Once your baby starts cruising along furniture to taking 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.
The greatest change in foot growth occurs in the first 3 years of life. It’s important to get your child’s foot measured at least once every three months to ensure that their shoes fit properly. Shoes that are too small can deform the toes and damage the foot. Children's feet grow in spurts and they require new shoes every three to four months, but after the age of 4, you can count on them lasting in one size for about 8-12 months:
9–16 months: ½ a foot size every two months
16 to 24 months: ½ a foot size every three months
24 to 36 months: ½ a foot size every four months
>3 years: ½ a foot size every four to six months
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. So 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:
1. Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement with a stable base of support.
2. Shoes should be made of leather or mesh to allow your baby's feet to breathe comfortably.
3. Shoes should have rubber soles for traction to prevent slipping or sliding.
4. Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
5. Base your shoe selection for children on the barefoot model.
6. Shoes should have good shock absorption with durable soles as children participate in more high impact activities.
The Make of a Shoe
The shoe is constructed of four parts: the upper part, the insole, the outer sole, and the heel.
The Upper Part: Should be made of leather, canvas, or the newer mesh materials. Children’s feet perspire a lot and the upper part of their shoes should be made of breathable materials. Leather or canvas allows the foot to breathe.
The Insole: should be made of absorbent material. Padded insoles are fine but most children do not need a special arch support. All toddlers younger than 16 months have flat feet and fully develop an arch by the age of 6–8 years.
The Outer Sole: provides traction, cushioning, and flexibility to the shoe. Flat outer soles make it easier to begin walking.
The Heel: are not necessary for toddlers. Older children can wear shoes with heels but they should not be bigger than one inch as this can cause the foot to slide forward, cramping the toes against the shoe.
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!
1. Robeez: The American Podiatric Medical Association (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.
2. Momobaby: These shoes offers a wide variety of rubber-soled shoes made of genuine leather. The APMA also recommends momobaby for infants and toddlers as they are light weight, breathable, comfortable and flexible.
3. Pediped: 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.
4. Stride Rite: Stride Rite offers shoes for baby's first steps that are adjustable, durable and flexible. They are built to encourage natural movement. The inside of these shoes are soft, the soles are flexible, and the exterior are smooth and rounded.
5. Keen Newport H2 Sandal (toddlers): Polyester webbing uppers are lined with water-resistant rubber for fast-drying comfort and durability. Patented toe guards protect little toes while hiking, walking, running and even biking. EVA (Ethyl Vinyl Acetate) midsoles provide cushioning and support; antimicrobial footbeds help keep foot odor under control. Non-marking rubber outsoles offer exceptional durability and traction on wet surfaces.
6. Brooks Kids Adrenaline GTS 15 (Youth): This shoe is playground-ready runner engineered with special features for rapidly developing feet. Lower density foam is easier to compress, forefoot flex allows for natural movement, and has toe guard protection for those that trip frequently.
7. Brooks Kids Pureflow 3 (Toddler/Grade School): This shoe offers light and flexible comfort for girls and boys on the run. With parent-approved design for growing feet, and kid-approved looks, these kicks are playground ready. The PureFlow 3 is also available in smaller sizes with a hook-and-loop closure for little fingers who have difficulty with shoelaces.
8. New Balance 574 (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.
9. New Balance 890V5 (preschool/grade school): Featuring ABZORB® cushioning technology and a non-marking outsole. IMEVA (injection-molded EVA foam) midsole for firm yet flexible cushioning with a synthetic/mesh upper top.
10. New Balance KJ860 (4-12 years old): Synthetic and mesh upper in an athletic running style lace-up front, padded tongue and collar stability. Midfoot support and reduces weight of the shoe. Cushioning footbed and shock absorbing technology. Medial Post helps to prevent over-pronation and a rubber outsole to provide traction and stability.