Shoes For Kids: Helping To Put Their Best Feet Forward

From little leather boots to tiny black Mary Janes, it seems like adults can't get enough of tiny baby shoes. You might not know that the shoes you choose for your child during infancy can actually have a major affect on the development of their feet, as well as the development of their motor skills. When choosing shoes for your baby and you child, keep the following guidelines in mind so that you child really hit the ground running in the early years of life.

1. Hold off for the first year or so.

Tiny patent leather dress shoes look adorable, but they can actually cause a lot of damage. When babies are born, their bones are still soft and malleable-- this helps them to move through the birth canal more easily, but it also helps them to grow at such a remarkable rate during the first year of life. Because the bones have not fully hardened, encasing a baby foot in a stiff shoe can actually cause deformation in the foot as the bones begin to harden. 

Use woolen booties for warmth, or opt to keep the infant in socks. Try to avoid baby shoes as much as possible during the first year of growth. 

2. Stay barefoot for as long as possible.

The bones in your baby's feet will harden gradually over time. In fact, it takes about five years for all the bones in a baby's body to fully form and harden-- including the feet. Some people used to think that it was essential for kids to wear shoes with great ankle and arch support because the bones were soft. However, podiatrists now believe that going barefoort without restraint is actually the best way for the arch and ankle to gain the proper shape and stability. Whenever safety allows, let your child walk without shoes. If dirt is a problem, have your child wear socks for protection.

Walking without shoes also promotes better muscle control. Children who learn to walk without shoes have better command over their feet. They learn to grip with the toes and how to plant the foot firmly in order to stay balanced, even during a run.

3. Choose flexible shoes.

When your child is finally ready for shoes, it can be difficult to find a pair of shoes that is actually good for their feet. Avoid shoes that:

  • have tight uppers. Shoes with firm laces and stiff fabrics offer little flexibility for a soft foot. Look for shoes that use a combination of laces, elastic, or hook and eye fasteners. Elastic "laces" help the shoes to bend with the top of the foot, preventing bruising and allowing your child to utilize full range of motion.
  • are heavy. Lightweight shoes provide protection without weighing down the leg. Children should learn to walk and run without the added burden of a heavy shoe-- it will affect the way they lift and land on the foot.
  • have thick soles. When choosing a shoe, choose one with a durable, extremely flexible sole. You should be able to bend a child's shoe in half, as well as twist it easily from side to side without stressing the shoe. Avoid structured sports shoes for little children, as well as traditional sneakers. Any shoe that looks like an adult shoe in miniature is usually a poor choice. 

Basically, a toddler shoe should be for protection from the elements only. The muscles and bones and the foot need space and time to develop fully, without the help of a structure sole. Following these simple guidelines about baby shoes can help prevent muscular and structural foot problems in future, like flat feet or strange gait due to under-developed muscles in the toes. If you have any more questions, check out sites like