Buying shoes for your baby isn’t quite as straightforward as choosing a pair for yourself.
It’s also something you will definitely want to get right, because spending too much time in the wrong type of shoe can inhibit a child’s muscle development, coordination and balance, and can even make it harder to learn how to walk.
So let’s take a look at what you need to consider when buying a pair for your little one to ensure they are safe, comfortable and getting off on the right foot.
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When Do Babies Need Shoes?
As we covered in another article, babies don’t need to wear shoes until they start walking.
Depending on your baby’s development, this is likely to be anywhere between 9 to 18 months of age.
However, if your baby hasn’t started walking yet, you might still need some footwear designed specifically for newborns and infants.
So in our guide below we’ve covered both the walking and pre-walking stages, so you know exactly what to look out for each step of the way.
How To Choose Baby Shoes
Firstly, you should give thought to the purpose of the shoe and the conditions your child will be exposed to.
Factors to consider include:
- Will they be walking in hot or cold weather?
- Will conditions be dry, wet, sandy, muddy, slippery?
- How easy are they to put on and take off – ideally you want easy for you but difficult for your baby!
- How much are you willing to spend?
While you might be tempted to dress your little one in a pair of traditional-looking, structured shoes, it’s best to hold off on these until they can walk.
But don’t worry, there’s no harm in your little one wearing a pair of traditional looking shoes for very short periods, such as when taking an adorable family photo.
But on the whole, if your baby is not walking yet then you don’t need to dress them in shoes.
If you are indoors and the room temperature isn’t too cool, then barefoot is best for babies that cannot walk.
However, when outdoors or in a cold room, you will want to cover your baby’s feet in order to keep them warm, comfortable and safe from potential hazards.
For pre-walkers, you therefore have two main choices:
- Socks: Non-slip socks are ideal because they will help your baby with their balance when they do start taking those first few steps.
- Soft Soled Shoes (Booties): In terms of design these are somewhere between a sock and a shoe. Booties allow natural movement while providing comfort, safety and, depending on the material, warmth.
Once your baby starts walking, you will have far more options to choose from, such as rain boots, sneakers, moccasins, flats, sandals….
The great thing here is you’ll be able to style your baby exactly as you like!
So it opens up the chic and adorable possibility of mom or dad wearing matching sneakers with baby, or perhaps matching in other ways such including colour, pattern or style.
Some things to look out for when buying shoes for your little walker include:
- Style & Material – make sure the shoe matches the conditions. For example, in hot weather it’s best to favour breathable sandals rather than socks and sneakers, while in damp or wet conditions, water resistance is of course a vital feature.
- Correct Fit (see below)
- Non-Slip, Flexible Soles – an essential feature to allow for natural foot movement, and also to keep your active little runner safer from falls and injuries.
- Weight – the lighter the shoe, the more comfortable it will be for your baby, and the more it will help support natural foot and leg movement.
Should Babies Wear Shoes When Learning To Walk?
As a general rule, it’s better for your baby to be barefoot when learning to walk to help develop their strength, coordination and balance.
So if you little one is indoors in a safe and comfortably warm environment, then there’s no need to dress their feet in anything.
But if they’re moving outdoors, then they will need protection from the elements and from potential hazards.
How Should Baby Shoes Fit?
The overall fit should be quite snug but also comfortable, with some excess room at the front so your child can easily wiggle their toes.
A good tip is there should be around one finger’s width between the toes and the front of the shoe.
This equates to around 3/4 of an inch of extra room in the shoe.
To ensure the width is correct, there should also be a little bit of extra space either side of your child’s foot.
How To Tell If Baby Shoes Are Too Big
If there is a lot more than one finger’s width between the toes and the front of the shoe, then the shoes are too big.
So anything more than one inch of extra room indicates the you’ll need to go down a size.
Other signs that your child’s shoes are too big include: their heel lifting out when walking, dragging their feet and tripping frequently.
How To Tell If Baby Shoes Are Too Small
If there is much less than one finger’s width between the toes and the front of the shoe, the shoes are too big.
So anything less than 1/2 inch of extra room within the shoe indicates you need to move up a size.
Other signs that a pair of shoes is too small include blistering or pain.
If you always remember that you want your child to be able to easily wiggle their toes, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell when your baby has outgrown a pair of shoes.
How To Measure Your Baby’s Feet For Shoes
If you’re looking the measure your child’s foot size, follow this step by step guide to help get a the perfect shoe fit.
- Put your baby’s foot on an even surface, ensuring the toes aren’t curled up.
- Use a ruler or tape measure to measure the entire length of the foot – from the back of the heel all the way to the longest toe.
- Do this for both feet and don’t be worries or surprised if the measurements are slightly different! It’s totally natural to have one foot bigger than the other.
- Lay a tape measure or ruler beside their foot and measure from the back of the heel to the longest toe.
- Measure both feet in this way and use the longer of the two measurements. (Don’t worry if one foot is larger than the other; this is completely normal among all ages!)
- Select the perfect size based on this measurement.
- Check the overall fit is fairly snug but also comfortable, with some excess room at the front so your child can easily wiggle their toes.