Years ago the shoe tradition also called for very stiff, hard soled shoes as baby’s first walkers. They felt that a young child needed the extra support around his ankles and the bottom of his tender feet. The belief was that the tiny feet would develop flat feet and weak ankles if not supported by still leather and tightly laced shoes.
But doctors have since learned that a small child will actually develop stronger feet and walk earlier if you allow them to go without shoes until they are actually walking confidently or need to walk outside. Toddlers do not need arch support or high ankle support.
A soft-soled shoe is recommended once your toddle begins to walk on his or her own. You should be able to fold the shoe in half easily. The ankle muscles and bone will develop and build strength by being used.
Of course it is great fun to dress a baby in cute shoes to match the outfit. It is also good to put shoes on a baby in cold weather especially if you are going to be outside. There is no harm in doing this. But when you are home, a bare foot or a pair of socks with nonskid bottoms is the best way to go.
Once your child is older it is important to buy them shoes with room to grow. Children’s feet change size nearly every three months. Most shoe stores now are self-serve so you will be fitting them without assistance. A good rule of thumb is the “Thumb Measurement”. Make sure your son or daughter’s heel is squarely sitting in the heel section of the shoe or sandal, and then gently push down on the portion of shoe that is empty in front of the big toe. You should be able to feel a full thumb’s width of empty space at the toe of the shoe. This will allow for the next three months of growth and prevent serious toe injury problems.
When purchasing sandals be careful not to allow more than a thumbs width of growth, otherwise your child will be constantly tripping over her own feet all summer. It is also a good idea to scrape the bottoms of slick soled shoes before wearing. This will help prevent them slipping on smooth surfaces and getting hurt.
We may no longer dip our kid’s shoes in bronze, but we still cherish that first tiny pair and save them as a reminder of the baby years. Whether they are high top tennis shoes or shiny black patent leather mary janes, they will be enjoyed as a special keepsake of your family life.