I often get asked by parents "what shoes are best for new walkers", just as little ones are starting to cruise along the furniture at home and about to take their own first steps. It's such an exciting time! Seeing that milestone about to be achieved and capturing it. There are a few things you need to keep in mind before deciding to buy a pair of baby shoes, so let's begin with the importance of those early steps and what they involve.
Babies tend to make their first attempts at walking anywhere from nine to eighteen months of age, usually beginning with those wobbly steps as they pull themselves up and start to cruise on furniture around the house. It's at this stage where little ones are starting to develop strength in their foot muscles and bones, so spending time barefoot is extremely important. At this time, they are using sensory processing through the soles of their feet to learn balance and stability, so whilst they are learning to walk at home barefoot is best. When it's time to go outdoors and to protect against the cold and rough objects on the ground, it's important to consider shoes that have similar qualities to being barefoot whilst protecting little feet. So at this early age, quality made soft sole shoes are appropriate.
Things to look for in a first pair of shoes include:-
- materials - look for a shoe that is made from natural materials including leather or cotton. These are better for little feet as they mould to the foot's natural movement and allow them to 'breathe' without sweating.
- flexible sole - first shoes need to have a lightweight flexible sole which could either be a suede, or combination leather and rubber sole, or a thin rubber sole. Avoid all heavy shoes at this stage, and definitely say 'no' to shoes with a raised heel. Remember, what's important at this stage is comfort, support and flexibility not the latest fashion.
- round toe box - this means that the top of the shoe is rounded, not square or pointed. This allows your little one's foot to sit comfortably in it's natural position without any restriction of movement. It also has the benefit of giving wriggle room for growth between the tip of the innersole to the top of the toes. Always remember to add on approximately 1cm to your child's foot measurement to get the correct innersole length.
- closures - there are a few - Velcro, buckles, laces, zips, elastic. Generally at this age, Velcro is always a popular choice given the ease and time in which shoes can be put on and taken off. Plus little ones can practice their fine motor skills by learning how to push the straps down and take them off. Buckles are always a pretty feature, but please ensure that they are securely attached to the leather strap of the shoe. With elastic always make sure that the elastic closure fits snug and securely and is not too tight around little ankles.