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When should babies start wearing shoes?

Little mittens, mini socks, and tiny sneakers — squeal! Few things are cuter than a pair of baby shoes. They can certainly serve to accessorize a mini fashionista or stylin’ stud muffin’s ensemble. But they also have an important function: protecting your wee one’s feet and helping them on the journey to independence and mobility.

The decision of whether to buy the adorable shoes might come with some questions. When should you buy baby shoes for your cutie? When should babies wear shoes? Should babies wear shoes when learning to walk? And are there options you should avoid altogether? We are sharing all the footwear facts — plus, some helpful shopping tips and tricks.

A little girl playing with her shoe strings.

When should babies wear shoes?

While it might be tempting to scoop up every adorable pair of newborn and infant shoes you lay eyes on, the truth is: babies do not need footwear in their first few months. You can, of course, feel free to add them to the occasional outfit, but try to keep your infant’s feet bare whenever possible. A pair of socks will keep those sweet feet sufficiently covered.

There are crawler or pre-walker shoe options that are specifically made to keep socks in place and get your baby accustomed to the idea of wearing something on their feet. Think of these as practice for the real deal — and use them only as needed.

As your infant begins to stand, balance, and navigate those first steps, you may, once again, find yourself drawn to the infant-footwear aisle. While we understand the motivation, it is important to remember that bare feet will help your little one grip the floor and build strength and stability in their arches and ankles as they learn to walk.

Once they are successfully toddling, you will want to get them a good and supportive pair of walking shoes. When they start taking those first steps is when it is important to protect those feet and enhance a child’s stability. What’s more, as your baby explores outdoors, shoes are a barrier from splinters, glass, and other potential hazards.

A mother trying shoes on her small child.

What to look for in baby shoes

Do you want to beeline to the store to snag that coveted first pair for your peanut? While cuteness (and cost) should certainly factor into your purchase-making process, there are some other things you should consider, too. Here is what you need to look for in terms of size, fit, and function:

  • Snug with room: You do not want your baby to slip out of their shoes while racing around. They should fit snug throughout the foot and heel, but offer a bit of room for growth at the toe. Your baby’s little feet will grow fast and you’ll want their shoes to keep up.
  • Nonslip grip: A good pair of baby shoes has a nonskid bottom with ridges to help prevent slips and spills. Like those socks that help you from slipping on the hardwood floor in your home so you don’t fall on your butt. But for a baby.
  • Flexible support: Baby shoes should be flexible and bendable, offering ample support but lots of give. There should be padding under the sole and heel to prevent uncomfortable friction.
  • Measure often: It is usually best to have your baby fitted for their first pair of shoes, so you can ensure proper sizing. Of course, you can also do this yourself with a simple ruler. Newborns up to 3 months of age will typically wear a size 1 — which measures at approximately 3.5 inches in length. From 3 to 6 months, a size 2 (3.75 inches) should get the job done. Around 1 year, many babies wear a size 4.5 or 5 (about 4.75 inches). Again, every baby grows differently — so be sure to measure those little feet often.
infant girl shoes
Yana Vasileva/ Shutterstock

Shoes you should skip

Itty-bitty flip-flops and pint-size rubber crocs certainly look sweet, but they can pose a tripping hazard to babies, as they are just learning to balance on their own two feet. Plus, they always leave a tiny foot rubbed red and raw with blisters. Similarly, other dress shoes may enhance an outfit, but they do little to help your wobbly wee one get proper footing. In this instance, function comes before fashion — so take a photo of that Instagram-worthy look, then free that baby’s feet!

Shoe shopping takes on a whole new level of cuteness when you are buying for a baby. Have fun browsing all those miniature accessories, but be sure to always prioritize practicality. The right shoes will help your little one take those all-important first steps with pride, confidence, and joy. Watch out world, your baby is on the move!

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