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Infant Toddler Shoes – When Should You Put Shoes On Your Baby?

Toddler Boy's Shoes

When a parent brings his baby to be fitted for his first pair of shoes it is always a rewarding, but challenging experience. I want to clarify that this is one of the areas where I feel greater responsibility and conscientious effort on my part since the future health and development of the child’s foot is my personal responsibility and the parent is placing his complete trust on me.

I have been working for a specialized children’s shoe store for the last ten years. We specialize in children with foot and leg problems, but we also provide regular shoe fittings as well. I have fitted hundreds of babies for their first pair of shoes and I am familiar with which shoe brands and which shoe styles are better than others.

The fitting of infant’s toddler shoes is very different from the fitting of feet in any other age category. The foot is different, the shoes are different and the customer is different. A baby’s foot grows at a phenomenal rate: faster during those first three years than at any other time in life.

It is extremely important to make sure the child is fitted with the correct pair of shoes. There should be ample room for the baby to be able to move his toes inside the shoe. Have you noticed how babies are always curling and moving their toes? They do that for a reason, that is their way of exercising their feet. If we fit the baby in a shoe that is too short, or too narrow, we will be compromising his overall foot health.

Before we answer when is the right time to put shoes on a baby, I wanted to clarify that we always want him/her barefoot at home, since this is the best thing we can do to promote healthy foot development.

When Should I Put Shoes On My Baby? Find Out Here!

The main questions is: When is the right time to put shoes on your baby? If your baby is crawling and standing up with the assistance of holding into things this might be a good time for getting them their first pair of shoes. REMEMBER: we still want to have them barefoot at home. The idea of a pair of shoes is for when you take them to a playground, the shopping mall or any activity that requires stepping foot outside the house.

Please know that once you fit your baby with his/her first of shoes it will take them some time to adjust to the shoes. Why? They lose the sense they used to have to the ground. Let’s look at the toes for example. The toes normally play an active role in walking –if allowed to. If you walk on the grass barefoot the toes will instinctively grasp the ground, contributing not only to step propulsion but to foot balance. However, if the toes are crowded inside the shoe their natural action and contribution is limited or in more extreme cases eliminated.

Wiggle Toe

Making Sure Your Baby Shoes Fit –  Finding The Correct Shoe Size

Parents please make sure that you are providing your baby with the right pair of shoes; consider the importance of the future health and development of your child’s foot. These are some facts that make fitting of this footwear unique:

  • You are dealing with a “beginning” foot, a foot barely formed and just starting in physical development. This is a precarious time for the family and the shoe fitter, and the chance for error yields pretty severe results. Always make sure you take your baby to get fitted at your local shoe store, where a shoe fitter will be able to measures his or her feet properly.

Avoid taking your baby for his first pair of shoes to big retailers such as Nordstrom’s, Stride Rite, or Payless, since your baby will most likely end up wearing the wrong shoe size. I have helped several children that came from those stores wearing the wrong shoe size. I wrote a post about some of these stores and why I wouldn’t take my child to be fitted for shoes there, the post is called:

The Best Place To Buy Kids Shoes – Avoid Stride Rite, Nordstrom, Payless…

  • You are working with a foot that is growing at a faster rate than at any other time of life. After you fit your child for his first pair of shoes, you must keep a close eye on the way his feet are growing and constantly check to make sure he hasn’t outgrown the shoes. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself replacing your baby shoes every 3 to 3 1/2 months!
  • Unlike as with adult shoes, the decision on the fit of infant’s shoes is a responsibility almost entirely in the hands of the fitter. Parents are placing their complete trust in the shoe fitter. That said, not all shoe fitters are created equal, so parents, come equipped with knowledge!

You can start by using the proper terminology. There is an official designation for “baby shoes.” It’s cacks (sizes 1 through 5).

My Baby Has The Widest Feet – I Can’t Find Shoes That Fit!

Like all other human beings, babies’ feet come in many variations: narrow, medium, wide, extra wide, long or short toes, flat or arched, etc. As a developing foot, it lacks the definitive shape of an older foot. Instead this foot is a soft, pliable form. It possesses only semi-completed bones or joints or ligaments.

Baby Infant Shoes

The majority of baby feet that I have fitted were wide, or extra wide feet. There is not reason to panic! Most babies feet are wide since they might still carry some baby fat in them. However, you MUST find a shoe that is wide enough for his feet. If you don’t have a local kids’ shoe store in your area to take your child to be fitted for shoes, I created a post where I describe the best baby shoes for a child that is learning how to walk. The shoes I describe also come in different widths such as wide and extra wide. The post is called:

First Walking Shoes – Picking The Perfect First Shoes

The Importance Of Allowing The Toes To Wiggle!

Your baby’s toes are constantly in action, wiggling and grasping, inside or outside the shoe, which is nature’s way of developing strength for his foot through exercise.  Therefore, parents, NEVER allow the shoe OR the sock to interfere with this toe-wiggling. Until the child begins to walk, that toe action is virtually the ONLY exercise the foot will get.

You probably weren’t aware about the importance of wearing the correct pair of socks. I always explain to parents that wearing the correct pair of sock has the same importance as wearing the correct shoe size. I explained the importance of allowing your babies toes to wiggle, and if the sock is too short or has grippers in the bottom it won’t allow your child to freely move his toes. I explain more about the best socks for babies in this post:

The Importance Of Wearing Socks – Grippers Or No Grippers?

First Walking Shoes

Take a look at my suggestions below, you will probably benefit from learning them and they will end up saving you a lot of money in the long run:

  • Outgrown shoes:  I always try to stress to the parent that the foot grows faster during the infant stage than at any other time in life and that the importance of preventing outgrown shoes to allow for healthy foot development is extremely important if we want to allow healthy foot development.
  • Sneakers: Most sneakers for this age group come in only one width (and sometimes skipping half sizes). This means that many sneakers, due to limited sizes and widths, often do not provide an adequate or proper fit. Thus, sneakers are the wrong choice for your baby’s first pair of shoes. While Nike, Adidas, Jordan, are popular brands and the shoes look cute in the baby, those shoes are not practical at all, and 90% of the time, they just DON’T fit right. PLEASE avoid putting your baby in those type of sneakers!
  • Tight closure: Some co-workers and fitters believe that tight lacing should always be avoided because it can restrict foot circulation. I however believe that shoes need to be tight, and the tighter the better since it will provide your child with more stability. If your child is wearing shoes with shoe laces or velcro closure, don’t be afraid of making them tight! That’s is how they get their stability!
  • Styles: In the Western world kids’ shoes noticeably vary. I’ll use the U.S. and Europe as two contrasting examples. In Europe most infants’ shoes are available in an enormous range of styles. The notion of “fashion” in infants’ shoes is extreme, as demonstrated in range of materials, patterns, and colors. Across the pond fashion is given overwhelming priority over fit, size, or functional considerations. In the United States almost the opposite is true. Fortunately, there is a limited yet adequate style range in infant footwear. Highest priority is given to proper design and fit via proper sizes, widths, and lasts for the most part in the U.S. market.
  • Hose: I always try to counsel parents to be vigilant about sufficient sock length, avoiding stretch socks, which can constrict fragile infant toes. Don’t forget to read my post on the importance of wearing the right type and size of socks. That post will explain everything you need to know about getting the right sock size and the importance of seamless socks for babies.
  • Price and quality: Infants’ feet grow so fast that frequent purchases of new shoes are necessary, a fact some parents may find inconvenient. Raising small children is expensive in many ways. But in the case of footwear, the parent is dealing with the child’s foot health. And the matter of risking foot development in order to “economize” becomes a false economy.

Below you can find a selection of the best fitting shoes for a child that is learning how to walk. They are made out of leather and come in different widths such as medium, wide, and extra wide. 

These are the best infant toddler shoes that I have fitted before.

All of these shoe styles fit “true to size”, which means that you need a half a size longer of the size that your child measures in the shoe measuring scale (Brannock device) in order to allow for growing room.

Do you have a baby who is just starting to walk? Have you found a particular pair of shoes that works best for his or her feet? Certainly contact me via e-mail or in the comments section with further questions that I will most likely be able to answer.  I will continue to post informative articles penned by me that address important topics such as this one.


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 kid’s feet and get my guide for free: 10 Mistakes Parents Must Avoid When Buying Shoes for their Kids.

Join the rest of the parents who are taking care of their kids’ feet and get my guide for free: The 5 Most Common Mistakes Parents Make when Buying Their Kids’ Shoes

16 Comments on Infant Toddler Shoes – When Should You Put Shoes On Your Baby?

  1. Nice article! I love how you provided in-depth advice on what to look out for when choosing toddler shoes, and the reasons for each. I didn’t know about the importance of tight lacing for toddler feet’s protection and I’m sure most people would not know that either. Two of my cousins just gave birth couple of months ago, and I think these pieces of advice will be very applicable. Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  2. Interesting article, I did not know about the toe wiggling. You have given a lot of good advise on choosing shoes for toddlers and explain it very well. I had always figured lacing shoes for a child wasn’t an easy task simply because you don’t really know how tight you have them.

  3. Interesting site on shoes. This summer when I was taking a walk exercising at a college campus near my home, I saw a women with the Z Coil shoes on. Hers were much taller than the one you have pictured. Interesting concept. Enjoyed the site. It dealt with all gender and ages but was specific to shoes.

    When I was younger, my mother never allowed any of my siblings to wear shoes without socks, tights or stockings. I notice it seems to be a common thing these days for women to wear heels with no stockings. I can’t do it. It irritates my feet and also tends to make the shoes stink. Thanks for the information. Coming from someone who works in the field makes your opinion that more important.

    • Karla,

      I am glad you found the website informative. Your mother knew exactly what she was doing, shoes are meant to be wear with socks. I appreciate you stopping by.

  4. Hi Juan, I agree with you on all your points here, great article.
    Yes it is expensive buying new shoes so often but when my kids were small I only bought them each one pair of shoes at a time. At home if it is warm enough I always let them go barefoot, if we go outside or go out anywhere I make them wear shoes. I also buy them 1 pair of slippers each in winter to wear around the house.
    I see so many young babies/toddlers at the playschool wearing shoes that are obviously way too small for the kids feet. Also shoes that are obviously not suitable too.
    It is the parent’s responsibility to make sure that a kids shoes are properly fitted.
    I think a lot of parents just don’t understand the importance of this.
    Here’s a question (I think I know the answer though), what do you think of second hand shoes? My son of 2 yrs old outgrows shoes so fast and I often have other moms ask me if they can have his shoes afterwards… I mean I don’t mind really, but isn’t this bad?
    I remember my mom always stressing to me when I was younger and living at home that we must never ever wear someone else’s shoes. I can’t remember the reason she gave though?

    • Lynne,

      Like you mention in your comment, the parents are the ones responsible for looking after their children feet, and some parents might overlook the importance of properly fitted shoes. This is why I decided to create this website, to provide those parents with all the information they need. When it comes down to hand me down shoes, once a child has worn a pair of shoes, these tend to mold to the shape of their feet, which might have an impact in the shape of your child’s foot. It is better to purchase the very cheapest new shoe than a hand-me-down worn shoe.

  5. Wow, I didn’t realize that when babies flex their toes in and out that it was mean to strengthen them! I mean, I thought it was so adorable when their toes would “grab” onto my fingers, but it’s nice to know it serves an actual purpose, haha!
    As for the socks, I agree! I am not a fan of tight-fitting, stretchy socks. I prefer the looser, cotton ones… I know I am warmer with those kind of socks, so they must be, too! But it also makes sense that it would be super restricting!
    Great article! =)

  6. This is so relevant for me right now. One of my twin girls just started walking, and I prefer them to be bare foot or in socks, but with winter coming up they need shoes! But my other little girl won’t keep them on! I know you said to avoid sneakers (which I actually just purchased for my girls because they won’t keep their shoes on) but do you have any suggestions for shoes that will stay on the foot without restricting toe movement?

    • Sonja,
      You will keep them barefoot or with socks inside the house for healthy foot development. If one of your daughter’s is not keeping her shoes on she might be trying to tell you that they might not be fitting right. I will start by making sure they are the right fit by taking her into a fitting shoe store, a place where they know what they are doing. When I mention in my post to avoid sneakers I specific mean fashion sneakers, brands like Jordan, Nike, Adidas, which I am sure they look great, but they just do not have the structure of a first walking sneaker and do not come in different widths.

  7. Some very good things that a new parent should keep in mind when dealing with sensitive and quickly growing feet. My oldest went barefoot most of his baby and toddler life. I think I should have got him new shoes more often, because not only are his feet really small, he prefers very tight shoes. I don’t think it’s healthy for a foot to be so cramped.

    • Debra,
      Keep in mind that there is a difference between what type of shoe your child might think it feels good, and what type of shoe actually fits his/her foot. I also believe that shoes are not suppose to be too small or too long since these both have negative consequences such as compromising your child stability. I am glad you found the post informative.

  8. Hi there,
    I saw you have an ad/page at the top on the slider about Robeez… my babies both basically wore them in lieu of shoes until they were good and walking. So comfy, and they STAYED ON THEIR FEET! What IS it about babies that their socks always fall off LOL?
    Thanks for a great article. Baby feet are so precious… it’s important to take good care that they are warm and comfortable for sure!

    • Marlaine,

      Parents have raised that concern about babies socks falling off all the time. I will create a post shortly addressing this issue. In the meantime, here is a link to one of the greatest inventions ever: Socks-Ons. They work perfectly and they have stylish designs. Thank you for stopping by.

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