By Tricia O'Connell
Any parent of an active toddler has asked this
question: "When should my child start wearing shoes?"
There is no clear consensus. Some parents buy shoes as soon as
their baby pulls herself into a first tentative stand; others
wait as long as possible, preferring not to constrict their children's
"As a general rule, kids will need shoes when they are ready
to start walking around outdoors," says Peggy Wells, who
is both a mother and president of Pip Squeakers, a children's
shoe company. "You will want something that protects your
baby's feet but still allows for some flexibility," she explains.
For parents contemplating purchasing their baby's first shoes,
here are some suggestions for things to consider from the experts
at parentsplace.com and pipsqueakers.com:
* Make sure you get the proper fit. Shoes that are too tight
or too loose could be painful or cause blisters, and may even
hamper walking. Have your pediatrician measure your child's feet
during regular check-ups. This will provide you with an accurate
measurement when you refer to a shoe company's sizing chart.
* Avoid stiff, high-top leather shoes; there is no evidence that
they help babies walk. Instead, look for something soft and flexible
that allows your baby to use the movement of his feet to maintain
balance and to walk. They should be made from canvas or some other
breathable material, and have flat, flexible, non-slip soles.
* Get shoes your child likes. Pip Squeakers shoes make a pleasing
"squeak" that children enjoy. "It encourages them
to move, walk and explore their surroundings," says Wells,
who adds that children enjoy creating the amusing sounds with
each step. An added benefit is safety: the sound allows parents
to more easily track the movements of their toddlers and keep
them within a close radius.
* Safe closures. Make sure that your baby's shoes fasten well.
Double-knot laces so that they are less likely to come undone
and make sure buckle straps are secure without being too tight.
Velcro fasteners are the easiest option.
* It is normal to have a slight discrepancy in foot size between
the two feet; you want to make sure to go with the shoe size that
fits the larger foot. Allow about one-half inch of space at the
end of the longest toe to the end of the shoe. The toes should
be able to wiggle freely, and the heel should not slip with normal
* Get the shoe that is most comfortable for your child, even
if it is not the same size that the measurement device indicates.
Be aware that sizing differs with each shoe company, so refer
to their respective sizing charts. It is advisable to inspect
the shoe fit every couple of weeks to ensure the continuing comfort
of your child's feet.
Because of their unique ability to make sounds, Pip
Squeakers shoes may be of interest to parents of children with
disabilities who may have vision or mobility problems. For more
information on children's shoes and Pip Squeakers, visit www.pipsqueakers.com
or call (866) 722-4535