Parents often struggle when it comes to buying their children footwear. With overwhelming choice in ‘good shoe stores’ it can be difficult to make the correct decision as a parent. Once you have narrowed down and picked the store you wish to buy from, the question arises ‘what shoe style is right for my child’s foot development?’.
Footwear is mostly attractive to children because of the fashion design and bright sparkly colours, but this has nothing to do with the way the shoes function for your child. Parents must overcome this barrier of cute, sparkly shoe designs and decide what is best for their children’s foot development.
Below 13 months, children need to gain a sense of balance starting with their feet. 0-13 months they can get away with socks, no shoes or soft shoes. Anything on the foot should be functioning as a protective barrier only. Softer shoes are preferred to encourage the muscles to function properly and encourage normal foot development as these are the crucial years, softer shoes are ideal for optimal growth.
Try to minimize accidents that your child could meet by ensuring their soft shoes or socks are not slippery on the surfaces they are rambling around on. A thin soft rubber sole will reduce the risk of falling on marble floorings.
As your child moves into toddlerhood, they acquire new skills; standing, walking, bouncing and starting to explore the environment. New skills mean new shoes, your child now not only needs protection from the outer environment but stability with every step. Sturdier sole shoes are ideal, something like a soft sneaker or converse style shoe with Velcro straps to ensure the shoe does not easily come off the foot. Higher top shoes made of canvas generally allow the child’s foot to mould with minimal restrictions to the function and development of the foot.
Over the age of 2 toddlers can start to use open toe shoes, before this age the foot can be strained with little protection offered by the shoe as your child takes their first steps. Slippers and slip on shoes should be reserved for when the child is a lot more stable and walking long distances.
Parents should remember that cost of a shoe is not what is important, it is the features, fit and functions provided by the shoe. An inexpensive shoe can function just as well as an expensive shoe especially in the younger years. To save a few dollars parents may want to use second hand or hardly used footwear, as podiatrists we would advise against this as children’s feet mould to shoes, wearing another child’s moulded shoes can cause your child to develop blisters.