A baby’s first year is an exciting time for parents – so many changes and new developments including that very special moment when a child takes her first steps.
But before you rush out to buy your baby some new shoes, it’s important to understand what is best for her foot development.
Your Baby’s Foot
A baby’s foot contains more cartilage than bone which, over time, will fuse and harden into adult bones. The structure of the foot develops fully by the first 2 years and the bones fully develop and harden by the age of 13. Your baby’s bones need to be allowed to develop naturally, and this is why it’s important to ensure that your infant is wearing suitable footwear.
Barefoot is best
While your child is learning to walk, medical experts around the world agree barefoot is best to promote healthy and natural development of little feet. When it comes to footwear, these same experts recommend shoes that are soft, flexible, and soft-soled, as they are the next best thing to being barefoot.
“When babies are crawling and investigating their world, they are using their toes to lift up and down, which is why at this age, soft soles are good to allow them to move their toes”, says Felicity Slee, a podiatrist at Highett Podiatry in Melbourne, with close to 30 years of experience and a member of the Australian Podiatry Association. “With a normally-developing foot, a baby only needs a foot covering. Barefoot time is good, and soft soles are almost the equivalent of being barefoot. They don’t restrict the movement of the feet or restrict the toes.”
Choosing a soft sole shoe
A soft flexible sole is best as it allows the foot to move naturally. Soft suede soles are ideal for the early stages of learning to walk, and are great for indoors and light outdoor play and exploration.
It’s important to choose footwear made out of the right materials. Socks should be rich in cotton, and leather and canvas are a great choice for children’s shoes because they are durable, breathable, and flexible.
“Every child is different and many of the baby shoes available in Australia are made very broad. For a baby with a slim foot, a shoe with a higher elastic band is going to be easier to keep it on,” says Felicity.
The shoe should fit well around the ankle and hold the heel firmly in the back of the shoe. Elasticized ankles work best to keep shoes on when your little one is trying to kick them off.
Parents should look for brands designed to support a child’s foot development rather than those with a purely fashion focus.
Ensure the right fit
“A baby’s foot is very moldable at this age. A baby can’t tell you if a shoe is too small – they can scrunch their foot into just about anything. Their bones need to be supported while they are hardening”, says Felicity. “It’s very important to have a good fit”.
Aim for plenty of room and width in the toe area. You should be able to measure at least a finger width (about 1 cm less for skinny feet) between your child’s largest toe and the end of the shoe, and the shoe should be wide enough for all her toes to lie flat. If need be, fit shoes on the larger size rather than smaller.
Tips to find the right size
Fitting infant shoes can be difficult, and many don’t enjoy the experience. When looking for the right shoe, Felicity shared a useful tip. Trace your baby’s foot when she is standing, cut it out to measure and bring into the shop to slip into the shoe. The measurement of the outer sole is not necessarily the same as the insole, so make sure you’re checking the inside measurement of the shoe.
Measure your baby’s feet every 2-3 months
The greatest changes in foot growth occur in a child’s first 3 years. As a general guide from birth to 18 months, they will grow more than a half a foot size every 2 months. A toddler’s feet grow approximately half a foot size every 3 months. It’s important to check your child’s foot size and fitting of her socks and shoes every 2 months. Some children will grow faster, especially in the first few months of learning to walk so don’t be surprised if they need to be replaced sooner!
Poorly fitted shoes or socks can result in a number of adult foot problems such as ingrown toenails, hammer toes, and corns. Looking after your baby’s feet now will help to prevent foot problems later on in her life.
Robeez Soft Soles shoes for babies and toddlers
Robeez Soft Soles baby shoes are designed using high quality leather and materials, and are both comfortable and durable. Their soft suede soles cushion feet and allow toes a better grip, helping balance, encouraging muscle growth and preventing slipping. They stay on too, with a higher elastic band around the ankle which ensures a perfectly snug fit. All Robeez footwear carries the prestigious Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association, an accreditation only awarded to products that promote natural foot function.
Parenting, Travel, and Family Blog
Treads & Threads sells high quality, stylish and practical footwear for babies that stay on feet: Trumpette baby socks and Robeez Soft Soles shoes for babies and toddlers.
Blog articles focus on parenting, travel, and family, written by a Canadian mother of three living in Melbourne, Australia - owner of Treads & Threads.