Around the house, walking barefoot is great for young toddlers, because your child’s toes and feet can grasp the surface and develop the strength and balance she needs. But obviously, you’re going to want shoes if you and your toddler are going to trek outside.
While you’re shoe shopping, remember that the primary function of shoes is to protect your child’s feet (yes, they’re a fashion statement, but that’s secondary!). You want a flexible sole, but one that’s thick and sturdy enough so that rocks or sticks won’t puncture the bottom. You also want something stable and simple; stay away from anything overly complicated. (For example high heels are a definite no-no!) You might get concerned about arch support, but you actually don’t need to worry about that at all. If your child is prone to flat feet, he’s prone to flat feet, and the kind of shoes you buy will have little impact one way or the other.
Now about fit: Your child’s foot should slip into the shoe relatively easily. If it’s a pain-in-the-you-know-what to get her foot in there, it’s either too small or it’s going to be more trouble than it’s worth! The shoe should fit snugly, but not compress your child’s foot at all. You want plenty of room side-to-side, as well as front-to-back. There should be some room, about a finger’s width, between your child’s toes and the end of the shoe. That will give her some room to grow and allow for comfortable movement.
Deciding between Velcro and traditional shoelaces? Either are fine. If you choose shoelaces, your toddler won’t be able to easily put on or take off his own shoes — and that can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it.
Oh, and despite what you may hear, kids’ shoes don’t have to be expensive. With a flexible fit, Wal-Mart and Target shoes are usually just fine.
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