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Keep Babies Barefoot as Long as Possible

Have you seen those tiny shoes for infants that look like miniature ballet slippers, or Converse sneakers to match Dad’s? It’s tempting to grab them – but don’t do it!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies need shoes only when they begin to walk. And shoes don’t help them learn to walk faster – baby shoes that are inflexible or have slippery soles can make it harder to take their first steps.

Walking Barefoot Helps Foot Formation

The bones of an infant’s feet are flexible, made of soft cartilage that gradually converts to bone as they grow. Because this cartilage is flexible it’s best to cover the feet only for protection and warmth. Choose socks made of cotton or a cotton and wool mix, and check regularly that they aren’t becoming too tight.

Walking barefoot is good for forming feet! The foot’s arch strengthens and muscles and ligaments develop. Babies love the feeling of connecting to the ground and are more aware of the sensation of walking. Barefoot walking also contributes to good posture.

Choose the First Pair of Shoes Carefully

As soon as your baby is walking, it’s time to buy shoes for more protection. Dr. Alexopoulos suggests keeping these important pointers in mind:

  • Always have both feet measured professionally. A toddler’s feet should be measured every 6 to 8 weeks. Their feet will grow on average 2 sizes each year until age 4!
  • Shoes should be roomy especially in the toe area. A parent’s pinky finger should be able to fit between the end of the toes and the tip of the shoe. The shoe should be wide enough to allow the toes to lay flat.
  • Look for padded ankles for support and non-slip soles.
  • Choose shoes that come in whole and half-sizes, with choice of width, for proper fit.
  • Select shoes that are flexible and lightweight. Soft leather with skid-resistant soles is preferable. Make sure fastenings are secure to hold the heel in place and prevent slipping in the shoe.

It’s tempting to “re-use” shoes but hand-me-down shoes tend to mold to the foot of the prior owner and won’t fit your child properly.

We are Experts in Pediatric Podiatry

We would be happy to check your child’s feet and help you choose the best shoes for growing feet. Board certified podiatrist Stavros O. Alexopoulos, DPM has extensive experience with pediatric foot care and children’s foot problems. Call our Chicago office at 773-561-8100 with any concerns you may have. Feel free to browse the website for more information. Let us help your child take his or her first steps the right way for a lifetime of foot health!