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Buying Shoes for Toddlers

Take the guesswork out of shoe shopping, and find the perfect fit for your little girl or boy.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD

Amanda Ezman is like a lot of moms when it comes to shopping for shoes. Buying a pair of shoes for herself is fun and focused on fashion; buying shoes for her 2-year-old daughter Lilah requires function to come first.

"When Lilah started crawling and standing, I wanted her to feel her feet and sense of balance. So I went with a softer pair of shoes," Ezman says. "When she started walking, I wanted her to have protection and stability so I went with something a little sturdier, like a sneaker."

Ezman's approach to buying shoes for toddlers is right on track. But for many parents, finding the best toddler shoes isn't so easy.

”Big Girl (or Boy)” Footwear

Until now, your baby got by just fine with socks and soft shoes or no shoes at all -- both good options for optimal growth. Now that she’s moved into toddlerhood, she’ll need something sturdier for walking, climbing, and everything that comes with exploring her new skills.

Hard soled vs. soft: Just like adult shoes, toddler shoes with soles that are too soft can cause slips and falls. "You want a shoe with a little bit of a sole to minimize accidents," Joanne Cox, associate chief of general pediatrics at Children's Hospital in Boston, says. "Usually, a leather or rubber sole will help provide the traction your toddler needs."

Sneakers vs. boots: Foot and ankle specialist Steven G. Tillett, DPM, says, "Sneakers are good because they generally don't constrain the foot and allow for proper development." Plus, he says, sneakers are usually constructed out of canvas and pliable leather, allowing the shoe to mold to a child's foot for a good fit.

Cheap vs. expensive: "For young children who are just learning to walk, inexpensive shoes are OK," Cox says. The issue is not cost but that the shoe fits.

Open-toed vs. closed: "Open-toed shoes don't offer a lot of foot protection for a child just learning to walk. So closed-toed shoes are generally better," Cox says. And the same goes for shoes like Crocs -- kids can easily trip on these types of shoes if they're just learning to walk and not entirely stable," Cox says. "So hold off on these until around age 2 or later."

New vs. used: Although it might be tempting to use hand-me-down shoes from friends or family to save a few bucks, this is one area that requires you buy new. "Kids' shoes mold to their feet," Cox says. "If you use a hand-me-down pair of shoes, you are forcing your child's foot into a shoe that has already molded to the shape of someone else's foot, which means your toddler could end up with blisters."

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