A: Not all baby shoes are created equal, and it’s quite easy to fall into a fashion over function mishap!
A baby does not require shoes until they are taking those much-anticipated first steps. However, it may be beneficial to have your baby wear a shoe before they are walking to accommodate weather conditions. A soft bootie in the cold, and a leather or mesh, breathable shoe in the warmer months, can provide protection from the elements.
While in the home or another safe, temperature-controlled environment, a baby will benefit most from being barefoot. When your baby bears weight through their feet, sensory receptors provide input to the brain to alert your child of their position in space. Proprioception, as this is known, is what allows walking individuals to safely navigate obstacles. In addition, a baby’s toes will grip the ground promoting arch support and strengthen the foot musculature.
Once your baby’s steps become more consistent, shoes are necessary when out of the home and in an uncontrolled environment. It is still recommended to dress your child in the least restrictive shoe. A pliable sole, made of materials such as leather or soft rubber are good options.
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Fit and function are individual to your baby, so it is important to measure your child’s foot and then size up by a pinky’s nail length to ensure room for toe movement. Be sure to regularly check your baby’s feet for signs of a poor fit such as red marks or blisters.
Shopping for your baby’s first pair of shoes is an exciting endeavor! If you find yourself with questions, it is always a good idea to follow up with your child’s healthcare provider.
—Kaitlyn G Cohen PT, DPT, pediatric physical therapist, Long Island, New York