able to feel the squeeze until after their foot health has been compromised.