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When Should My Baby Get A First Pair Of Shoes?

The feeling of pride as you see your little one take their first wobbly steps is hard to beat. But though baby shoes are incredibly cute, it’s best to allow them as much time as possible in bare feet as they learn to walk, rather than going straight out to buy shoes. But once your little one is starting to get on her feet, when is the right time for the big move into that first pair of shoes? It’s a hot topic, so when it appeared in a recent Mom’s Query on Facebook, we decided to collate some top tips from real moms, and what the experts advise.

“Hi moms, I have a 17-month-old who has just started walking in the last few weeks. I’m getting all different kinds of advice about shoes/pre-walkers, etc. I would love to hear some advice on how long should I leave it before I buy proper shoes? Thanks.”

Finding their feet

Miriam: When I went to purchase my son’s first shoes (just regular shoes; he never wore pre-walkers) I was told by the lady in the shoe shop that they need to be walking on their own for eight weeks. Well done to your little walker!

Eileen: Best leave shoes off as long as possible. We had two born with feet problems and the specialist said people put shoes on babies far too early and his advice was not to put them on until the baby was walking two months unaided/completely independently. And then only when absolutely necessary.

Sarah: All of mine were walking well for at least six weeks before they got shoes. Make sure you go to a shoe shop and get them measured: So important as their bones are so soft! And they have width fittings, supermarket shoes are a standard size and mightn’t be right for your little one! Also, only have shoes on when necessary, going out, in the garden etc. More time in bare feet the better … and get ready to laugh at how funny they look when they try to walk with shoes on!

Michelle: We waited about eight weeks after he was walking to make sure he was stable. Got him measured in Clarks then, and got his first shoe. He wore them out of the store and was delighted.

Stacey: We waited six weeks before we got shoes. She doesn’t wear them indoors, only socks or barefoot, only wears them out and only if she wants to get out of the buggy and walk. We got her feet measured properly.

Caithriona: Have six weeks on feet before pre-walkers. You only get one pair of feet, and they will last you a lifetime!

To pre-walker or not to pre-walker?

Tina: You’re recommended to not use shoes at all when they first learn and find their feet. Two months in pre-walkers (for outside) and then walkers after two months.

Carol: My girl now four never had pre-walkers just used socks with grip or Robeez leather shoes until she was walking well, about eight weeks I think and then bought proper shoes.

Alisha: My eldest daughter had to see a physiotherapist because of a turn in her foot and she advised us that you should never put “pre-walkers” on your children’s feet … She said those soft, bendable shoes are terrible for their feet! We didn’t make the mistake with our youngest - she went barefoot until she was walking properly and then we got her a proper pair of solid shoes.

Lynda: My first was walking about three months with me holding her hands for two of those months. She went straight into shoes but barefoot at home. My second was not fully balanced but we went to playgrounds a lot so I got her pre-walkers just for the playground. I recommend leaving first shoes as long as possible and only get shoes when he/she starts walking outside. Go to a reputable kids shoe shop and they will advise on whether pre-walkers or shoes are best in your case

Ethel: I own a kids shop, and we work with physios all the time. The “guidelines” are six weeks after they fully start walking, outside on tarmac without holding your hand. BUT your child is 17 months and at this stage your child could need a bit of stability to help them on their way and a pre-walkers is not going to give you that as they’re too soft. 

Noelle: My little boy was a very late walker! Nearly 19 months had him in pre-walkers around six weeks before walking independently but I found that even in bare feet he had the tendency to roll his foot inwards henceforth cause his balance to be off! I went with my gut and got him proper big boy Clark’s shoes and hey presto in 24 hours he was up walking around on his own! Best move I ever made!!

Why is barefoot recommended?

The average age for learning to walk ranges from 10 -18 months, but this can vary dramatically for each child. The important thing is not to force a child to walk before they’re ready. The bones in a baby’s toes are soft at birth, and it’s important that they grow straight: If they’re cramped by tight shoes or socks, they can’t straighten out and grow properly.

Avoid putting structured shoes on babies who have only just learned to stand; as this will make it much more difficult for her to balance. Barefoot is best for improved grip, and to encourage good development.

Your toddler won’t need shoes until she’s able to walk unaided for most of the day, and is ready to walk outside. Even then, shoes can be kept for outside walking only, at least at first. This allows the feet to breathe and to feel the floor for stability.

Choosing Shoes

Shoes with laces, a buckle or a velcro fastening are good because they hold the heel in place and stop the foot slipping forward and damaging the toes. If possible, buy shoes made from natural materials such as leather, cotton or canvas: These allow air to circulate and minimise the risk of rubbing.

Look for shoe shapes that closely resemble the natural shape of the foot. The inside edge should be straight to avoid pressure on the big toe and they should fit snugly around the heel.

Never buy shoes for children ‘off the shelf’ without a proper fitting service. It’s best to take your baby to a shoe shop where her feet can be measured by a qualified children’s shoe fitter. They can advise on the type of shoes to buy, and make sure shoes fit your baby properly while also allowing some growing room.

Being fitted for her first shoes is quite an experience for your baby, and she may not necessarily enjoy it, so it’s best to go when you have time, and she’s not over-tired or hungry. Try not to worry too much if she puts up a fuss, the fitter should be used to measuring for babies first shoes!

Let your baby walk around in the shoes to ensure the feet don’t slip forwards or out of the shoes. Slipping forward could squash her toes in the end of her shoes. If her shoes are too loose, she’ll end up having to curl her feet and toes to prevent them slipping off.

What’s next?

Little feet grow quickly (about two sizes a year until the age of 4), so once your baby has her new shoes, make sure you check them every six to eight weeks to make sure she hasn’t grown out of them: Gently press on the front of the shoe, and if you can feel your baby’s toe against your fingers it’s time for a new pair.

So when did you get your little one the first pair of shoes? And what are your favourite brands? We'd love to hear.


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