Most babies are born with perfectly formed feet. However, because the bones and cartilage that form the foot are so soft, they are very vulnerable to deformity. It is therefore vital that you ensure you protect your child’s feet by ensuring they have socks and shoes with a good fit.
If you wish your child to wear booties, pram shoes, socks or even stretch suits make sure that the toes are not cramped, your child should be able to stretch out the toes and straighten them all so that they have room to grow properly. Make sure there is enough room both in length and also in width.
Your child does not need shoes until they are able to walk outside confidently. While your child is learning to walk indoors, it is best for her to be barefoot. This will help her co-ordination and her balance as she will be able to feel the ground beneath her feet. Walking barefoot (where it is safe to do so) is very good as it allows your child’s feet to develop naturally.
If you decide to buy your child their first pair of shoes, it is important to go to a reputable shop where the sales team are trained in measuring and checking children’s feet and shoes.
Your child may not like the experience of being fitted for new shoes and trying shoes on and may cry or fidget or make a fuss. It is important that you remain calm in the shop: the qualified fitter should be used to measuring small children and toddlers for their first shoes and should know how to handle the situation. You can help prepare your child for this experience by playing with shoes before you go and putting your shoes on their feet and making a fun game out of it.
Children’s shoes come in whole and half sizes and in several widths: usually between D and H. The wider widths F,G,H are more common in very young children. There should be a 1 centimetre gap between your child’s toe and the end of the shoe to allow for movement and growing.
Most ‘first shoes’ will have a buckle or Velcro fastening as these help to hold the heel in place in the shoe to stop the foot sliding forward whilst walking. It is important to ensure that your child’s heel does not slip when your child stands on their tip-toes. First shoes should also have a flexible sole and be lightweight.
Shoes made from natural materials are best for your child’s feet as these materials are also breathable. If possible it is best to not buy plastic shoes for your child as these can cause fungal infections and abrasions.
A child under the age of 4 should have their feet measured and checked every 6-8 weeks. All good shoe shops should be willing to check a child’s feet regardless of whether you are going to buy new shoes or not. A child over the age of 4 should have their feet measured and shoes checked every 12 weeks.
Although buying new shoes can be expensive, you should never make your child wear second-hand or hand-me-down shoes as they will have been moulded to the shape of another person’s feet and the soles will not be supportive.