Picking the Perfect 1st Shoes

Two words most of us love to hear? Shoe shopping! But it's quite a different story when you're buying footwear for your antsy 1-year-old. Most of the time you'll be hard-pressed to get him/her to try on a pair without wiggling out of your lap or having a kicking-and-screaming tantrum.

And even if you can get them on his/her feet without a fuss, it can be tricky to figure out whether they're actually the right size. A toddler can't use words to tell you that s/he doesn't like the way something feels. "To make matters worse, it's really important to find shoes that fit properly when s/he is learning to walk--otherwise, s/he could stumble more and take longer to develop the skill."

The good news is we have your toddler's tootsies covered. Follow these foot notes to find a pair that's a good fit for your child in every way.

Shop Smart

You can put off buying shoes until after your child starts to walk (usually between 10 and 18 months). They're only for show before then, and your kid will be able to practice taking steps better when s/he is barefoot. (Shoes make it harder to grip the ground and learn to balance.) For the first couple of pairs, go to an actual shoe store where you can find trained staffers who know how to measure the length and width of your kid's foot. And wait until afternoon to make the trip because most kids' feet will swell during the day.

Find a Good Fit

Pick brands that are made specifically for toddlers. "Good shoes for little walkers are somewhat flexible and made of lightweight materials, such as leather or high-quality mesh," To check the fit, insert your pinkie into the heel (your finger should fit snugly) and into the point where the shoe meets the ankle (to rule out stitching that could cause blisters). Then, feel the shoe's tip while your child's standing to make sure there's about half an inch of space between the big toe and the tip.

Skip Special Support

Two features you don't have to worry about are arch and ankle support. Flat feet are normal for toddlers whose arches are still developing. We recommend quarter and high-top shoes to avoid the risk for ankle injuries when toddlers play or fall. 

Test Them Out

Once you find a shoe that you think fits well, have your kid toddle around in the store. Watch for a loose, slipping heel when he walks and any red marks on his feet after you take the shoes off.

Monitor the Fit

Toddlers' feet grow rapidly, often sizing up every two to three months. "If your kid has been happily wearing the shoes for months and suddenly starts taking them off, hobbling around, or rubbing his/her feet, those are late signs that s/he is ready for a new pair. 

Avoid Used Shoes

Kids' shoes can be pricey, especially since you have to replace them every couple of months. But resist the urge to give your child hand-me-down shoes while s/he is still trying to master motor skills (walking, running, and jumping). A new shoe will better adapt to your toddler's growing and developing foot. No two feet are the same, and buying something new ensures that the inside isn't molded to someone else's foot. 

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