When Should My Child Start Wearing Shoes?

Your children’s feet have a big job ahead of them. They will spend decades balancing, walking, running, pivoting and jumping - so it’s important to look after them well.

When your child begins to walk, they start developing the biomechanical function needed to move around when upright. If the wrong shoes make walking difficult, it can lead to gait problems and may even affect the foot’s development.

Let’s briefly explore how to help your baby develop strong and healthy feet.

About your baby’s feet
The human foot is a complex structure, containing 26 bones and 35 joints that are supported by a network of supporting ligaments.

When your baby is born, its bones are made of soft and flexible cartilage that gradually hardens over time. Each foot is padded with fat, is highly flexible, and is constantly growing. Your baby’s feet won’t be fully developed until they’re in their late teens.

Caring for your baby’s feet
As your baby’s feet are mostly cartilage (until around the age of 6 months), it’s important to keep the feet free to move. Tight bedding, booties or leggings can restrict important wriggling and kicking movements as their bones harden.

When your baby starts to crawl, let them do so barefoot. Their feet and toes need to stretch and grip as they move about. The only time they need to wear any booties is if it’s cold, or if they are outside.

Buying your baby’s first pair of shoes
Most children start walking between the ages of 8 and 18 months of age. As they walk around the house, let them go barefoot so their feet can move and develop the biomechanics needed for the demands of daily living.

When your baby is confidently walking outside, it’s time to buy them their first pair of shoes. When outside, your baby’s feet are at risk of scratches and punctures, so it’s the shoe’s job to protect those precious young feet.

Shoe suggestions
Many adult foot problems can originate in childhood, so it’s important to try and prevent future problems by ensuring your child’s shoes are appropriate.

Here are some of our best tips for selecting children’s shoes:

  • Choose the right length, breadth and depth for your child’s foot measurements – not too loose or tight.
  • Shoes should be lightweight and flexible, made from natural materials so your child’s feet can breathe.
  • Shoes should have secure straps or buckles that attach them snugly to the feet.
  • Each shoe’s inner edge should be straight, and each toe area should be wide and deep (no pointed toes!)
  • Heel cups should be supportive and firm so your child’s heels don’t slip around.

Children outgrow shoes quickly, so have your baby’s feet re-measured every 6-8 weeks until they reach the age of 4. After then, get them measured and fitted with new shoes every 3 months. Don’t forget to upgrade their socks too!

Common children’s foot problems
Left untreated, developmental foot conditions in children can lead to problems down the track. Some common issues include:

Flat feet
It’s normal for young children to have flat feet, as they don’t develop a medial longitudinal arch until after the age of two. However, if your child doesn’t have visible arches under their feet by the age of five, see a podiatrist for assessment.

Inward-turning feet
Children can sometimes turn their toes inward as they walk, appearing to walk ‘pigeon toed’. This can correct itself as your child learns to balance and becomes more confident on his/her feet, and is usually resolved by the ages of two and five. Not every child grows out of being intoed, their feet can move in a way that ‘hides’ the in turned tendency. If you have any concerns with the way your child is walking see a podiatrist.

Outward-turning feet
Very occasionally, toddlers walk with their feet turned outwards. This tends to be more common in children who were born prematurely. In most cases, out-toeing resolves by itself as posture and balance matures, but see your podiatrist if you are concerned.

Toe Walking
Children who regularly walk on their toes do so because it is easier for them than it is to not walk on their toes. Parent often think that children who walk on their toes do so because they want attention. If you think that your child is walking frequently on their toes make an appointment with one of our podiatrists to learn what needs to be done.

Club foot
This congenital condition causes one or both feet to bend inwards and downwards, making it difficult to walk. Whilst the condition is treated with physiotherapy to gently manipulate the foot into shape, some cases require corrective foot surgery and the use of post operative casts and supports of the feet.

What to do next
If you are wondering or worried about your child’s feet, contact one of our friendly podiatrists at either our Brunswick or Sandringham Foot Clinics, or to book an appointment click here.