When your baby begins walking, she'll need her first shoes. We tell you how to pick the perfect pair.

Only a decade ago, parents rushed to outfit their babies with hard oxford shoes once they could stand. Now the trend is toward much less restrictive footwear-if any at all. Of course, your baby's feet need some protection from the elements, but indoors, shoes may hinder his efforts to master the art of walking, since they can be slippery and will make it harder for him to balance. Socks on bare floors will also cause him to slide. For ideal standing conditions, let your baby practice in bare feet on wood floors; he can then use the sensations in the soles of his feet to guide him. If you're concerned that his feet will be cold, try slipper socks with nonskid soles.

When your baby does step outside, make sure that she's outfitted in footwear that meets the following guidelines:

  • Whether the shoes you choose are high-top or low-cut, they need to remain snug on your child's feet. Since babies tend to have fat, round feet, they have little or no heel to help hold the shoe in place.
  • The shoes should be made of breathable materials, such as canvas, leather, or suede, to avoid perspiration that can produce a rash on tender skin.
  • The right fit is critical: Shoes that are too short could pinch your child's feet and even cause a deformity; if they're too long, she will be more likely to fall. Have a salesperson measure both of her feet very carefully. Your baby's shoes will fit her best when there is about a thumb's width between the end of her longest toe and the tip of the shoe.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.