Barefoot Is Best
Baby shoes are adorable, but don't be in a big hurry to put them on your child's feet. As children learn to walk, the best shoe is actually no shoe at all, says Charles Shubin, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, who recommends that his pediatric patients go barefoot or use socks. "Feet develop more naturally without the artificial support that shoes provide," he explains.
That said, there will come a time, such as when you go outside, when you'll need to cover your child's feet. Look for soft, flexible shoes with nonskid soles and no arch support, so your child can easily feel the ground. "You want less support because you want him to learn to use the muscles he has," says Dr. Shubin.
And remember that children outgrow shoes quickly, so check them every two to three months (four to six months for preschoolers) to be sure they still fit. Too-tight shoes can cause hammertoe (when toe joints curl under). There should be about a quarter inch between the big toe and the end of the shoe, says podiatrist Alan Woodle, DPM, in Seattle.