When your baby is learning to walk, he’ll find it easier if he has bare feet as often as possible. If it’s really chilly, you can try non-slip socks or soft leather slippers that double as a first pair of shoes. Your baby doesn’t need proper shoes until he’s going for walks outside.
Wearing shoes in the early stages of learning to walk can make things harder for your child. They will need to practice their balance and get a feel for the ground under their feet, so you don’t need to rush out and get that first pair of shoes after your baby’s first steps.
Ensure that your baby's shoes and socks fit properly, if they are too small, they’ll squash toes and make walking uncomfortable for your little one.
Tip 1 – encourage free movement
Babies develop muscles by kicking and wriggling, so never discourage this. At an early age, feet need to be free to move, not held back by tight bedding, or leggings.
When your baby begins to crawl, they can do so barefoot. This will help their feet and toes develop normally. There’s no need to put any kind of footwear on unless it’s cold weather or your baby is going outside.
Tip 2 – ensure foot coverings fit properly
It’s important to regularly check that your baby’s socks and bootees fit well because babies grow really fast. Something that fits loosely one week may be too tight the next, particularly if it shrinks in the wash. Ankle ties of bootees should be loose enough to allow good blood circulation.
Tip 3 – clean your child’s feet
Wash your child’s feet every day with soap and water. Ensure they are dried thoroughly, especially between the toes, so the skin there does not get soggy.
When your child starts to walk
Most children begin walking between 8 and 18 months of age. Some are physically and emotionally ready for that first step well before others, but don’t rush it — legs and feet develop best when babies learn to walk at their own pace. Baby walkers are not necessary, and can actually make it harder for a baby to learn to walk.
When your child first starts to walk, they may have a tendency to walk up on their toes, or with their toes pointing inwards or outwards. Don't be concerned, this is quite common.
You should seek advice from your doctor if your child displays any of the following behaviours:
- Their toes turn out a lot.
- One foot turns in or out much more than the other.
- They don't start walking by 18 months.
You should also seek medical advice if your child has been walking well, but then begins to limp, waddle, or refuse to walk.
Most children are naturally active. Let your child walk at their own pace, and only for distances that they can cover without becoming too tired. If your child complains of pains in their legs and feet, it may be that they have done enough for the day. However, if they complain of pain every time they walk, it may be a good idea to have their feet examined by a doctor.
How do you choose the right shoes?
The main purpose of shoes is to protect your feet from the surface that you walk on. A baby that is not yet walking doesn’t need shoes.
Once your child starts walking outside the protected environment of the home, they will need shoes to protect their soft feet. Poor fitting shoes can lead to foot deformities, so it’s important that you get shoes that fit properly right from the very start.
Here are some pointers for making sure your child has the right shoes:
- The shoe should fit the foot’s natural shape. The toes should be able to move freely and not be squashed.
- Shoes should be lightweight, flexible, and fit securely onto feet. They should be comfortable around the heel and not be too loose or too tight.
Children's feet perspire, so choose shoes that allow your child's feet to breathe.
Children don’t always complain when shoes start feeling too tight, so it’s important you check regularly that your child’s shoes still fit comfortably. Make sure there is a 1cm space between their longest toe and the end of the shoe. If there’s not, it’s time to get a new pair of shoes.
If you need help
If you think your child may have a problem with their feet or walking, see your doctor, community health nurse, or podiatrist for advice.
We Are Bubba takes great care to bring you baby shoes that will help your child learn to walk and will support their growing feet.
Source: Raising Children Network (Movement and play ideas for babies).