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Sharp Health News

Do babies need shoes?

Oct. 4, 2016

Do babies need shoes?

When shopping for baby gifts, who can resist the allure of teeny-tiny shoes — from soft animal print slip-ons to classic Mary Janes to pricey brand name high-tops? Although they may be cute and fashionable, do babies really need shoes to protect their feet or learn to walk?

Dr. Michal Goldberg, a board-certified pediatrician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, answers 8 common questions about baby feet, footwear and learning to walk.

First steps happen anywhere from 9 to 15 months old — should a baby be barefoot before then, and why?
Babies do not need shoes before they start walking. They use their toes to grip and their heels for stability, and may have an easier time learning to walk without socks or shoes.

Is there any damage done to the foot by adorable little baby shoes?
Soft shoes are not likely to cause damage to the foot, though barefoot time will help babies to develop the muscles that they need to walk.

How fast do babies’ feet grow? How will I know when to move up a size?
Babies’ feet grow every two or three months. You can check the fit of your little one’s shoe by seeing if the top of the big toe is about finger-width from the edge of the shoe.

Do I need to invest in expensive shoes, or can I buy them at the big box or bargain store?
Shoes should be supportive, but do not need to be expensive. They should have nonskid soles to help protect babies against falls. Other good features are flexibility, to allow the foot to bend, and a breathable fabric or leather, to prevent excess sweating.

If my child is pigeon-toed, will they need special shoes?
Children’s toes turn in as part of normal development. Intoeing in early childhood generally corrects itself and is outgrown by age 9 or 10.

Should I be concerned if my child is walking on tiptoes?
Children have intermittent toe walking as they learn to walk. If toe walking persists beyond age 2 or occurs more than half of the time, you should discuss it with your pediatrician.

I expect a baby to be clumsy when learning to walk, but is there a point at which I should be worried?
Babies do fall a lot as they are learning to walk. If your baby seems to have difficulty seeing, or has difficulty getting back up, such as using the hands to climb up the legs when trying to stand, a doctor should evaluate him or her.

Are high-heeled shoes OK for children?
High-heeled shoes are not recommended for children, although no studies exist. They can damage the structure of developing feet and lead to injuries or falls. They should not be worn until the feet are fully developed.

It is also not recommended to hand down shoes, as each child has a different foot pattern.

Find the answers to more common baby care questions in the children’s health section of Sharp Health News.

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