Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Shoes for Babies and New Walkers

Baby and kid shoes is a topic that most people don't give much thought to before they have their own children. I mean, what could be so complicated about shoes? They should be cute, and they should fit. . . right?

Turns out, it isn't quite that simple - shoes can directly encourage (or discourage) the development of walking and coordination. This means that the right type of shoe actually matters quite a bit.

When your baby is born, he/she doesn't need shoes for a while. Socks work great for keeping feet warm and toasty in colder climates. You might recall my post from last April: Shoes - A Girl's Best Friend in which I professed my love for shoes and how that has extended to my daughter's shoe collection:
Most of Hailey's shoes back in April.

Back then, Baby Boo was just learning to crawl at best, so it didn't matter how useful the things on her feet were - the shoes were purely decorative and for my own amusement. They didn't hinder Hailey any seeing as she was never on her feet.

Since then, Baby Boo's shoe collection has dwindled down to 2 or 3 pairs for a couple of reasons.
  1. First and foremost, she started pulling up and cruising; All of the sudden it did matter what was on her feet so I stopped buying the cheapo cutesy shoes in bulk.
  2. Also, summer came around and I like to let my kids run barefoot as much as possible. Baby Boo wasn't doing much running per se, but she got to be barefoot more than 90% of the time. That left us with very little need for new shoes.
  3. I have been trying to be less impulsive in terms of clothing budgets since we had lots of fun summer expenses as well as birthday party expenses.
The weather (sadly) is starting to turn here in winterland . . . I mean, Minnesota, so the barefoot thing isn't going to fly for much longer. Baby Boo is also starting to actually walk so the need for proper foot gear is especially important.

My dad told me that back when I was a toddler, that the recommendation for shoes was a hard sole so that there would be as much support as possible. This may not have been universal, but consider that this was pre-internet so parenting advice was much more regional.

The recommendations have definitely changed since then. Basically, the research consistently shows that barefoot, or close to it, is the best for new walkers because the feet can feel the ground and the child can develop proper balance. Very hard soles prohibit this, and can actually slow the walking process.

So barefoot is best! This is great when you are in a warm place and are inside without any hazards on the floor to step on. When the temperature drops, the next best thing are those socks (with grips on the bottom if necessary). They can be purchased fairly cheaply at stores like Target and Old Navy, or more expensively at stores like Baby Gap or Gymboree.
Target non-skid socks

Next in line are the soft shoes. Robeez became all the rage a few years ago. They are soft leather shoes, and they are fantastic for kids that are cruising and just starting to walk:
Cute Robeez brand shoes

Their biggest drawback is the price tag. Target -amongst other brands- sells some decent knock offs that work just as well for those that don't want to splurge quite so much.

Another cool option are Skidders. Skidders are like thick socks with soft rubber soles with grippy (soft)spikes. They are sold all over at various price points. I bought Kaelan a pair back when he was learning to walk from Target. They were on clearance for $7 (reg $12.99). They are very grippy and were especially great on the playground:

Once your toddler is actually attempting to walk regularly, chances are you will be in need of some harder soled shoes to protect their feet from sharp objects or other hazards. That is when the flexible soles come in. These shoes have the thicker, harder soles like big people shoes, but they bend and flex with the foot allowing the foot greater freedom. They do tend to be more expensive, but check out eBay or local consignment stores for some gently used ones at not-so-gently discounted prices.

With hard soled shoes, the fit matters a lot more; I recommend having your child's feet measured at a shoe specialty store every few months - they all offer this service for free. Another alternative is using the printouts available from some shoes retailers' websites. Nordstrom has a nice simple one:
Print from original HERE.

Stride Rite has a great one too. Go to their website and click on the Sizing Help link on the top right hand corner of the home page. There is a printable that you use along with a drop down menu to figure both length and width of your child's feet:

Stride Rite and Pediped are 2 fantastic brands for flexible sole shoes. They are rather expensive, but worth it in my opinion. Discount sites like Zulily, Totsy, and Baby Steals occasionally have these types of shoes for sale at bargain prices if you check them diligently - that is another good option for those on a budget.

A friend recently told me how she was at a restaurant the other day and a pair of women were having lunch at a nearby table. My friend overheard one women tell the other, "I bought Hannah the cute shoes instead of functional ones because it is never too early for a girl to get used to uncomfortable, but pretty shoes." I shudder to think that some parents think this way though we all know it exists. I don't think that people realize just how much the "functional" shoes make a difference - also, some of the good shoes are super cute.

I am planning on looking around for some great deals both online an at consignment stores. I do, however, plan on splurging for these:
Stride Rite "Priscilla" boots in Rhododendron

They are $40 shipped which is on the pricey side for me, but they were love at first sight for me so it is a done deal - besides, that is the price I'm paying for both form and function. She just recently jumped up a size or 2 in shoes so hopefully she will be able to wear them most or all of winter. Properly anticipating a child's growth patterns is a good way to save money on shoes/clothing, though it can be tricky sometimes. Little Dude who is now 2 just recently jumped up to a size 8/8.5, but he was in a 6 for about a year just a few months ago.

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