It’s those first few months and years that are crucial for the development of your child’s feet. So it’s a good idea to get clued up on the right footwear and when to get it.

There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of those cute baby feet. Each of your baby’s feet starts with 22 partially developed bones, which will grow to around 45 by the time they’re five years old. Those will have fused to create 26 fully-formed bones by the time they’re an adult. 

From cruising to first steps - from baby to toddler.

If you’re starting to think about first shoes, chances are that your baby’s begun to master the art of cruising. This usually starts between 10 and 18 months. Cruising happens between crawling and walking, where your little one pulls themselves up onto everything and starts to slide their way along with their hands and feet. But don’t be tempted to rush out to the shoe shop just yet – your child doesn’t need shoes until they’re walking on their own. At this stage, going barefoot is best as it allows them to get used to taking steps naturally. Shoes might just get in the way, or worse may hinder their development if they’re not the right fit.

When do I buy my baby shoes?

At some point during this time, that magical moment will arrive – your child’s very first independent steps. There’s no need to rush them; all children will develop at their own pace. But once they’ve reached this stage, the time has come for that next landmark – their first pair of shoes. How necessary they are does slightly depend on the weather. If it’s high summer, your child might last a few more weeks with bare feet or socks in the garden or local park. If it’s drizzle season, or autumn leaves are squelching underfoot, you might want to keep their feet protected from the elements sooner. Use a common sense approach. Do note though that even once they’re proud shoe owners, they don’t need to wear them all the time. Only put them on when they are walking outside, at least to begin with.

What should I look for when buying toddler shoes? 

Before you start thinking colours and styles, it’s good to know the basic features to look out for. This will make sure your toddler’s first shoes allow them to grow normally and comfortably. The College of Podiatry has this handy checklist:

  • Look for close-cropped soles to prevent tripping.

  • Make sure there’s room for movement and growth built into the shoe.

  • Try to get shoes with soft leather uppers for cool, comfortable feet.

  • Choose shoes with lightweight, flexible soles to aid walking development. Most brands have pre-walkers, which are super-soft and actually fine for the first few walking months (according to parents we speak to).

  • Look for fully adjustable fastenings.

  • Try to find shoes with padded ankles for protection and support. Again, a common sense approach here is key. Some parents tell us it is obvious which styles their baby is most comfortable in when they try on a few. Some like high ankle support, others like them below the ankle.

With those guidelines in mind, you have a whole range of choice. Your main consideration will likely be the weather. Leather uppers are great, but canvas or cotton is fine too as these are also natural. The trouble with synthetic or plastic uppers is that they don’t let your toddler’s feet breathe, and their feet can become sweaty and rub. The same goes for socks – choose a natural fibre, like cotton.

Velcro is your friend – easy-to-use fastenings will also encourage your toddler to put their shoes on and take them off themselves when they’re ready. Although if they are likely to just keep taking them off, consider buckles or laces. All three are good options as they hold the foot in place and prevent it slipping forwards, which can squish tiny toes.

Look for well-known brands you can trust when selecting your toddler’s first pair of shoes. Leather shoes take on the shape of the foot, so you should never hand them down to another child for whom that shape may be quite unsuitable. That’s because it might harm their foot development.

Once you’ve taken the plunge with a first shoe purchase, you’ll realise just how quickly your toddler’s feet grow. Shoe buying can start to become an expensive pastime. Nearly-new options for toddler clothes are always a good idea, but with shoes, unfortunately, it is worth buying new, as they quickly mould around the wearer’s foot. 

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