We love dressing up our young children from head to foot. Even as infants, we like to make them wear pieces that match — never mind if it’s just white onesies with white mittens and booties. And because infants just can’t wear shoes yet, of course someone came up with socks that mimic the look of shoes — which we love!
When they’re bigger and can actually wear shoes, it’s so tempting to buy every design available, because who doesn’t find tiny shoes absolutely adorable? However, before you go on a shopping spree, read this: not all shoes are suitable for your toddler’s developing feet.
According toMiguel Cunha, DPM, podiatrist at Gotham Footcare in Manhattan, “[Children’s] bones aren’t fused in the early stages of development and they fuse as the child starts to grow.” Therefore, footwear that offers ample support and stimulates proper development of the feet are important at this stage.
Cunha says soft shoes are okay to use before your child starts walking, but “once they start ambulating, you would want a hard sole because you want to support their feet or help avoid them injuring their feet.”
On the other hand, there may also be benefits to having your toddler walk barefoot when they're still young (Read more on the practice of “earthing”).
“There are advantages to walking barefoot on carpet, grass, mats, or even walking in the sand, which can help strengthen the musculature of the foot,” says Cunha, “but definitely not on hard floors because the bones aren’t developed yet.”
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Walking on hard floors could in fact worsen flat feet, a condition where the foot has a very low or non-existent arch, so that the foot lays flat on the ground. This in turn may result to pain in the legs and joints, thereby affecting how a person walks.
That said, remember to choose functionality over aesthetics when buying footwear for your toddler.