The Best Time and Type of Shoes to Buy a Baby

mother trying shoes on her baby in the aisle of a store
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Bronzing your baby's shoes might not be as popular a practice as it once was, but parents are still all too eager to get their baby their first pair of shoes—and sometimes sooner than necessary.

The potential effects that baby shoes could have on developing feet has been debated among pediatricians for decades. Experts at the American Pediatric Association advise against putting shoes on a newborn's feet, and say that babies don't need to wear shoes until they begin to walk.

Once your baby has taken their first steps and is now walking around, your best bet for baby shoes is to make sure they're comfortable and provide some grip on slippery surfaces. They should fit nice and snug at the heel but still allow room at the toes. Though ankle support won't exactly stabilize them at this age, shoes with higher ankles will help prevent your little one from taking them off in inconvenient places.

Popular Soft-Sole Shoe Brands for Babies

Many parents look for a soft-sole shoe as the first baby shoes they buy. Popular brands for crawlers and prewalkers include:

  • Robeez
  • pediped
  • Stride Rite Prewalkers
  • Umi
  • Preschoolians Crawlers
  • New Balance
  • Lacoste
  • Jack & Lily Soft Leather Baby Shoes
  • IsaBooties Soft-Soled Shoes
  • SKECHERS
  • Vans
  • Merrell
  • Nina Kids

Of course, you could also just dress up your baby in a cute pair of socks until they are walking! While they are at the cruising and crawling level, soft socks with non-skid soles should work well enough that you don't necessarily need shoes yet.

If your infant is wearing decorative shoes as part of an outfit, it is advisable to take them off whenever your infant begins to cruise around or walk to help with their balance.

Factors to Consider When Buying First Baby Shoes

Your child will then transition to walker and toddler shoes once they are walking well, especially as they begin to walk outside. Once your child is walking, as with baby clothes, you should likely consider many factors when choosing shoes, including price, comfort, and style. Most importantly, however, you'll want to protect your baby's feet with flexible, non-skid or skid-resistant soles. You also want to make sure your baby's shoes fit correctly and aren't too small.

Keep in mind that even as your baby begins walking well, you can save that pair of classic high-top, hard-soled baby shoes just for bronzing. Even at this age, your toddler will likely do better in flexible soft-soled shoes. In fact, many brands of shoes for kids are made of very soft leather, which has the bonus features of being comfortable and washable.

Flexible soles and good fit are the key things to look for in a baby shoe.

You can also skip the added expense of arch supports, special inserts, reinforced heels, or any other added feature, so long as your baby's shoes fit well, have a good grip, and are flexible.

Why Velcro, Crocs, and Sandals May Not Be Best for Toddlers

From Crocs for toddlers and sneakers with Velcro straps to flip-flops, these shoes slip off so easily that you will likely have a hard time keeping them on your kids. This is fine for the "barefoot-is-best" crowd, but once your toddler or preschooler is really running around, even inside the house, you could up with a lot of stubbed toes, broken toenails, and splinters, etc., if your child isn't wearing shoes.

You might consider laced shoes instead if you really want your older child to get in the habit of keeping their shoes on—and maybe learn to tie their own shoes before they are 7 or 8 years old.

There has also been some concern that Crocs can pose a safety hazard on escalators, as there have been reports of kids wearing Crocs who've gotten their shoes caught and toes injured. If your child has been walking out of their shoes frequently and suffering minor injuries, it's probably wise to graduate them to laced shoes.

Tips for Buying the Right Baby Shoes

In addition to these tips, other things to know about buying your first baby shoes include that:

  • According to the AAP, shoes with "wedges, inserts, high backs, reinforced heels, special arches, and other features designed to shape and support the feet" are not needed by the average child.
  • The best first baby shoes aren't the ones that cost the most, they are the shoes that fit well, are comfortable, and are flexible with non-skid soles. They should fit snug at the heel and also have some room to grow, as young kids outgrow their shoes very quickly.
  • Talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child's feet or walking, including if she is toe walking, has an ingrown toenail, has in-toeing or out-toeing, or isn't walking by 15 months.

And remember that you don't even have to buy your first baby shoes until your child is actually walking around.

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Article Sources
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  2. Hollander K, de Villiers JE, Sehner S, et al. Growing-up (habitually) barefoot influences the development of foot and arch morphology in children and adolescentsSci Rep. 2017;7(1):8079. Published 2017 Aug 14. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-07868-4

  3. Shelov, Steven P. American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby's First Year. New York: Random House Inc; 2015.

  4. Walle EA. Infant Social Development across the Transition from Crawling to WalkingFront Psychol. 2016;7:960. Published 2016 Jun 27. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00960

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