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Hard Sole Shoes for Babies – Are They the Right Choice for Your First Walker?

Supportive Toddler Shoes

One of the most popular questions I get asked at the children’s shoe store that I work for is: Do babies who are learning how to walk need a pair of hard sole or soft sole shoes?

I have been fitting children’s shoes and orthotics for the last 10 years at a premier children’s shoe store specializing in proper fit for over 40 years. We specialize in children with foot and leg problems, but provide regular shoe fittings as well. I have fitted hundreds of babies for their first pair of shoes, and I know which shoe brands and which shoe styles are better than others.

Babies learn how to take their first steps by gripping their toes to the ground and I always recommend parents to allow their kids to be barefooted at home in order to promote healthy foot development.

But if a baby doesn’t need shoes around the house, when do shoes  actually come into play?

As soon as you decide to take your baby to play outside where surfaces might be uneven, hot, cold or rocky, shoes come into play and they are worn for protection purposes mostly. The shoes must provide a key feature to help your baby walk: sensory pods. This feature will allow to “feel” the terrain below them, which will make them feel more stable and confident when walking.

Please keep in mind that I don’t recommend a pair of hard sole shoes for a baby that is learning how to walk as they will make the whole process of learning  how to walk much much harder. A baby that is in the process of learning how to walk doesn’t have the strength to bend a shoe with a harder sole.

Just so you know, I am not saying that soft sole shoes are better than hard sole ones. Hard soles shoes are great but are more appropriate for a baby that is already walking and putting pressure on the feet and legs.

So…

If your baby is learning how to walk you should provide him or her with a pair of soft sole shoes. Once your baby is already walking you should look for a pair of more substantial shoes that will provide more support to your baby’s  feet and legs.

Please keep in mind that not all soft sole shoe styles will work for your babies’ feet. There are certain styles that will be more flexible, breathable, and will fit better than others.  The good news is that I know exactly which shoe styles these are, since I have fitted them before. I actually wrote a different article that describes the best soft sole shoes for babies, and you can find it here:

Soft Sole Shoes for Babies – The Best Shoes for Your Baby That is Learning How to Walk!

Important tip: Did you know that most babies have wide or extra wide feet? It’s important for the shoes to be available in wide widths such as wide (W) or extra wide (XW).

Let show you a selection of the best soft sole shoes for babies that are learning how to walk and a selection of hard sole shoes for your baby that is already walking. But first I want to explain you the difference between a soft sole shoe and a hard sole shoe.

The Best Toddler Shoes

Soft Sole Shoes vs Hard Sole Shoes – Choose Them Wisely!

If you ask pediatricians or physical therapists about what are the best type of shoes for your baby, they will probably tell you that there are two different opinions on which type of shoes a baby that is learning how to walk should wear.

Through the years, I have fitted hundreds of shoes for babies learning how to walk and I have seen what actually works for them from trying the shoes on and watching how the baby reacts to them.

I can tell you with confidence that most babies react better to a shoe with a soft sole than a hard one, and I believe that for a baby who is still learning how to walk there is such thing as a shoe with too much structure.

If a baby wears a heavy shoe that comes with a built in arch support, a heavy sole, and a firm heel counter, your baby won’t’ need to use his or her own muscles to work to find balance and strength is diminished. The feet will rely too much on the strength of the shoe, which will hinder the development of muscles in the foot and ankle.

Now, if your baby is already walking, a hard sole shoe will offer several benefits to your baby’s feet. The first benefit is that it will minimize the impact that your baby’s feet take every time they come in contact with the ground.

The second benefit of a hard sole shoe is that it will also help prevent and treat baby’s foot problems such as flat feet, low muscle tone, or rolled ankles. A hard sole shoe will also provide more protection from harmful objects such as rocks, especially when your baby is playing outside.

In conclusion, you should provide your babies with a soft sole shoe when they are learning how to walk, and a hard sole shoe comes into play when children are already walking and putting more pressure on their feet.

Toddler Shoes

Soft Sole Shoes for Babies – Is Your Baby Learning How To Walk?

If your baby is learning how to walk, you should go for a soft sole shoe that provides the following features:

✅ Lightweight and flexible: This feature promotes and supports natural foot movement.

✅ Quality materials: Materials such as leather or mesh will mold to the shape of your babies’ feet and allow their feet to breathe.

✅ Traction: Shoes with good traction prevent babies from slipping or sliding specially when walking on wet surfaces.

✅ Sensory Pods: This feature increases babies’ feel of the ground beneath them. This allows babies to stabilize their gait and better respond to their environment.

✅ Round toe-toes: Most babies have wide or extra wide feet. It’s important for the shoes to come in wide and extra wide widths as well as with rounded toe-boxes to prevent the toes from overlapping or rubbing against each other.

Is it possible to find a shoe that provides all of these features?

Yes, I will show them to you but keep in mind that if you don’t provide your babies with the correct shoe size, they won’t get any of the benefits that the shoes have to offer. What’s even worse, you will end up creating all sort of foot issues to their feet such as blisters, calluses, and corns!

I always recommend parents to take their children to their local children’s shoe store, where a shoe fitter can properly measure their feet and find shoes that fit. However, I have been contacted by several parents that told me how they don’t have a local shoe store in their area and must end up buying their kids’ shoes online.

Start by reading a post I wrote where I describe the simplest, yet most effective way to make sure your children are wearing the correct shoe size:

How To Measure Kids Shoe Size From Home – In Less Than 30 Seconds!

Keep in mind that I only review shoe styles that I have fitted before, that way I can tell you exactly how each shoe style fits and whether that particular shoe runs long, short, narrow or wide.

Best Shoes for Babies Learning How to Walk  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Let’s take a look at a selection of the best soft sole shoes for babies who are learning how to walk — these shoes are available in different widths such as medium, wide and extra wide. Disclosure: Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases.

M,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWM,WM,WM,WM,W,XWM,W,XWM,W,XWNarrow, M,W,XWNarrow, M,W,XWNarrow, M,W,XW

I have noticed how most babies who are learning how to walk need a pair of wide or extra wide shoes. That is the reason why the shoes that I describe above are available in different widths such as medium, wide, and extra wide. Just choose your baby’s correct shoe width:

  • “M” if your baby has medium width feet.
  • “W” if your baby has wide width feet.
  • “XW” if your baby has extra wide width feet.

In order to allow for growing room, I highly recommend that parents order this shoe style a half a size larger than the size their babies feet measure. This translates to 0.3 inches or 0.7 centimeters of space between your baby’s longest toe and the end of the shoes. This will allow the proper amount of growing room without getting the shoes too long or too short.

Best Hard Sole Shoes for Babies Who are Walking  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If your baby is already walking, you must provide him or her with a pair of more substantial shoes that they can wear for their everyday activities. Below you can find a selection of the best shoes for a baby that is already walking:

Toddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler ShoesToddler Shoes

In order to allow for growing room, I highly recommend that parents order this shoe style a whole size larger than the size their babies feet measure. This translates to 0.6 inches or 1 centimeter of space between your baby’s longest toe and the end of the shoes.

Now that you know which are the best fitting shoes for a baby that is learning how to walk or already walking, you are ready to make the most informed decision.

Please make sure that you provide your baby with the correct type of socks as they play a key role in keeping babies’ feet healthy.

Did you know that socks act as a barrier between your babies’ feet and the shoes and they prevent the formation and buildup of bacteria inside the shoe as well as the formation of blisters, calluses, and corns?

It’s important to get the correct type of socks made of the right materials in order to allow your babies’ toes to freely move and prevent them from overlapping each other. Babies move their toes as a way of exercising their feet, so it’s really important to not constrict this movement.

Have you ever heard of seamless socks before? They are great because they don’t constrict toe movement and they allow your babies toes to move freely inside the socks.

This type of socks are also great for those kids that feel every bump and lump inside the shoes. While I can’t get into too much detail about the best socks for babies in this article, you can learn more about them here:

The Best Baby Socks – Keep Your Baby’s Feet Healthy!

Have you found a particular shoe style that has worked well for your baby’s feet? Please share your findings below so other families can benefit from your experiences.

STOP BUYING THE WRONG PAIR OF SHOES FOR YOUR CHILDREN.LETS START TAKING CARE OF THEIR FEET!

I created this webpage to help parents understand the importance that shoes have in healthy foot development and how they can prevent foot problems in the future.Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kids feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

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6 Comments on Hard Sole Shoes for Babies – Are They the Right Choice for Your First Walker?

  1. Thank you so much for this very informative article! We have been confused about what to buy for our twin girls who are starting to walk, and you explain all of the considerations so well here. There is no other site like yours, and we are big fans, so keep up the good work!

  2. Hello, my daughter has pronating feet, instability, weak ankles, and wobbly when walking. it’s inherited as Mother was the same way. Overwhelmed at options. She walks but not sturdy nor far. What do you recommend for shoes? I bought the stride right grayson booties and also the New Balance sneaks- are either of these correct?

    • Hi Jay,

      How old is your daughter? The Stride Rite Grayson is a great choice to help treat the issues you mentioned.

      As far as the New Balance sneakers concern, I need to know which specific style you got for your daughter.

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