Your baby's feet need protection from rough surfaces, infections, and cool temperatures. Moving your baby out of baby booties and choosing the right baby shoes will protect your baby's feet and encourage proper foot development.
As your baby's feet are growing, walking barefoot allows your baby to curl their toes and flex their feet to get a better grip as they walk and develop muscular strength. New research has shown it is best to keep a baby out of shoes until they have been walking for at least two months, and out of hard-soled shoes until they are closer to 24 months.
Your baby doesn't need support from shoes. Those tiny foot muscles are properly equipped to propel your baby forward and keep them stable with time and practice. Being barefoot is best, but it isn't always practical or comfortable.
Baby shoes should have flat, flexible, and skid-resistant soles. The sole should be thin enough to allow your baby's foot to flex naturally and allow the toes to grip. Soft leather soles are recommended as they are soft and thin, allowing your baby to feel the ground as they walk, but strong enough to protect your baby's feet from most surfaces.
The shoe uppers should be made of a light-weight and breathable fabric. Baby feet exert a lot of energy when standing and balancing. Their feet get hot and can sweat up to twice that of adult feet. Baby shoes made of synthetic fabrics may cause your baby's feet to get warm and cause discomfort.
Baby shoes should also have plenty of wiggle room for your baby's toes. There should be ½" between the big toe and the end of the shoe. This will give your baby's toes enough room to move around and offer extra room to allow for growth. If your baby will be wearing socks, you should allow for a little extra room.
Toddlers closer to 2 years require a little more support. Toddler shoes should firmly secure to the foot, be stiff around the heel, and have no heel elevation. The stiffness around the heel provides lateral support and stability. The base of the shoe should be 50% wider than the base of your baby's foot to add stability making it that much easier for your baby to learn how to walk. If wearing proper fitted toddler shoes, the movement or function of your toddler's feet are no more restricted than when standing barefoot.
Baby shoes are available with Velcro, laces, and elasticized ankles. Once your baby is cruising the crib or walking short distances with a baby walker or push toy, you want shoes that are easy to handle. You don't want your baby tripping over laces and you don't want shoes that restrict your baby's ankle movements. Velcro or elasticized shoes are preferred by most parents for their ease of use and safety.
Your baby's feet will grow quickly, increasing 3 to 4 sizes in the first year. During your baby's second year, expect your baby's feet to grow 3 additional sizes. Choosing durable baby shoes means that one or two pairs will get you through to the next size without costing a fortune.