Almost everything for babies is adorable, including those tiny black high-topped sneakers and pink girly ballet flats.
But cuteness factor aside, does your baby really need shoes, and if so, what kind and when?
Bare feet, booties, socks or clothing with feet are sufficient if your child hasn’t learned to walk. Shoes protect feet, but they won’t help your baby stand or walk.
Once babies take the big step from cruising along furniture to those shaky first steps, it’s often only a few days before they gain confidence walking and you’ll hear that proverbial pitter-patter of little feet.
“We usually recommend that children wear shoes when they’re starting to walk and toddle outside and they need some kind of protective footwear,” said Kathy Carter, nurse practitioner at Doctors of Children.
When kids learn to walk, they splay their toes out to grip.
“We like for them to have a really soft moccasin-type shoe that has a wide toe box because most kids have kind of wide feet with a small fat pad on top,” Carter said. “Those little bones in their feet are being formed until they’re 21 so we don’t want any kind of restrictive footwear. We like a wide toe box with a little bit of wiggle room at the end.”
A rule of thumb is that baby shoes should have about a centimeter to ½-inch of space in the front of the shoe. The soles should help provide traction. Soles that are too soft can cause slips or falls.
Although it’s tempting to try to save money on shoes by getting hand-me-down shoes from a family member, friend or a garage sale, it’s not a good idea. Children mold shoes to their feet. If you put your baby into shoes worn by another child, you are forcing your baby’s feet into a shoe that has already molded to the shape of another child’s feet.
The first pair of shoes needn’t be expensive, and high-top shoes aren’t necessary because typically children don’t have weak ankles, Carter said.
Flip-flops are probably the worst shoes that a child can wear because they don’t provide support and children can get blisters between their big toe and first toe, she said.
The first pair of shoes will probably last two to three months, but you should check the fit of your baby’s shoes as often as once a month during this formative period, according to American Academy of Pediatrics.
Babyworks, the boutique at MilkWorks, carries a wide variety of baby shoes.
“The two most popular brands we carry are Pediped and See Kai Run. Both are wonderful companies that offer shoes for the newborn, toddler and preschool ages that we serve,” said Dianne Leighty, Babyworks retail manager. “We help parents find and fit shoes for their children.”
Babyworks is planning a “summer shoe event” with a podiatrist as guest speaker for parents who have specific foot-related questions.