Choosing the Best Shoes for Your Toddler

Her shoes are so cute, but is your child wearing the right pair for her feet?

Choosing the Best Shoes for Your ToddlerMy one-year-old daughter, Perdida, already had an impressive collection of footwear before she entered the world. At my baby shower I was presented with an array of adorable shoes, a teeny pair of runners, and even a pair of kick-ass, red cowboy boots direct from Texas. Now that she’s attempting to walk and the cute shoes are more than just for decoration, I’m wondering which shoes are actually appropriate for her developing feet.

Starting Out

At this stage, while my darling girl is just wobbling around, bare feet or soft leather slippers to give her some grip are just fine, says Dr. Mario Turanovic, president of the Canadian Podiatric Medical Association. “But by the time your child is 16 to 18 months old, or he’s walking unassisted when you are outside, you’ll want to get him fitted for a pair of shoes.”

Unfortunately, most of the high-fashion booties I was given are inappropriate. “Functionally, oxford shoes and mid- to high-top runners are much better for children to learn to walk in,” says Turanovic. “But once they hit three or four and have good muscle control you can get more adventurous.”

Tying One On

Getting your child’s first real pair of shoes fitted at a children’s shoe store is essential, says Linda Goulet, president of Panda Shoes, a Canadian chain of footwear stores. “There are six points of fitting involved; it’s not just about the length — that should be the last thing checked. The width, instep and flex point (where the sole of the shoe is most easily bent) are all very important.”

In terms of room to grow, there should never be more than 1 cm at the toe. “If there is any more space than that, the flex point of the shoe will be in the wrong place and it will hurt the foot, as well as cause your child to trip, just as you would if you put on shoes that were two sizes too big.” The heel of her foot should also remain in its proper position while your child is walking.

Your child may have a favourite pair of shoes she insists on wearing every day, but keeping your child in shoes that are too small can potentially damage the foot. “Before they reach two-and-a-half, their feet will grow approximately a size every three months, so that’s how often they will need new shoes,” says Goulet. Take cues from your kids as to whether the shoes don’t fit, says Dr. Turanovic; she will complain of soreness or try to take the shoes off if she can’t talk yet.

Dr. Turanovic adds that a proper pair of shoes is very important for the development of all the muscles needed to support the foot’s range of motion. “If the shoes are uncomfortable and lack support, you can delay the speed at which children learn to walk.”

Signs of a Good Shoe

Dr. Turanovic says that baby’s first walking shoes should have:

  • Some rigidity in the heel, with a soft edge where it meets the ankle to prevent rubbing.
  • Good flexibility at the ball of the foot, where the foot bends.
  • Ankle support.
  • The shoe should mimic the shape of the human foot as closely as possible.
  • A non-slip sole and leather lining.

Lola Augustine Brown’s one-year-old daughter, Perdida, is stumbling towards taking her first steps in all manner of footwear.

Foot Notes

  • One shoe manufacturer’s size 4 may be another’s size 3 or 5, so it’s important to find the right fit.
  • At this age, hand-me-downs are fine for footwear not worn every day — rain boots, slippers, dress shoes, for example.
  • Toddlers do not need raised heels on their shoes. Flat, smooth outer soles make it easier to begin walking.

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