Friday, January 24, 2014

Baby Shoes - adorable accessory? Or medieval torture device?


Baby shoes are adorable. I mean - how sweet and cute can you get? Little tiny, perfectly miniaturized versions of your own shoes... and they look even cuter at the end of those chubby, stubby, little baby legs. Right?

I bought those shoes in the picture above for the sole purpose of taking that picture with no intention of putting them on my baby (aside from maybe a one-time photo-op kind of situation). I had never planned on getting lots of little baby shoes - they're not practical! Before your baby can even walk, what kind of need do they have for shoes? And even after they start walking, I've never thought shoes were that practical for them. They can't walk that far, and mostly inside where you can see them (not over a lot of broken glass and such). And it turns out, making your baby wear shoes is actually bad for them.

"Think of the Chinese foot binding practice, which was common in the upper classes. The feet would be bound so that the bones would mold together and be more “dainty.” In much the same way can babies feet become stifled and grow improperly if smothered in small shoes that fit incorrectly."

Letting your baby go barefoot is the best option. Even too-tight socks can be detrimental to their foot development as well as their ability to learn to walk. Pediatric podiatrist Jeffrey Falcone says, "Millions of years ago, we weren't taught to walk with shoes. Kids who are learning to walk need to feel as much with their feet as they do with their hands." (Parenting.com) When babies are barefoot, they can wiggle their toes, grip the floor and push off and balance with their foot muscles. 

"Optimum foot development occurs in the barefoot environment, and, therefore, children should be encouraged to partake in barefoot activity."

Even once your little one has learned to walk, you should let them go barefoot as often as possible - so long as their feet are in no danger of getting hurt. Obviously, if they're walking down a gravel driveway or in the snow, their feet should be appropriately shod.

So, once they actually need to start wearing shoes... how do you know what is the "right" kind of shoe?

Well, shoes for your little one should be:
  • Comfortable
    • Kids do not need to "break-in" their shoes. (Adults shouldn't either, but that's for another time and another blog...)
    • Tripping and limping are signs of discomfort.
  • Flexible
    • They should be soft and pliant. Not stiff. They also shouldn't have a stiff ankle (check those cute little boots to make sure the ankles are flexible too!)
  • Breathable
    • No one likes it when their feet sweat in their shoes. So make sure your baby's shoes can breathe - hot, sweaty feet can lead to slipping and blisters. No fun!
    • Look for fabrics like canvas or leather
  • Flat-soled
    • Though most adults need shoes with lots of arch support, new walkers need a shoe that allows their foot to be as close to barefoot as possible.
  •  Non-skid
    • The sole of the shoe needs to be flexible, but not slippery. It should be a bottom that will give your kid some grip on all types of flooring and walking surfaces. 
  • Firm-heeled
    • Shoes should have laces or straps or buckles - something to ensure that the heel stays in place and does not slide on and off the back of the foot when your little one toddles around. 
  • A good fit
    • There should be one to one-and-a-half centimeters from the end of baby's toes to the tip of the shoe. 
    • They should be wide enough for the foot to lay flat naturally
    • Babies grow fast, so check the fit often. Many of my sources actually recommend having your children's feet measured and sized by professionals when buying their shoes. Even little children! Make sure their toes aren't red and blistered when you take the shoes off. Also check to make sure there is still room between their toes and the tip of the shoe. And they will probably need new shoes every 2-4 months.
    • Round- and square-toed shoes are better than pointed-toe shoes. 
Overall, shoes for your babies as they're learning to walk as well as for your toddling toddlers should allow their feet to feel as close to barefoot as possible. They should be flexible, breathable and not too tight. And they should really only be worn when they'll be walking on rough or dangerous surfaces. (Many people are now saying that adults need not wear shoes as often - even marathon runners are wearing shoes designed to make them feel as if they're running barefoot). Barefooters.org has some interesting things on that general subject. 



This brand - Pediped - is on a few bestseller lists.



Robeez is also a bestseller among baby shoes.


NOT a good shoe for walking! There has been some hype over these shoes... brand "Heelarious." They're supposed to be a novelty item that is not dangerous for little ones' feet. So please don't force your child to wear these for anything other than a few photos and laughs.


Hopefully you found this article helpful and informative... thanks to my mom for the idea for this post! :)

Here are my sources that I did not link to in the article including two great PDFs!

What to Expect the First Year by Heidi Murkoff
Foot Growth and Development (PDF) (Government of West Australia Department of Health)
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