It seems to have been the custom in the US, especially in the South, for children to simply remain barefooted until a certain age. I believe 10 or so. The natural human foot is often much wider, especially in the toe box where the toes are widely spread(a newborn baby's feet are exactly so). Such that not putting shoes on young children would allow the foot to develop naturally, and therefore be wider in general, even after introducing shoes, compared to those who are habitually shod almost since birth.<Do Southern men really have wider feet than their English counterparts?>
I'm not sure about the customs in Victorian Britain, or what period baby shoes were like, but them being shod in rigid shoes from an earlier age may explain why the shoes were too narrow. The English would have built the shoes using lasts typical to English feet.