A baby’s foot is growing and developing daily. Until a baby begins to walk he/she does not really need any shoes or socks. In fact, hard and stiff shoes may harm the baby’s feet and hamper in the development of the child’s mobility. It is better to let them wear socks, booties or soft soled shoes to keep the feet warm. But it is also fine to let them be barefoot.
When a baby begins to walk he/she does so by gripping his/her toes on the ground. He/she does not need arch support like adults, so it is actually better to leave him/her to learn walking without any shoes to promote natural foot development. But of course, when the surfaces are uneven, hot, cold or rocky, shoes should be put on to protect the feet.
When shopping for the baby’s first pair of shoes, Paediatricians recommend three basic rules to keep in mind.
- Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement.
- Shoes should be made of mesh, cloth or leather to allow the shoes to mould to the baby’s feet and also let the feet breathe. Avoid stiff leather shoes as they can hinder foot development and synthetics as they do not allow the feet to breathe.
- The shoes should have rubber soles for traction and prevent slipping or sliding. Bend the soles to check that they are bendy and flexible, and have a good grip.
- Try and pinch some material from the top of the shoe when the baby is wearing it. If you cannot do that, the shoe may be too tight.
- The fit should be comfortable for the child. There should be room for your little finger between the shoe and heel. A thumb width space between the longest toe and the front of the shoe is desirable. As the feet grow fast, keep checking the size every month.
- Unlike clothes, hand me down shoes are not advisable for babies. Shoes mould to the wearer’s feet and a baby’s feet may develop blisters from shoes that have shaped themselves to others’ feet.
The choice between Velcro or laced shoes can be made depending on how often the baby tries to take his/her shoes off as laced shoes are harder for him/her to get off. Also, a baby should have closed shoes to protect his/her feet and crocs or sandals are to be avoided until he/she is about two years old as he/she may stumble while wearing these.