A man holds shoe for his baby in light room

How to Choose Baby’s First Walking Shoes

As parents, we often wait on the edge of our seats in anticipation of our babies’ first wobbly steps. We envision the day when she is running and climbing, ready to explore everything around her. We want to show her the world and all the excitement it has to offer.

It is easy to get carried away when those first steps occur. You want to run to the nearest store and browse the vast selection of adorable toddler shoes.

The excitement is understandable, but you may want to take a moment before making your purchase. There are actually several things to consider before your child is ready to put her feet into that first pair of walking shoes.

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When is the Perfect Time to Buy First Baby Shoes?

Do not feel like you need to run right out and purchase shoes as soon as your baby takes her first steps (probably somewhere between 10 to 18 months). It will likely still be a while before she is ready to walk fulltime, much less go for walks outside. In fact, putting your baby in shoes prematurely can do more harm than good.

When learning to walk, it is better for your baby to have as much barefoot time as she can get. This gives her a chance to stretch her feet and wiggle her toes, getting a good feel for the floor underneath of her as she moves her little legs.

What Kind of Material Should They Be?

Throughout the day, your baby’s feet change a lot. They will get hot and swell, which can affect the way her shoes fit. What seems like a good fit in the morning may be too tight in the afternoon, especially when the shoes’ material does not have any give to it.

Opt for lightweight, flexible materials such as leather or high-quality mesh, avoiding anything cheap or synthetic. This will allow your baby’s feet to breathe and for the shoes to flex and conform to her foot shape.

What is the Right Shoe Type?

A pregnant woman holds small baby shoes

Your baby’s feet do still need to be protected from extreme temperatures, dangerous objects, and filth on the floor. You can either put her in gripping socks, or opt for pre-walking shoes, which are flexible, soft-soled shoes or slippers.

When your baby is ready for her first real shoes, they should still be somewhat flexible while she is still working on her balance. Once your little one’s balance improves and she starts walking quicker or even running (perhaps around 2 years of age), you can look for shoes with firmer soles for better support.

What is the Right Shoe Support?

Proper ankle and arch support is important when looking for adult shoes, but there is actually very little you need to worry about in terms of support in your baby’s shoes. Flat feet are normal for babies; their arches will not form until about the age of 4 or 5.

Previously, high-top shoes were recommended for babies who are learning to walk, but this is no longer the case. Too much ankle support can cause your child’s ankle muscles and tendons to be weak, whereas leaving the ankle free helps to build strength and prevent injury.

Velcro, Straps, or Laces?

How your baby’s shoes fasten is up to you, but you do need to consider a few things. First, you need to look at how secure the fastener is. You do not want the shoe accidentally slipping off and causing your little one to injure herself.

Second, how easy are the to get on and off? Some toddlers do not like to sit still or put their shoes on, so parents opt for a shoe that is quick and easy to get on and fasten, such as one with Velcro.

However, the easier it is to get on, the easier to get off as well. While they may take a little longer to put on, choosing a shoe with a buckle or laces may be a better option for the child who likes to take her own shoes off frequently.

How to Know if Baby Shoes Fit?

As we mentioned before, babies’ and toddlers’ feet swell throughout the day, so what may “fit” in the morning may be too tight in the afternoon. If you are going shoe shopping, go later in the day to find something that is more accurately sized to your baby’s foot.

To check the fit, use your pinky. Start by inserting your pinky between the back of the shoe and your baby’s heel to ensure there will be no rubbing and blister formation.

Then have your child stand and feel for the gap between the tip of your child’s toes and the tip of the shoe. There should be about a pinky’s width between the two.

Importance of a Right Fit

Shoes that do not fit appropriately can cause many issues for your baby. Shoes that are too big will not give her the support she needs and she will not be able to feel the ground beneath her very well. This can lead to falls and injuries, from twisted ankles to bumps on the pavement.

Shoes that are too small can be uncomfortable and cause developmental problems as your baby’s feet are growing.

Your little one cannot effectively communicate hurts and discomforts to you, so you will need to keep an eye out for red spots on the toes, blisters, and misaligned feet as signs of a bad fit.

When to Look for a New Size?


Babies’ and toddlers’ feet grow at an incredible rate. It is recommended that you measure your toddler’s feet about every 6 to 8 weeks, as your child’s feet can grow about two sizes every year until they reach the age of 4.


If you suspect that your child’s shoes are getting too small, perform your pinky check at home. Be sure to stay on top of measuring her feet to avoid symptoms like bruised or discolored toenails, deformed toes, feet that splay out or turn in, or any rashes or bumps that do not go away.

These are all late signs that your child has outgrown her shoes.

Are Secondhand Shoes Okay?

There are mixed opinions about whether or not it is acceptable to put your child in used shoes; it really depends on where you get the shoes from and the condition they are in.

Some secondhand shops only take lightly used shoes, which may be okay for your child to wear. You can also likely rely on hand-me-down shoes from a relative to be pretty clean and well kept.

The real problems arise when you do not pay attention to the condition of the used shoes you are purchasing. You cannot assume that the shoes have always been worn with socks, which can leave them covered in germs and bacteria that can negatively affect your child.

Used shoes have also been broken in and conformed to the shape of another child’s foot, which can cause them no to fit properly on your own child.

Conclusion

There is a lot of thought and preparation that goes into choosing the right first pair of shoes for your walking toddler.

It can be quite overwhelming when you are faced with the fit, material, fasteners, and styles, as well as the sticker shock that comes with a new purchase every few months. 

However, do not let that keep you from enjoying the excitement and new adventures that come along with it.

Did you enjoy reading this? Do you have questions or comments? Let us know, and share this link with other parents that need help finding their baby’s first pair of shoes.

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