You could be forgiven for thinking that, apart from being adorable, babies’ feet are the same as an adults. We’re all humans after all with the same bones, muscles and physical makeup. However, babies’ feet have not yet developed and have a lot of growth and change before they start to resemble ours. Usually it is not until around 3 years of age that a visible arch will form and bones have developed. You might be surprised to know that by caring for your babies feet you can help prevent major foot problems in later life.
It is for this reason that, as a parent, you must be very careful with what you put on your baby’s feet. Their feet are easily moulded into shape and if your dress them in poorly fitting shoes or even socks that are too tight, you can mould their feet into the wrong shape.
As your baby goes through their key developmental milestones i.e. learning to crawl, pulling to stand, cruising along furniture, it is best that they remain barefoot to allow sensory feedback from the floor and improve their grip as they start to try more challenging movement patterns. Being barefoot also allows the small muscles in their feet to develop and strengthen.
It is only once your baby is taking steps independently that you may want to consider buying them their first pair of shoes. The stage at which your baby is taking independent steps indoors is a sign that they are just starting to find their feet and by providing them with a flexible, lightweight shoe to help protect their feet and give them some grip, you will prevent them from slipping and increase their confidence in their new upright position. Avoid anything with a hard sole. They do not need a hard sole at this stage and anything too rigid will inhibit the normal growth of the foot. Allow them some time out of their shoes as well. This will help the muscles of their feet to develop in the correct way.
The exciting time for buying shoes is when your baby starts walking both indoors and outdoors. At this stage they are ready to have their first pair of proper walking shoes. It is important that you get your baby’s feet correctly measured by a shoe fitter. Try well known companies such as Clarks, Start-Rite and Schuh (this post is not sponsored by these companies) they have specially trained fitters with knowledge on the best shoe for your baby. Always check with your child’s physio if you are unsure.
To ensure you get the correct shoe. some key features to look out for are:
- that the heel is well supported and held securely
- the foot does not easily slip out of the shoe
- there is no rubbing
- no alteration to your baby’s balance
A semi rigid sole, with some flexibility, is appropriate for this stage of your baby’s development. You should be able to bend and twist the sole at the middle of the shoe without much force or effort. Make sure there is enough room inside the shoe for your baby to flatten all their toes. At this stage you will find your baby grows very quickly, so it is important to get their shoes checked regularly. It is recommended they have a fitting every 6-8 weeks.
Remember, if you have any questions or concerns relating to finding the right pair of shoes, The Children’s Physio will be able to advise.