HOW TO CHOOSE THE SHOES
Who can resist buying an adorable pair of baby shoes for a baby gift? They are adorably small and come in stylish designs for both boys and girls. However, when a baby reaches the motor skill milestone of walking it is important to carefully choose her shoes. Prior to walking the baby should primarily wear socks and they should not fit too tight. Before she has learned to walk, soft booties are OK to wear in the cold weather to keep her feet warm. Once she begins to walk shoes should be carefully chosen with the understanding of how the construction of the shoes affects baby’s movement of walking.
BABY SHOEs: materials
How do baby shoes affect her walking? It depends on the materials and construction of the shoe. Materials vary from soft cloth fabrics, resembling a pair of socks, to very stiff and hard rubber. In between these two are several variations. The material used in making the shoe determines how flexible or stiff the shoe is. The soft cloth-like fabric is very flexible and bends easily where the extremely stiff rubber does not bend at all. The flexible materials allow for more movement to occur in the bones and muscles of the feet, more adjustments as baby tries to maintain her balance. The stiff materials do not move as baby walks, they stay more rigid and fix the foot and ankle in place.
Usually the softer and more flexible shoe is the best option because it allows for the movement of the foot. The softer shoes provide protection for the soles of the feet from the outdoor elements yet allow her to use her bones and muscles as she walks. The stiffer materials often make it very difficult for baby to walk because she can not easily balance. Her feet are more rigid in these shoes. However, there may be situations where this shoe is preferable, such as for a baby with low muscle tone who may need some extra stability which the shoes provide. It is important to be aware of the differences in materials and to choose what is best for your baby’s motor skill development.
BABY SHOES: CONSTRUCTION
Once you have decided whether to look for soft or firm shoes, it is important to understand the value of good shoe construction. In our culture today the shoes that are extremely popular across ages and sexes are shoes that are easy to put on and easy to take off. These often include slip-on clogs or velcro closing styles. For both babies and children it is extremely important to choose shoes that are built so they will stay on the foot securely. This usually requires shoe laces, a snug fit that is not too tight, or well-designed velcro that securely latches. A loose shoe is a common factor in accidents such as falls, even in adults. When a shoe slides around it causes a baby, and even an adult, to slip or trip on it and down they fall!
When baby shoes do not fit securely the body alters the mechanics of walking to keep the shoe from falling off. For example, a clog-style shoe (such as the popular plastic crocs that toddlers wear) can easily slip off the foot. The baby or toddler (and even adults) wearing them learns to walk so they do not properly roll through the foot because when the front of the foot is down and the heel is lifted the shoe can slip off. They start to walk a bit flat-footed like a duck which leads to poor development of motor skills such as running.
FLEXIBLE SOLES AND A SNUG FIT
A mother of one of my 12 month-old stellar caterpillars said to me, “I bought her some shoes but she keeps falling in them. I don’t know….she can’t seem to wear them.” I asked, “Would you like me to take a look at them? They might be a bit too stiff.” She brought them in so I could see them and they were an adorable pair of sneaks with laces, which was good, but made of very stiff rubber, which was not so good. When we tried to bend them, they would not bend at all. She observed, “Yes…they are really stiff.” I explained how she might be better off with more flexible shoes so she can move her bones and muscles better as she walks. I also reminded her that since her daughter is walking, she needs textures soles or she will slide right down onto the floor. She revisited the store, made a better choice and her daughter is now walking comfortably and confidently thanks to flexible soles and a snug fit!