So your baby is beginning to find its feet, and you’re thinking about getting the first pair of shoes. This is a really exciting time, but, like so many other stages in parenting, you will probably hear conflicting advice from all sides.
Buying the first pair of shoes can be a very emotional thing - your baby is not small any more and will soon be classed as a toddler. I will confess, I still have my daughter's first pair of shoes on the windowsill in my bedroom as a memento of those times (she is nearly 18 now!)
You want to buy them shoes because you are proud of their development and want them to look smart and grown up, but you also don't want them to really grow up and the baby times to be finished.
If you’re feeling a little lost, there are some basic things to bear in mind which should hopefully help make the process a little less intimidating.
The first thing I will say as one parent to another, is that shoes are among the most important things you wil buy for your child during their life. You can get away with clothes that are pre-loved, handed down many times, and in sizes varying from ridiculously too big to rather too small. But shoes are different, and i would recommend always buying the best shoes that you can afford and making sure that their feet are always comfortable and well-supported.
Probably the most important guideline for buying baby shoes is to wait as long as possible before buying any kind of shoes for your baby. Babies’ bones are very soft while they are developing, and it is best to constrict them as little as possible while they are growing, to allow them to stretch and strengthen properly.
Learning to walk barefoot will also help your baby to balance; both the soft soles of pre-walkers and the rigid soles of walkers can make it very difficult to let your baby properly feel the ground they are walking on. Even once they are comfortable in their shoes, it’s best to let them walk barefoot inside so they can get more confident.
The general rule as to when to buy the first pair of shoes for your baby is six to eight weeks after they have started walking independently (without support). When this time comes around, it’s important to get your baby’s feet measured by a professional to ensure the correct fit.
You should also bear in mind that, in the first few years, babies can easily grow two or more shoe sizes per year and so need to be re-measured regularly. To check whether current shoes are getting too small, press gently on the end – if you can feel baby’s toes against the end of the shoe, it’s time to get refitted.
Once your baby is ready for shoes and has been measured, it’s time to pick! Soft pre-walker shoes are best for babies who are not completely comfortable walking yet but play outside in areas where they need a bit more protection for their feet. They are also good for adding an extra layer of warmth on the school run if your baby will not be getting out of the pushchair.
When choosing walkers, go for natural materials where possible, because they let your baby’s feet breathe, minimising the risk of fungal infections.
Walkers should have a solid, supportive rubber sole – be prepared that walking in hard shoes can be a confusing new experience for babies, and they often look quite funny trying to figure it out!
It’s also important to clean your baby’s feet every day, and make sure that their nails aren’t getting too long, either with nail clippers or a file if you prefer.
If you have any questions or concerns about your baby’s feet or shoes, it’s best to consult a professional children’s shoe fitter or a medical professional. Your baby’s feet will serve them for a lifetime if you start them off well, but don’t stress! If you stay informed and pay attention, taking care of your baby’s first shoes will be easy.