11 months old
Buying Baby’s First Pair of Walking Shoes
The idea of “baby’s first pair of shoes” has a long history of being celebrated, but we’ve come a long way from the stiff, shiny shoes we once bronzed and displayed. Nowadays it’s more about fit and function, and that’s because we know that the most critical foot development occurs in the first 18 months, when your baby’s cartilage-like bones can literally be molded. Even after the bones harden, your child’s feet won’t be fully developed until he or she is between the ages of 18 and 23 years old – making smart shoe shopping crucial even throughout high school. In fact, 70 percent of foot problems – like hammer toes, bunions, calluses and ingrown toenails – can be attributed to improperly fitted shoes.
Keep in mind that a child’s feet will grow rapidly in the first few years. Babies and toddlers (under 16 months old) will usually go up a half-size every two months, stretching it to about three months between 16 and 24 months. Once a child is 2 or 3 years old, expect to buy new shoes every four months or so.
- If your baby isn’t walking, he or she won’t need to wear supportive shoes just yet. However, all of the crawling and cruising that your 10-month-old does will require some foot protection, but in the form of soft-sole shoes – which bend easily at the toe and mimic the benefits of bare feet. (Try Stride Rite and Robeez when looking for a soft-sole shoe.)
- Once your baby starts walking, buy shoes according to the following criteria:
- The upper part of the shoe should be made of a breathable fabric like cloth, canvas or soft leather. Avoid any hard, shiny plastics or synthetic materials because they can restrict the feet as they swell and sweat, causing odor and bacteria growth. Not to mention they’re horribly uncomfortable.
- The sole should be flexible and padded, but still provide support. Avoid anything too thick and bulky because it could cause your little one to trip and fall.
- The soles should also be smooth to eliminate any friction that can cause your toddler to fall.
- Forget the Suri Cruise fad and make sure the shoes are flat.
- Look for an insole that is absorbent and comfortable. Don’t worry about any kind of special arch support; most arches don’t develop for at least 5 years.
- Some recommend a high-top sneaker because they stay on better, but other experts warn that high-tops can restrict ankle movement.
- Whether you choose Velcro or lace-ups is up to you – they both have their pros and cons. While Velcro tends to be easier for slipping on and off, an older toddler can unlatch Velcro easier than untying a shoe. If you choose laces, make sure you double knot.
- Make sure the shoe is lightweight. You don’t want anything too heavy and bulky when they’re trudging through the grass.
- Look for closed-toe shoes, especially as your baby is learning how to walk.
- Children should still spend as much time as possible with bare feet or in socks to help build strength and balance.
- Considering children out-grow shoes so fast, don’t buy your little lady or gentleman a closet full of different shoes. Kids really only need one pair of supportive and safe play shoes, and another pair for special occasions. You also might want to have a sandal (closed-toe, preferably) for the warmer months.
- While Crocs are cute on kids, save them for after the 2-year mark, when walking has been more securely established.
Getting the Right Fit
10 Tips for Buying the Best Shoes:
- Go to a specialized children’s shoe store and have your baby’s foot measured by a trained expert before each purchase. Make sure that both feet are measured while he or she is standing up. And because the right foot is rarely the exact same size as the left, always go with the larger measurement.
- Since feet expand throughout the day, the best time to buy shoes is toward the evening.
- While your baby is standing, you should be able to fit your pinkie in between his or her heel and the back of the shoe, but only up until your first knuckle.
- The width of your thumb should fit between your baby’s toes and the front of the shoe. There should be about a centimeter to a half-inch of room.
- Look for a round toe that allows ample space for toes to wiggle around, and make sure that the top of the shoe doesn’t press on the toes.
- Continue to check the fit every two or three weeks, considering most children will outgrow shoes in two to four months.
- Make sure the back of the shoe is supportive and padded.
- If you notice that your child’s feet or toes look red or swollen, it’s time to readjust the shoe size or style.
- If you’re in between sizes, always go bigger rather than smaller.
- Even if a particular shoe passes your inspection, make sure your child feels comfortable in them before making the purchase.
- Wearing hand-me-down shoes. Because shoes tend to mold to a child’s feet, it’s best to buy brand new.
- Keeping a child’s shoes on all day, which can cause swelling and blistering. Plus, walking or crawling with bare feet helps to strengthen a child’s ankle and feet muscles.
- Buying impractical shoes. Make sure that they’re easy to slip on and off. Trust us.
- Buying expensive shoes. We’re used to thinking that a higher price tag means better quality, but it’s more about the fit than the brand name when it comes to children’s shoes. Keep in mind that a baby will go through three or four shoe sizes a year, so it’s important to keep costs down.
- Not replacing shoes enough. Not only should you keep an eye on your child’s growing feet, but any shoes that are visibly worn or torn up need to be tossed.
- Buying cute novelty shoes. Heels, cowboy boots and patent-leather Mary Janes might look adorable, but they can all interfere with how a baby’s foot develops. Save them for a short photo op.
- Expecting shoes to be “broken in.” If it isn’t comfortable in the beginning, it’s not the right pair.
- Not checking the return policy. This is extremely important when buying online or without the child because different brands run differently, so you can’t always be sure.
Find the right styles for your little one with our Baby Clothing Guide!