How to Buy Baby Shoes
How to Buy Baby Shoes
August 16, 2022

How to Buy Baby Shoes

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How to Buy Baby Shoes

There’s no shortage of baby shoes out there. From soft-soled or hard-soled to sandals and sneakers, there’s a shoe style that’ll look cute on any kiddo. But do younger babies actually need shoes?

As cute as they are, shoes aren’t really necessary for babies who aren’t walking yet. And even then, it’s best to make sure your little one is totally comfortable in their walking skills before putting them in shoes all day every day.

We talked with Dr. Tracey Agnese, pediatrician, mom and supporter of new parents, to get all the info on how babies’ feet develop and what to keep in mind when considering baby shoes.

Overall, what’s best for a child’s foot development as far as shoes/socks/bare feet?

For foot development, bare feet or socks is best. The human foot has 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. The structure of the foot is fully developed by around age two, but the bones in the feet do not fully develop and harden until around 18 years old. So as baby’s feet are growing and developing, it’s best to not confine them in shoes.

Also, babies have a “fat” pad in the arch area of the foot, which makes them look like they have flat feet. But that is not the case. In fact, it is a natural built-in arch support so they do not need any extra arch support.

Can you explain soft-soled vs. hard-soled shoes? Is one better for babies than the other?

Soft-soled shoes are lightweight and flexible. Hard-soled shoes are heavy and rigid. As babies’ feet are growing and developing, it’s best to not be confined in a rigid shoe. The heaviness of a hard sole also makes it harder to learn to walk.

The best way for a baby to learn to walk is barefoot. Being able to feel the ground they are walking on can help with balance, coordination and proprioception (the sense that tells the body where it is in the space around them, which is very important to have when you’re learning to walk). And you need to feel your feet against the ground to have this proprioception. ⁣Being barefoot also allows babies to extend their toes to grip the floor so they’re less likely to fall. ⁣ The only reason for shoes while learning to walk is to protect their feet from harm when outside, like gravel, pointed objects or extreme hot or cold temperatures. If the outdoor environment is too dangerous for the feet in soft soles, use hard soles for as short of time as possible for protection.

Going barefoot allows your baby to use their own muscles to work to find balance and strength. Relying on the strength of the shoe can hinder the development of muscles in the foot and ankle.

Is there a true “best first shoe” for children?

If you cannot let your walking baby go barefoot, choose a soft, flexible-sole shoe to provide protection while still giving many of the benefits of being barefoot, like being able to move and bend the foot easily. You also want to choose non-skid or skid-resistant soles to decrease slips and falls.

The correct fit is also important for comfort and to prevent ingrown toenails and other foot injuries. Babies’ feet grow so fast, so you’re probably going to have to buy a new pair of shoes every few months in the beginning. About once a month, check that they still fit. The heel should be nice and snug, but there should be room at the top of your child’s big toe - about finger-width distance from the inside edge of the shoe. No shoes are better than tight shoes!

Babies do not need shoes with arch or ankle support. Comfort is best.

Do you recommend soft-soled “first shoes” for babies, like Pediped, Freshly Picked or Robeez?

Babies do not need shoes if they are not walking. Until they are learning to walk, all they need are socks to keep their feet warm.

Is there such a thing as “training shoes” to help babies learn how to walk? Do you recommend them?

Barefoot is best for learning to walk. If barefoot is not an option because you need to protect their feet, try to get as close to barefoot as possible. I do not recommend any shoes to help a baby learn to walk.

When do you recommend children start wearing shoes regularly?

Once the child has learned to comfortably and confidently walk without shoes, regular use of shoes, including hard-soled shoes, is fine when outdoors. This is usually around 15-24 months, but is different for every child.

So there you have it: barefoot is best for baby’s development. You might be tempted to empty your wallet over all the adorable infant shoes out there (we can’t resist a good baby moccasin), but for the sake of your baby’s feet being able to grow and develop naturally, save those shoes for photo ops and brief outside excursions when the conditions are too harsh for bare feet.

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