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Infant Shoes

Ensure your baby stays safe and stylin’ with this guide to infant shoes.

Infant shoes become essential when babies being walking outdoors. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Infant shoes become essential when babies being walking outdoors.

Infant shoes serve two basic purposes: protection and style. Though parents may choose to put shoes on infants because they like the look of them, they are not necessary until the baby begins to walk. When buying infant shoes, parents need to know what safety features to look for and how to ensure proper fit.

When to Buy Infant Shoesamerican

Babies do not need shoes until they start walking, usually at around 12 to 15 months of age. Until then, booties and socks are sufficient to keep an infant's feet warm. Furthermore, infants need not wear shoes until they are going to be walking outdoors. Babies should learn to stand and practice walking barefoot. This allows them to use their toes for gripping, which is important when learning how to balance.

Going barefoot also offers infants sensory experiences. Babies learn through sense of touch, so allowing them to walk barefoot on different surfaces helps with their development. Once infants do start wearing shoes, it is important that they practice walking barefoot every day.

Once babies begin standing and taking steps outside the home, it is time to buy shoes to protect the feet from injury and exposure to rough outdoor surfaces, though it is fine for babies to walk barefoot outdoors on sand or grass. Infant shoes should be worn if babies are walking on hard surfaces, on surfaces that are hot or cold, or on any type of rough terrain.

Infant Shoe Safety Features

Consumers should look for flexible, comfortable infant shoes. Flexible soles are more comfortable for infants and allow them to use their feet for balance. Rigid shoes may prevent foot motion and diminish the development of the muscles in the foot that enable the toes to move. Infant shoes also should have breathable soft uppers (the top of the shoe). Synthetic uppers can cause feet to sweat, which may be uncomfortable and cause foot odor.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, high-top shoes do not offer more foot or ankle support than low-top shoes, but they may be more difficult for babies to remove, making it easier for parents to keep the shoes on.

Sneakers are a good choice for a baby's first pair of shoes as they are lightweight, well ventilated and comfortable. Moccasins are another comfortable option. The soles on moccasins are not as sticky as sneaker soles, which may catch on the floor and cause babies to trip.

More expensive shoes are not necessarily better for infants than less expensive ones. Most children do not require special shoes at any age. Infants' feet are still developing, so it is normal for them to look different from adult feet. For example, babies may appear flat-footed due to extra baby fat under the arches of the feet. This is perfectly normal and does not require specialty shoes.

Ensuring a Proper Fit

Improperly fitted shoes can cause foot deformities and problems, so it is essential to make sure infants' shoes fit properly. Foot problems that can result from improperly fitted shoes include corns, bunionettes, hammertoes and hallux valgus (bunion deformity). Some of these problems could later require corrective surgery.

It is advisable to shop for infant shoes later in the day because feet expand as much as five percent throughout the day. And, since one foot is often larger than the other, both feet should be measured and the shoes fitted for the larger foot. To check for proper fit, the infant should stand up and put weight on the shoes. Shoes that are the right length should have half an inch between the top of the big toe and the end of the shoe. The back of the shoe should fit snugly against the heel to prevent the shoe from moving up and down as the baby walks. The pinch test is a good way to determine if the shoe is wide enough; parents should be able to grab a bit of material at the widest portion of the foot.

In order to ensure a proper fit, the baby should try walking in the shoes while still in the store. Then, parents should remove the shoes and check the baby's foot for any red spots or signs of irritation. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, shoes should not be expected to stretch to fit. If they do not fit in the store, they should not be purchased.

To buy an infant's first pair of shoes, parents should visit a shoe store that specializes in children's shoes. These stores usually have a large selection of sizes and styles and the sales associates there can measure a baby's foot to properly fit them for shoes.

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