With so many footwear choices on the market (some good, and some, not so good) it can become very overwhelming for a new parent to decipher what shoes to put their child in. Whilst a lot of children’s shoes are very cute, with sparkles, prints and even little lights, sadly most of today’s shoes are not designed with the health and development of kid’s feet in mind.
As Podiatrists, we spend a lot of time assessing and discussing footwear needs with our patients. Correct footwear is hugely important in maintaining optimum foot health, and the same applies to our kids and their shoes.
Each stage of a child’s development is different and therefore, they have their own particular footwear requirements.
Newborns and babies who are sitting, crawling and starting to cruise
At this stage, babies feet a soft and chubby, as most of their bones have not started to ossify yet. Their feet are delicate, pliable and vulnerable to damage if put into the wrong shoes. Shoes at this stage are not really necessary, so barefoot is always best. However, sometimes you need shoes to protect their feet from the elements.
Babies are best suited to a soft, lightweight, flexible shoe with a smooth and seam-free interior. The shoe should act more like a second skin rather than a structured shoe.
First Walkers (Learning to walk)
Cruising and the first few steps
At this stage, your child is now propping themselves up to stand with the use of furniture and perhaps even starting to take a couple of steps on their own. The foot will be growing in size very rapidly, and the shape is starting to resemble an adult foot slightly. As the child spends more time on their feet, the soft cartilage begins to ossify, and the bones start to form.
Shoes at this stage need to be lightweight, flexible and durable. They should mimic barefoot walking (and of course, allow your child lots of actual barefoot walking around the home!) The need secure and adjustable fastening, like a strap to ensure the foot stays inside the shoe. The toe box needs to be wide enough to accommodate the toes, and the last (sole) of the shoe should be straight (not curved). They also need to be easy to get on their feet, a task that most new parents will tell you is not always simple!
Independent walking for 3-4 weeks onwards
By this stage, your toddler has been walking independently for a few weeks, and is really starting to master the art! Their foot bones are not all ossified yet, and their arch will be flat.
Now that they will spend most of their time on their feet, their shoes will need to have added durability but still remain flexible to allow for natural movement. Fastening like straps and zips are important to keep the foot secure.
Now your child is learning to run and jump. Their foot continues to develop and resemble an adult foot more and more. The growth of the foot starts to slow down, meaning their shoes will fit them for longer!
Their shoes need to be durable to withstand the rigorous range of activities your child will undertake. But the shoe still needs a wide toe box that won’t squash and deform the toes, with a straight last. Appropriately fitted shoes are important, so it’s always best to get a professional to measure and fit your child’s shoes. Secure fastening is still important as well.
Preschool and School-aged kids
Once your child starts school, their feet will resemble an adults shape, with the arch becoming more defined. Kids at this stage spend a lot of time playing, so with this increased level of activity, their shoes need to be able protect their feet from high impact. Their feet are still developing, so shoes will still need some degree of flexibility, and be lightweight, but provide some extra support for their arches.