Contrary to popular belief, a baby doesn’t actually need support from shoes. The muscles in and around the foot are well equipped to do the job. We now know that the best thing for growing feet is not a cute pair of baby running sneakers, or stiff, high-topped baby shoes designed to support flat-footed steps and wobbly ankles or even flip-flops, but rather no shoes at all.
In adults non shoe wearers have better flexibility and mobility. Their feet are stronger and have fewer deformities along with less complaints than the shoe wearing population. In fact, it is suggested that we should walk barefoot for at least part of each day. Common foot problems in the United States are corns, bunions, hammer toes, athlete’s foot and ingrown toenails, however, none of these pose problems in countries which most people go without shoes.
Children with the healthiest feet are those who habitually go without shoes. As your baby’s feet are developing, walking barefoot helps toes get a better grip and develops foot strength. There is increasing evidence to suggest that wearing shoes in early childhood may be detrimental to the development of a normal arch. Additionally, children are more likely to have good posture if they go without shoes as often as possible.
While being barefoot is best, sometimes it just is not very practical. Your baby has tender feet that need protection from rough surfaces and hot or cold temperatures. The more closely baby shoes resemble the barefoot state, the better.
Soft soled baby shoes are the best choice in footwear for your little one. They promote the healthy development of growing feet, freedom of movement and allow the foot to flex, while still offering a protective, comfortable layer. A suede sole is skid-resistant, while the leather is flexible, soft and breathable.
Baby shoes should be lightweight, flexible and shaped more or less like the foot itself. Softness and flexibility are ideal with a soft, rounded heel, similar to the fatty pad of a bare foot, and a toe area that is wide and easy to bend. Above all, the shoe should not have any arch inserts or stiff sides once thought necessary to lend the foot support.
Until toddlers have been walking for at least a few months, the only purpose of footwear is to protect the child’s feet and to offer some grip on a smooth surface. Children’s feet should be left alone as much as possible. Prescribing shoes to attempt to correct physiological flat feet, knock knees or bow legs is not useful for the child and expensive for the family. There is no evidence that corrective shoes correct anything. You don’t think of a shirt as something that will alter the development of the arms or trunk, it’s worn for comfort and protection, and the same should be thought of when choosing baby shoes.
Many babies are born with what looks like foot abnormalities. Nearly all have flat feet because the bottom of the foot is covered by a thick pad of fat. It is through walking that the muscles and ligaments in the foot strengthen and pull upwards into a functioning arch. In most cases, the arch is fully developed by 6 to 8 years of age. As the limbs develop, they may assume any number of unusual variations, nearly all of which are outgrown.
The growing foot has a remarkable capacity to adjust itself. Many babies have feet that point inward, pigeon-style, usually as a result of having been cramped into the fetal position for so many months. Other children have hip bones or lower leg bones that rotate inward a bit more than they do outward causing the feet to point inward. Pigeon toes generally correct themselves by six months to three years of age.
Many other children begin walking with their feet rotated outward, more like a duck’s than a pigeon’s, but most will assume a more straightforward gait within six months of toddling. The great majority of youngsters also begin to walk striking the ground toe first and heel second, or even to remain on tiptoes. Most will master the normal heel-first stride by about 18 months of age. Bowlegs and knock-knees are also extremely common. For children who never do develop an arch are likely to be fine with soft, ordinary shoes. Flat feet are perfectly healthy feet, and are actually subject to fewer stress fractures than high-arched feet.
Keeping a baby out of shoes in warm, dry conditions is a good idea because walking barefoot develops good toe gripping and muscular strength.The best baby shoes should have softness and flexibility while resembling a baby’s foot as close as possible. Baby shoes are needed to protect the feet, not help with walking or foot development.