Baby’s first steps mark an exciting time of transition to toddlerhood and a whole new world to explore! It also means your baby is ready for some proper footwear. We spoke to pediatric podiatrist Dr. Louis DeCaro, president of the American College of Foot & Ankle Pediatrics and a father of two toddlers, about what a mama needs to know when it comes to first shoes.
1. They’re for Protection
Unusually poor coordination, poor balance, and bad posture are some signs that a little one might have a developmental issue. Other signs are premature fatigue—if your child requests to be carried frequently—and exceptional clumsiness. If your child exhibits any of these behaviors, take him in for a screening. Pain is usually not the overriding symptom in pediatric podiatry cases.
2. Think Flexible
Above all, toddler’s first pair of shoes should be flexible, says Dr. DeCaro. It’s important to avoid shoes that are too stiff because they could impede foot development. Parents should also seek out shoes that are lightweight and made from breathable and natural materials.
3. You Don’t Have to Spend a Lot
It’s not necessary to buy very expensive shoes for toddlers, according to Dr. DeCaro. And while a recommendation from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) indicates that the shoes are of good quality and developmentally appropriate, parents shouldn’t feel it’s essential to seek out shoes bearing their Seal of Acceptance.
4. It’s Best to Get Professionally Fitted
In an ideal world, parents would have their child’s foot measured with every pair of new shoes. Children have flat feet until their arches develop at about age four, and that can affect the way shoes fit, says Dr. DeCaro. Try to have your child’s foot measured and shoes fitted by a professional whenever possible.
5. At Home, Use the Pinky
If you’re unable to get your child’s shoes professionally fitted, you can check for fit by using your pinky finger—not your thumb—to gauge how much space your child has in the toe box of the shoes, Dr. DeCaro suggested. The shoes are well-fitting in that area when there is a pinky’s width of room between the tips of the child’s toes and the toe of the shoe. After the first few times of wearing, check your child’s feet for red marks or indents; if there are any that don’t go away after 10 minutes, the shoes aren’t a good fit and are probably uncomfortable.
6. Transition Shoes When They’re Running
Keep little ones in very flexible shoes until they start running a lot or playing sports—usually around age four or five. That’s about the time a child’s arch begins forming.
7. Kids Grow Fast!
On average, children’s feet can grow three-quarters to a full size larger every three to four months, according to Dr. DeCaro. He recommends checking the fit of your child’s shoes quarterly, or when their shoes are worn out, whichever comes first.
8. Screen Early if There’s a History
Genetics are the best predictor of future foot problems, Dr. DeCaro points out, so it’s important to get your child screened early if there is any history of major foot problems in your family. Parents with flat feet or other issues should take their child to a pediatric podiatrist as soon as their little one is walking.
9. Watch for Signs of Trouble
You’ve been dealing with Braxton-Hicks or “practice” contractions for a while now, but one day things are going to ramp up. That first real contraction is typically unmistakable. Try to relax and go with the flow—no amount of planning is going to make this adventure go exactly the way you expect. The good news? Baby is almost here!
10. Secondhand Are OK
Although many experts discourage them, Dr. DeCaro doesn’t have any issues with used and hand-me-down shoes. Secondhand shoes that are in good shape and fit well are fine for toddlers to wear, he says.
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