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5 Tips for Toddler Shoe Shopping

Teeny-tiny toddler shoes are oh-so-cute, but first footwear is about more than just good looks. Check out our fuss-free shoe-shopping guide.

Every baby shower is sure to yield at least one pair of teeny shoes that fit in the palm of your hand. Adorable? Absolutely. Necessary? Not at all. "Infants don’t need to wear shoes until they are confident walkers," says Virginia-based podiatrist Ron Raducanu, M.D., president of the American College of Foot and Ankle Pediatrics. "At home, as long as it’s a safe environment, toddlers don’t even need shoes. But when they go outside, they do."

Tips to keep in mind when you shop:

  1. Hit the stores. While it’s fine for you to indulge your shoe passion online, young children need to try on a shoe (and walk around) to determine whether the size and fit are right.
  2. Avoid flimsy soles. Kids who are learning to walk need shoes with a firm sole for maximum support. "You shouldn’t be able to twist that shoe very easily or ball it up," says Dr. Raducanu.
  3. Give toes wiggle room. Pick something with a wide toe box. "The foot, at 1 ½ to 2 years, is still very moldable," says Dr. Raducanu. This means ligaments are developing and bones are actually soft enough that you can change their shape with a shoe that’s too narrow or too tight.
  4. Test the fit. If there isn’t a salesperson handy, place the sole of the shoe against the sole of your child’s foot to see if the size measures up. Slip on the shoe. It should go on without shoving, with about a half inch of space above the big toe—a little less than the width of a dime.If your tot trips when he walks around in the shoes, they’re probably too big. If you remove his socks and notice red spots on his feet, the shoes are too tight.
  5. Get the right sandals. Flip-flops and foam-based clogs offer no foot support and can cause sprains. Opt for sports sandals instead, which provide support around the ankle. Happy trails to your toddler!
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