Babies, both infants and toddlers, have unique issues when it comes to their feet and footwear. An infant's feet are essentially developmental in nature. The baby lifts up his feet and looks at these crazy things in front of his face. He explores his feet and toes and wonders what they may do. He moves them around and wonders who is making them do that.
As the baby progresses to crawling, the feet become more functional—now he or she used them to propel across the floor. Soon, baby will begin to pull him or herself up and, for the first time, bear weight on those tiny little feet. Next comes those wonderful first steps. It's amazing that all this occurs in about the first year of life!
In order for a baby to be able to get a grasp of the weight bearing process, it's important that he or she is allowed to experience full sensation in their feet. A baby needs to feel the pressures in his or her feet (officially known as proprioception) to learn how to balance. Shoes with a real, firm sole do not allow the baby to properly feel his feet. Of course, booties and socks are fine—they offer some much needed warmth in our often frigid part of the country, and they allows the foot to expand and grow as it should while allowing the baby to feel the ground. What’s problematic are those teeny little baby sneakers and Mary Janes. Sure, mini Cole Haan loafers are adorable, but they may actually delay your infant’s ability to meet his or her milestones! That’s far less cute, I’m sure you’ll agree.
When Should I Put Shoes on my Baby?
You can take the smartest person...let's say a pediatrician (who really knows better)...and tell him or her that an infant should not be wearing shoes yet and the response would invariably be, "I know...but they're so cute!" or "I know...but they match the outfit!" But…you have to realize, there’s a time and a place for even the cutest of wardrobe accessories.
Once your baby starts to take some steps, it's okay to put him or her in a shoe—as long as you follow appropriate guidelines. When choosing shoes for your new walker, make sure that you look for one with a flexible sole. Rigid soles are not appropriate for a new, developing foot!
If you want to test a prospective shoe for the right feel, try this simple method: grab the shoe by the heel and push up under the toe. You should find the shoe flexing with little resistance.
As far as fit is concerned, you have to be extremely careful when selecting a sized shoe for your baby. Unlike older children, who can tell you if a shoe doesn’t fit properly, a toddler doesn’t have the language to explain that his or her shoes hurt. Because of this, even after your child’s feet have been professionally measured, you should watch carefully for signs that he or she is starting to outgrow that first or second pair of walkers. If you find that he or she sits down often; cries while pointing to his or her feet; or would rather crawl then walk, it’s either a sign that you need a new pair of shoes—or that something more serious is going on! If a new pair of shoes doesn’t seem to solve the problem, it’s likely that your baby is experiencing a foot or ankle problem, and you should make an immediate appointment for a podiatric evaluation.
But let’s get back to those shoes for a moment—the only reason walking babies need to wear shoes once they have mastered mobility is to protect them from sharp objects, dirt, and hot, cold or rough surfaces. When they’re home, it’s still a good idea to let babies go shoeless, as long as you’ve cleared away obvious hazards like those shockingly painful little Lego pieces. And if you’re still tempted by those insanely adorable baby shoes? Just think of it this way: you’ll be saving up for the years to come, when your child will seem to outgrow a pair of shoes every month or so!