After the birth of your child, you may receive catalogs sporting charming leather sports shoes sizes 0-4, ads for keepsake shoes and brochures for soft handmade infant shoes. All this adorable footwear begs the question, “When is a baby ready for shoes?”
On the right foot
The good news for those of you wondering when to buy baby’s first shoes is that you don’t need to purchase any shoes – at least not right away, unless you want to buy them, according to the Mayo Clinic. While your infant looks cute in her shiny new Sunday shoes, their experts say that babies don’t really need shoes until they begin walking outside. Heavy socks are fine for outings in cold weather.
Shoes are not only unnecessary for learning to walk, but your infant needs to develop balance and strength by standing on bare feet. When your infant is home, it’s more beneficial to leave her shoes off unless the floors are very cold. In that case, you might want to use non-skid infant socks. Learn how to find good supportive footwear as your kids reach the next ‘step.’
This may not be true for children who have ankle or foot deformities, or other foot problems. If you suspect a foot problem, contact your pediatrician. Your child may need corrective footwear, but this is not the norm.
Once your child starts walking outside, hot concrete, uneven pavement, and sharp objects make shoes necessary.
Finding a first pair
Even then, you don’t need to purchase expensive shoes. Here are some guidelines on buying baby’s first “walking” shoes:
- The shoes should be made of material that “breathes,” such as canvas. Plastic and vinyl may cause your child’s foot to sweat.
- The soles should be firm but flexible, as well as smooth and non-skid. A ridged bottom can cause your baby to trip.
- High-top shoes don’t provide any more ankle support than low-top, normally. Ankle support isn’t really an issue at this age.
- Little or no arch support. Babies don’t need it.
- Wide or squares toes that allow your child to wiggle his toes and flex his feet.
- Soft, smooth insides – no seams that rub on tender little feet.
Proper fit is also important. The shoes should have a finger width of space between the toes and the end of the shoe. They should allow the child to wiggle his toes. Check the fit carefully, because your child may not be able to tell you what’s wrong – and poorly fitting shoes may result in blisters or cramped and painful feet. And remember to check your child’s foot size every couple months to ensure his shoes still fit properly.
Got an older kid? Check out our tips for finding the right shoe for your child.
This post was originally published in 2009 and has been updated for 2016.