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 forty years. We specialize in children with foot and leg problems, but we 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 child 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 child that is learning how to walk since they will make the process of learning much harder for your child. 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 child that is already walking and putting pressure on the feet and legs.
If your child is learning how to walk you should provide him or her with a pair of soft sole shoes. Once your children are already walking you should look for a pair of more substantial shoes that will provide more support to their 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 fit better than others. The good news is that I know exactly which shoe styles these are, since I have fitted them before.
IMPORTANT TIP: Did you know that most babies have wide or extra wide feet?
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 child that is already walking. But first I want to explain you the difference between a soft sole shoe and a hard sole shoe.
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 from trying the shoes on and watching how the child 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 child who is still learning how to walk there is such thing as a shoe with too much structure.
If a child wears a heavy shoe that comes with a built in arch support, a heavy sole, and a firm heel counter, your child 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 child is already walking, a hard sole shoe will offer several benefits to your kids’ feet.
The first benefit is that it will minimize the impact that your kids’ feet take every time they come in contact with the ground.
A hard sole shoe that provides good structure will help to prevent and treat kids’ 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 child is playing outside.
In conclusion, you should provide your children 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.
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 will promote and support 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 will prevent your child from slipping or sliding specially when walking on wet surfaces.
- Sensory Pods: This feature will increase babies’ feel of the ground beneath them. This will allow 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:
Best Shoes for Babies Learning How to Walk – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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.
Let’s take a look at a selection of the best soft sole shoes for babies that are learning how to walk (these shoes are also available in different widths such as medium, wide and extra wide):
I have noticed how most babies that 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 child’s 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.
These shoe styles all fit ” true to size” which means that you only need to go a half a size longer of the size that your child measures in the standard foot measuring scale (Brannock device), in order to allow for growing room. This will allow the proper amount of growing room without getting the shoes too long or too short.
Best Hard Sole Shoes for Babies That are Already 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 every day activities.
Below you can find a selection of the best shoes for a baby that is already walking:
This selection of shoes fit “short”, which means that you need to go a whole size longer of the size that your baby measured in the shoe measuring scale in order to allow for growing room.
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 informative decision.
Please make sure you provide your child with the correct type of socks since 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 will 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:
Do you have a children’s shoe store in your area that you TRUST? I get contacted by parents daily and they want to know whether there is a good children’s shoe store in their area, so if you do have one please let us know in the comments section below so other parents can benefit from your experiences.