When Should My Baby Start Wearing Shoes?

Everything you need to know about your little one's feet!
Natalia Lebedinskaia via Getty Images

When your child starts to walk, it’s one of the most exciting times. It’s a huge milestone for independence.

In fact, some babies might even skip crawling and go straight to walking! The age your child will walk also varies, some might walk as early as eight months and others might not until into their toddlerhood.

Either way every child develops these skills at their own pace, and it’s usually nothing to be concerned about.

What I found a bit overwhelming was understanding when to put my child in shoes, especially while she was learning to walk.

On one hand some parents say you shouldn’t put your kid in shoes as learning to walk barefoot is easiest. Others say they need to get used to shoes, so try to get some comfy ones to practice with.

But what do experts say?

When should my child start wearing shoes?

Wayne Lubbock, Technical Development & Fitting Manager at Start-Rite Shoes explains when your child should be wearing shoes.

“Little ones only need to wear shoes when they start to explore outside on two feet. They must be barefoot at home as they are taking their first tentative steps, pulling up to stand and cruising around the house from furniture to furniture.

“At this point the foot must have experience of the floor, it must learn about weight bearing and develop the ability to push off to form a step. Every step requires precision from a variety of systems and strain gauges within and surrounding the foot, so the brain needs to understand clearly what is happening and the process should not be interfered with by shoes.”

He added that once your child is toddling outside or on wooden floors indoors, they need the right sort of protection and support when it comes to shoes.

This is when it’s vital that they are wearing shoes to protect their soft padded feet from the terrain beneath.

In fact, the soft pads under feet don’t start to disappear until we are around the age of four to six years old, he explains.

“At this point of early steps, the bones in the feet are going through ossification, but ligaments still haven’t fully formed, so little feet are still soft and vulnerable. The shoes must allow natural movement with the right level of support and protection. The sole must be highly malleable but strong enough to withstand punctures from stones.”

What sort of shoes should my child wear?

In the early days of first steps, shoes must allow the foot to take its shape and allow for sensory feedback from the ground underneath, says Wayne.

This sensory feedback will enable your child to gain balance and start to walk.

In this case, early walking shoes are effectively an appealing foot cover over a lightweight sole that has been developed to offer protection, allowing the toes the freedom to bend, while enabling sensory feedback to the brain from the foot to develop in the correct way and allow it to function as nature intended in the correct natural bio-mechanical way.

Wayne explains: “The walking pattern “gait” of a small child requires an additional ‘toe spring’ at the front of the shoe. This is where the front of the shoe curves slightly upward.

“This slight ‘kick-up’ allows the underdeveloped foot to accommodate its lack of ability to role/flex at the front which is the natural step which has not yet developed in a child that stomps in these early days and it helps to avoid tripping.

“This ‘heel to ball’ fitting promotes natural gait development. As we grow and our arch underneath our foot develops, we take a more natural style of walking, where we roll off the outside of our heel, diagonally through to the tip of the big toe.”

So parents — forget fast fashion because as your child continues to grow and develop, it’s important to prioritise fitted footwear to ensure their foot and future health is protected at every step!


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