When discussing child development, talking about baby shoes might sound a bit trivial or unimportant. But the fact is, as your baby grows and starts walking, proper posture is one of the most important things to watch for, and proper footwear is an important element that may not be the first thing on parents’ minds.
What about barefoot?
Baby’s legs and feet consist mainly of cartilage, which matures gradually into bone by the age of 17. Bones and joints in children’s feet (even up to age 13) are very flexible and can be easily aggravated by poor habits, injuries and incorrect footwear.
Foot soles contain what are referred to as “short muscles” that keep foot arches in the right position. Walking barefoot is healthy for our feet, but only when these muscles are strong and properly developed. Children can walk barefoot on soft surfaces such as grass, moss, small stones or sand, but for other surfaces they need shoes that promote foot development as they learn to walk and as they grow.
Choosing the right footwear is critical: 98% of all children are born with healthy feet, but only 38% of all adults end up with healthy feet.
What are the important things to look for when choosing baby shoes?
1. Heel cap: Shoe should extend to the ankle to provide proper ankle support and stability while walking.
2. Flexible, non-slip soles: Shoe soles should be made of flexible material that bends and curves according to child’s foot and helps develop proper arches. The sole should be thick enough for protection while allowing the foot to move naturally. To test, bend the shoe at the ball. It should bend easily.
3. Ease of sliding into the shoes.
4. Breathable inner lining.
5. Size: There should be at least 12 mm (about 1/2 inch) extra space between the child’s foot and the shoe–even more with new shoes. This is due to foot elongation during movement and constant changes in volume during the day.
For children age 3 and up, an average foot growth is 1mm (about 1/32 inch) a month. For children age 3 and under, feet grow even faster.
How to choose the right size
Before shopping for your children’s shoes, make a template: Trace the child’s foot on a piece of cardboard, add the suggested extra space and then cut it so you have a real-size template while selecting shoes. Slippers (without ankle support) are not recommended for tots since the extra space can’t be achieved, so opt for proper baby shoes or use socks with no-slip soles.
Don’t forget that young children can’t tell you that their shoes are too small, so it’s important to check your child’s foot size often; podiatrists recommend checking as often as monthly since sudden growth spurts are possible.
Kids and heels: Heels of any size are not recommended–they can lead to shortening of the Achilles tendon. Children’s footwear should be devoid of any heels–stick to flats and level-soled shoes.
eHow Mom offers this short list of some trusted baby shoe brands for walking shoes.