Picking the Best Shoes for Babies and Children


Once upon a time, grown-ups believed that shoes affected the way a child’s foot grew. Children wore stiff shoes, and various wedges and cups and what-not were recommended to “provide support” and “develop the arch.” The children were very sad as these shoes were none too attractive and hard to play in. Then came Dr. Lynn Staheli, a pediatric orthopedist who studied foot development and published his findings:

  • Barefooted subjects have stronger, healthier feet with fewer deformities.
  • Flatfeet are normal in infants and young children. The arch develops over time, however 1 in 7 children never develop an arch.
  • Shoes will not correct intoeing or knock knees, most of these correct over time.

So instead of wearing shoes that made running and playing difficult, children began to wear fun, flexible shoes that let them run and jump and dance and play. And they all lived happily ever after.

To pick a great shoe for your baby or child, keep these tips in mind:

  • Barefoot is perfectly fine. Shoes are there to keep the feet warm and dry and protect them from injury.
  • Good shoes are soft and flexible enough to provide freedom of movement.
  • The toe box (the front of the shoe) must be generous enough to accommodate the toes without pinching or cramping.
  • You should be able to put a small child’s shoe between your thumb and fingers and flex the sole.
  • Select a flat-soled shoe made from material that is not too slippery or too sticky.
  • Shoes should be made of breathable, absorbent materials.
  • A good shoe doesn’t have to be expensive—they may need to be replaced every 2-3 months!

Read Dr. Staheli’s report, Shoes for Children: A Review, in the Pediatrics here.

Read his textbook chapter, Footwear for Children, here.






About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at WebMD.com, Rx.com, and MyLifePath.com. She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. BabyCenter.com currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit www.LMAsta.com
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