Updated: Mar 8, 2021
Your little one has taken those first steps...so what kind of shoes are best for their new walking feet? Let’s talk about baby feet and why shoe type is important!
It is important to know that in utero and in infancy, the tissues of the feet are primarily soft. The process of bony maturation occurs gradually over the first ten YEARS of life. This makes it important to be mindful of how we are supporting our children’s foot development. An important part of that conversation is the type of shoes we choose to put on our children’s feet and when.
The average age that babies begin walking is around 12 months, with a range of around 10-15 months being considered typical. As adorable as little infants look in shoes, it is highly recommended to keep babies barefoot until they are walking. Shoes may restrict proper development of the feet, minimize important sensory input to the feet, impede on foot and ankle muscle development, and interfere with development of important balance strategies. For pre-walkers, grip socks or crib shoes are a good option to keep feet warm in cooler temperatures without restricting mobility and movement of the feet and ankles. However, it is still recommended to give pre-walkers plenty of time completely barefoot. Once your baby is taking those first steps, it is still highly recommended to stick to barefoot walking (even sock-free) in safe environments and minimize use of shoes to environments that require protection of the feet, such as outdoors.
So what should you look for in a shoe for your new walker? Although some of the favorite popular brands look adorable in baby sizes (I won’t name brands, but I am sure you can picture some of the ones I am thinking of), they are often narrow, firm, and restrictive, which can negatively impact foot development in the long run. In general, shoes should be lightweight for energy conservation. Shoes for your little one should have a flexible sole to allow their foot to bend, rock, and move...similar to the movement freedom experienced when barefoot! A rubber sole to prevent slipping and falling is recommended. They should have a wide toe box to allow room for their toes to move and splay to react to the ground they are walking on. It is important to make sure that the shoes you put on your baby’s feet fit properly...cramped feet cannot move correctly or optimally!
Below are a few brands that I love to recommend for little feet! When in doubt, look for shoes that model after the “barefoot” approach and let your baby roam shoe-free as often as possible!
Wobbly Waddlers: https://www.firststepshoe.com/
Stride Rite (Soft Motion First Walkers): https://www.striderite.com/en/walking-101-2/?rst=first%20walkers
Keen (Toddler Newport H2): https://www.keenfootwear.com/p/T-NEWPORT-H2.html
Ten Little (Everyday Original): https://tenlittle.com/
Vivobarefoot (Primus Sport II Toddlers): https://www.vivobarefoot.com/us/primus-sport-ii-toddlers?colour=Obsidian
BONUS! Inclusive shoes that work well with orthotics such as AFOs and SMOs:
Ikiki Shoes: https://ikiki.co/
BILLY Footwear: https://billyfootwear.com/ (I would suggest these only if your child is wearing orthotics and choose a more barefoot brand if not).
By choosing the right shoes for little feet, you will help optimize your child’s foot development!