The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Baby Shoe Mysteries Revealed!

Posted by on Monday, June 8th, 2015

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Determining the correct shoe size is challenging enough as an adult, with more than one size fitting your foot to varying degrees. You may wear different sizes depending on the brand or shoe style. Yet, sizing a baby is a whole other animal when you’re struggling with a wriggling little one who can’t say whether the shoe fits comfortably or not. It can also be terribly difficult to keep a shoe on a child’s foot, whether it fits or not! Most questions about baby footwear are deferred to pediatricians, but if you are a patient at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC, we invite you to bring us your questions about your infant’s shoes as well. Here are some general guidelines to consider.

baby shoes
Stride Rite is a well-respected, podiatrist-recommended shoe for babies and children whose feet are still developing. Image Source: Striderite.com

Does A Baby Need Shoes?

It may seem like a futile task to get a child under one’s feet into shoes at times, but our podiatrists believe it’s well worth it. “Initially, like socks, shoes help keep your baby’s feet warm,” says Dr. Katherine Lai, DPM. “Later, when your child is taking his or her first steps, it’s more important to find a good quality shoe with the right fit.”

However, she adds, what is a “good shoe” for a baby is the complete opposite of a “good shoe” for adults. “For the first few years of life, you really want the most flexible shoe possible. Look for shoes you can bend in half and twist. A flexible shoe will not interfere with the development of balance and coordination, and allows the foot arches to fully form.”

Baby foot bones remain rather soft until around five years of age, at which point they may transition into a more rigid style of shoe.

Infant Shoe Materials and Styles

In addition to being flexible, you also want to consider:

– Rubber or leather soles that offer better skid-protection.

– Soft upper material like leather or canvas that doesn’t cut into the skin.

– Closed toe shoes to protect from toe stubs (at least prior to age two, when they are able to toddle around a bit better).

– Shoes with low heel collars and “zero drop” styles that are more flat, rather than sloped.

– Avoiding used baby shoes or passing them down from child to child, as wear patterns differ greatly between wearers.

– Avoiding trendy shoe fashions like flip-flops, wedges, strappy sandals, combat boots and heels. While undoubtedly cute, these styles are too restrictive for the developing foot and may inhibit normal gait patterns and muscle development. If your child is tripping a lot or struggling to function, ditch the shoes.

Baby Shoe Size Chart

You may consider this chart from Care.com to estimate what your baby may be wearing:

Size 1: Ages 0-3 months (3.5 inches)

Size 2: Ages 3-6 months (3 5/8 inches)

Size 2.5: Ages 3-6 months (3 7/8 inches)

Size 3: Ages 6-9 months (4 inches)

Size 3.5: Ages 6-9 months (4 1/8 inches)

Size 4: Ages 9-12 months (4 3/8 inches)

Size 4.5: Ages 9-12 months (4.5 inches)

Size 5: Ages 12-18 months (4 5/8 inches)

Size 5.5: Ages 12-18 months (4 7/8 inches)

Size 6: Ages 18-24 months (5 inches)

Baby Shoe Sizing Tips

– Choose shoes with a pinky’s width of room at the toe.

– Buy a new pair when the toe reaches the end of the shoe.

– Consider width, as most babies tend to have wider feet initially. Gauge the width by the tongue. The laces or velcro should be parallel. If there is too much space between them, the shoe may be too tight. If there is too much overlap, the shoe may be too loose.

– Make sure there is enough wiggle room in back that strain isn’t placed on the Achilles, yet the foot won’t slip out or cause blisters.

– Have a professional measure your child’s foot every 3 months.

– Use a Squatchi measuring tool at home if you don’t feel comfortable taking your child to a professional or the store.

– Buy two pairs of shoes at a time — like a play shoe and a dress shoe — since you will need to buy new shoes every 2-4 months.

Put your baby in a pair of socks before trying on shoes to make sure they can accommodate the extra room the sock takes up.

– Keep in mind, the feet swell the more a child walks around, so you want a shoe that will fit at the end of the day, not just the beginning

Podiatrist-Recommended Baby Shoe Brands

Stride Rite: Arguably the most-recommended baby shoe, Stride Rite has been a respected brand since 1919. They offer shoes in the $20-40 price range for your littlest ones, and offer sizes from newborn through 5+ kid. Many shoe models also come in “wide” and “extra wide.”

– See Kai Run: These shoes were designed by a Seattle mom who wanted a better shoe for her son — one that supported healthy foot development, but also came in a vivid color spectrum. “Smaller” is their 0-24 month shoe line. You can sometimes find these shoes at Walmart or Nordstrom for just under $20, but some models range up to the $40-50 range. These shoes tend to run a little wide naturally.

– PedipedA mom set out to make “the next best thing to bare feet” in 2005, and now the company has grown to offer over 120 styles from warm winter booties to hiking sandals. Shoes range from 0-24 months and cost $30-40, although you may find a desirable pair on sale.

– TsukihoshiThese Japanese shoemakers have been around since 1873, but they’ve been working with orthopedic professionals since 1985 to create lightweight, anti-bacterial, developmentally-friendly footwear. These shoes are so stylish, you’ll wish they had them in your size! They do come at a premium price, though, ranging from $40-60 in most cases. Sizes come in baby, child and youth.

Livie & LucaIf you need a wider shoe, check out the handmade-yet-durable Livie & Luca. Sizes range from baby and little kid, to big kid and youth. Baby styles come in loafers, mary janes or sandals in the $30-40 price range.

 Ask A Podiatrist!

If you have any other questions about shoe shopping for your infant or toddler, do not hesitate to contact our board-certified NY podiatrists. We also specialize in diagnosing and treating common childhood foot issues like clubfoot, pigeon toe, Metatarsus Adductus Deformity, flatfoot, skew foot, Congenital Vertical Talus, Calcaneovalgus Foot, and more.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.