What shoes are best for kids?” “When should my baby start wearing shoes?” “Should my baby wear shoes all the time?”

As a pediatric physical therapist I get asked this A LOT. The short answer is - it depends on your child’s age and gross motor skill ability. My general rule of thumb is that barefoot is best! HOWEVER, allowing your child to experience shoes before it is a necessity for short intervals will prevent unnecessary struggles.

If your child is meeting standing and walking milestones, shoes are simply there to protect your child’s feet - that’s it. In those early walking stages, it is best to use shoes in uncontrolled environments, such as restaurants, parks, sidewalks, etc., and continue to be barefoot in safe and controlled environments like your house, your backyard, etc.

Here is what I look for when recommending shoes for an early walker:

  • Flexibility: you can fold the shoe in half.

  • Zero drop sole: heel and toes are the same height.

  • Sturdy heel cup: plenty of structure at the heel and a heel loop.

  • Wide toe box: give those toes plenty of room.

  • Velcro straps: safely keeps the shoes on and makes your life easier.

  • Large opening: easy on and off.

  • Good tread: minimize slipping and maximize grip. 

My favorite brands for early walkers include:

Now, if your child’s progress has stalled when it comes to pulling-to-stand, cruising, and walking, that’s when I recommend a more supportive shoe. This will provide additional stability at the ankle and kickstart that confidence. To understand what a more supportive shoe looks like, check out my supportive shoe guide, which is linked below.

And, of course, if more supportive shoes don’t do the trick, consider a pediatric physical therapy evaluation from your local therapist and don't hesitate to reach out to Milestones At Play, you can book a free discovery phone call! As a mom and a pediatric physical therapist, I am here to help! It is my goal to set kiddos and parents up for gross motor success. 

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Dr. Amie Dougherty

Dr. Amie Dougherty

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