This is one of the questions we are frequently asked at Babies On The MOVE. Shoes for an infant can be thought of as a simple foot covering. That is, the shoe does not need to have a stiff sole or be particularly supportive. Infant's feet develop over time based on the ways that they use their muscles, grip with their toes, and have weight on their feet. Allowing them the freedom to move their feet naturally will help them to develop the arches of the foot and model their bones as they grow. For infants who are not yet walking, it is ideal to allow them to be barefoot whenever possible. When the weather or environment requires their feet to be covered, socks with a grip or a soft shoe are good options. Infants and toddlers who are on their feet more frequently may need to have shoes to protect their feet, especially when they are outside.
Choosing shoes can be as simple as a "bend and twist" test. When you are holding the shoe in your hand, you should be able to bend it in half and twist in lengthwise fairly easily. A shoe that allows this will offer your child the flexibility that he needs to allow his little feet to move and grip inside of the shoe. A stiff sole can make it more difficult for your little one to walk and make tripping more likely. Additionally, the weight of the shoe can be difficult for a toddler to contend with...another factor that may make them more likely to fall. Finally, when buying shoes for your toddler, don't feel obligated to spend big bucks on name brands or fancy shoes. While some of these name brands are great options for kids, there are many reasonable options out there that will serve them just as well. Remember that a pair of shoes may only last your toddler 4-6 months before they are outgrowing them and moving on to a new pair. To help your toddler maximize her opportunity to strengthen her muscles and develop her arches, choose well fitting shoes with some room for growth that are flexible in all directions. Happy shoe shopping!