Once your baby starts cruising along furniture to take their first few steps, it’s important to think about what shoes to buy for your little walker. The foot is a complex structure comprised of 26 bones. These bones are designed to support the entire body, adapt to uneven surfaces and absorb shock with each step. A baby’s foot contains more cartilage than bone. Although the structure of the foot develops fully by 2 years of age, the bones themselves do not fully develop and harden until around 18 years of age.
A child’s arch typically does not develop until puberty. With babies, the arch will usually not be visible or developed for the first 2 years and even then it is not fully developed. In the early years of childhood, there is a “fat” pad in the arch area of the foot, which gives the appearance of a flat foot, but this is not the case and it is a natural arch support.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed recommendations to help you find shoes that are helpful and not harmful as your baby continues learning to walk. Flexible, non-skid or skid-resistant soles are one of the most important features to look for in a baby shoe. Children should be wearing shoes that are flexible and allow the foot to bend and move as though the child is barefoot. You also want to make sure your baby’s shoes fit correctly and aren’t too small.
Children learn to walk by gripping their toes on the ground, and they don’t need arch support. At home, it’s okay to leave your child barefoot to promote natural foot development. However, when surfaces are uneven, shoes should be worn to protect their feet.
The AAP recommends the following when shopping for your child’s first pair of shoes:
- Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement with a stable base of support.
- Shoes should be made of leather or mesh to allow your baby’s feet to breathe comfortably.
- Shoes should have rubber soles for traction to prevent slipping or sliding.
- Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
- Base your shoe selection for children on the barefoot model.
- Shoes should have good shock absorption with durable soles as children participate in more high impact activities.
The Appropriate Shoe
- Pre-Walking Shoe: Certain types of shoes are appropriate for your child’s age. Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They need booties or pre-walking shoes that do not bind their feet. The shoe should be flexible rather than providing a rigid support, and it’s very important that the shoe be shaped like the child’s foot. The function of a shoe at this age is warmth and protection.
- Toddler Shoes: Choose a lightweight shoe as children at this age, tend to use a lot of energy walking. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit fat little feet better. Toddlers can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors. Toddlers should have flat heels on their shoes.
- School-Age Children’s Shoes: Style and shoe fit is important for school-age children. Their main function is shock absorption and protection. At this age, they can choose from a variety of options including athletic shoes, sandals, hiking shoes, etc. It is very important to wear the right shoes for the right activity to prevent injury. Look for reasonably priced, flexible, well-ventilated shoes that allow plenty of room for growth.
Let’s explore which shoe brands are best for your children!
Sneaker/Sandal/Winter boot Recommendations:
- Pediped (click here) (Infant, Toddler): The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recognized Pediped shoes as beneficial for a child’s growing feet. The shoes are made of premium grade leather, and their footwear system allows you to choose shoes designed for first steps and next steps for infants and toddlers. Pediped happens to be a favorite at Big Leaps and we recommend Pediped as our number one choice. They have great shoes and sandals that are light weight, flexible and comfortable.
- Tsukihoshi (click here) (Infant, Toddler, Youth): These shoes allow for more space around the toes which helps improve a child’s sense of balance. They also provide stability at the heel to achieve proper walking and have light and flexible soles.
- Robeez (click here) (Infant, Toddler): APMA recommends Robeez because the company’s shoes promote natural foot function. These shoes are made of high-quality leather, are flexible and support healthy foot development for infants and toddlers.
- Keen Newport H2 Sandal (click here ) (Toddlers): These sandals have patented toe guards that help protect little toes while hiking, walking, running and even biking. The midsoles provide cushioning and support and the antimicrobial footbeds help keep foot odor under control. They also offer exceptional durability and traction on wet surfaces. These are also some of our favorite sandals for toddlers.
- 5. New Balance 680V6 (click here) (Infant, Toddler, Grade School). The 680v6 has a minimal mesh upper that offers the foot flexible support. These sneakers are made with an adjustable alternative closure and so this shoe helps make getting dressed super easy.
- New Balance 574 (click here ) (Infant/Toddlers/Youth): This is a classic retro-running shoe with EVA foam midsole for cushioning, non-marking outsole with a suede/mesh upper top and prove good arch support.
- New Balance 860v10 (click here) (Grade School): These sneakers provide midfoot support and reduces weight of the shoe. It also has a cushioning footbed and shock absorbing technology. The medial Post helps to prevent over-pronation and a rubber outsole to provide traction and stability.
- North Face Tooddler Winter Boots (click here). These winter boots provide warmth, flexibility and traction at the arches of the feet.
- Kamik Rain and Winter Boots for toddlers and kids (click here): These rain boots keep your feet dry in wet weather and the winter boots are light weight but strong as it allows for traction and flexibility.
Time to shoe shop!!
This post is sponsored by Big Leaps Pediatric Therapy Practice