Once a baby starts crawling and walking, many new parents add shoe shopping and exploring baby shoe sizes to the ever-growing to-do list. There’s a number of factors to consider from features to fit to fashion.

But first thing’s first: you need to determine if it’s even the right time to be thinking about adding shoes to the equation.

How Do You Know Your Baby Is Ready For Shoes?

Some parents choose to outfit their newborn in crib shoes. These soft shoes mostly keep the baby’s feet warm and are an expression of style. They don’t actually need them since baby shoes really are about protecting your baby once they’re on their feet.

As they walk outdoors and tumble around the world, you’ll want to protect those growing feet from injury or foreign objects. Indoors, though, most babies should be fine in bare feet or socks. Being barefoot can actually help them strengthen their arches and ankles.

What To Look For In Baby Shoes

Once you’re ready to start shopping, you’ll find a wide selection of baby girl shoes, baby boy shoes, and unisex baby shoe options. For the early stages of walking, you may want to try pre-walkers. They’re more flexible and soft than baby walking shoes so they can help your baby get their toes under them. Keep this list in mind as you consider your options.

  • Non-skid Soles. Remember, the main purpose of baby shoes is to protect your little one. Shoes that give more traction and fight against slipperiness are better options.
  • Flexibility. This is a key trait. Babies need flexible shoes so they can wiggle and continue to develop the arches of their feet outdoors just as much as they do on their bare feet indoors.
  • Security. Whether you go with Velcro or laces, you’ll want to see how easy they are to slip off and how easy they are to put on. They shouldn’t have to curl their toes to keep their shoes on. And if you do go with laces, then make sure they’re long enough to tie a double knot. No need to turn some adorable laces into a tripping hazard by the end of the day.
  • Comfiness and Fit. A baby shoe shouldn’t have to be broken in. You want something that your child can get moving in right away. There should be a bit of room for toes to wiggle. Padding on the heel and ankle can prevent rubbing too. Think something snug that doesn’t leave marks.

What To Avoid When Shopping For Baby Shoes

There are a few common mistakes many new parents make when buying their first or first few sets of baby shoes. It’s simple enough to avoid them though.

  • Fashion Over Comfort. We understand. There are plenty of options these days to make your kid the most stylish on the block. But being dapper doesn’t have to come at the cost of comfort and fit. Check those first. Especially when it comes to mini versions of some high fashion adult shoes—these may not have the flexibility your growing child needs.
  • Heavy shoes. Walkers need to be light so babies can keep mobile and continue to develop their muscles.
  • Poor Quality. Pay attention to the material. If it’s cheaply made, it may fall apart easily. Or if the manufacturer doesn’t use breathable materials, they can trap sweat and your baby can develop athlete’s foot.

How To Check For Fit

With the wide variety of baby shoes and the frequency with which you’ll have to buy new shoes, learning to check for fit will be a very useful skill. Taking your time in the store to check these questions off will reduce returns for you and discomfort for your baby.

What’s The Toe Box Like?

Once the shoes are on, press a finger down on the toe box. There should be some give so that your baby can wriggle. But not so much space that they can’t keep their shoes on. Look for about half an inch between their big toe and the edge of the shoe.

What About The Heel?

A good rule of thumb here is that you should be able to fit your pinky between where the back of the shoe meets your kiddo’s heel and ankle.

Are Their Feet Asymmetrical?

Many children (and many adults) have one foot that is larger or wider than the other. Since you don’t want their feet to feel pinched, go with the bigger foot when it comes to sizing.

Do They Actually Like the Shoes?

Bring your child along to the shoe store. After all, they’re the ones wearing them, not you. If you see discomfort or even a strong dislike, skip the shoes. You don’t need your child feeling uncomfortable or trying to kick off their shoes every two minutes. Have them walk and move around the store to really get a feel of the pair.

Baby Shoe Sizes: An Explainer

Now for the sometimes confusing part. Shopping for children’s shoes reveals how many different designations and labels there are.

At first, you’ll be starting with infant and toddler shoes. These commonly have a T after them and range from 0-13. Brands may also label shoes by age, but with babies varying in size, this may be a less reliable marker. Babies can grow multiple sizes in a year, so take that into account if you’re thinking about purchasing multiple pairs.

You may see other sizes without the T in store too. These are big kid’s sizes and start again from 1-7. Typically your child will jump to this section around five or six years old.

Printable baby shoe size guide by month

If you don’t want to guess by age, you can also measure your child’s feet at home. Trace their feet while standing on a piece of paper with a marker, pull out your ruler, and measure. You can also download a printable version of our above sizing guide here. You can even keep these as mementos of your growing baby. If you don’t want to trace, you can also measure the length and the widest part of the foot. Compare these measurements to the size chart for whatever brand you would like to buy.

When To Call Your Pediatrician

As your baby continues walking, running, dancing, and jumping in the world, they’re also at risk for many of the same problems adults are. Bumps, bruises, and sprains are definite possibilities. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if your baby is experiencing other problems because they are just so active.

Keep an eye out for any signs of limping, redness or irritation, fungus, or pain. Sometimes this can be solved with a simple switch to a new (or bigger) shoe.

However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, reaching out to your pediatrician or a pediatric podiatrist should be your next step. They can let you know if the issue is a health concern.

  • Nail deformities
  • The big toe not laying straight
  • Frequent loss of balance
  • Excessive waddling or waddling with limping
  • Walking on the balls of their feet after months of walking
  • Lingering infection

Now that your baby has some comfy new shoes, it’s time to explore the world beyond your home. New parents can look forward to so many adventures with their growing baby. If you need your own adventures without your baby, Sittercity can help you find the child care help that you and your baby need.

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