By:  Karen Sullen

You thought your little one was busy after learning how to crawl.  But learning to walk opens up a whole new territory.  Freedom!  Those little feet will be pitter pattering all over the place, and you'll be the one needing new running shoes just to keep up.  While most pediatricians agree that the best shoes for developing feet is no shoes, trips outside the home require good foot protection that won't interfere with the foot's growth.  Knowing when to start your baby in walking shoes as well as what type of shoes to look for are important factors for parents to consider since baby's feet grow very fast-approximately half size every two months.  Use these guides to be sure you find the perfect fit.

Knowing When To Buy
Once your baby begins taking his or her first step, it's time to get walking shoes.  However, keep in mind that shoes are for protection and should be balanced with a fair amount of barefoot walking in safe environments to allow the child to discover how the foot works before having shoes on all day.  

Knowing What To Buy
Baby shoes should have arch support and soft, flexible soles that allow feet to "grip" the ground and balance.  The shoe should not impede the normal development of the foot and the learning process.  The bottom should be non-slip and should have plenty of traction, but avoid extra-thick soles that might trip baby up.  Some feel that high-top baby shoes are necessary for ankle support, which is not necessarily true.  As long as a low-top shoe has a sturdy heel, it will provide good support for baby's ankles.  But if you do choose high-tops, be sure baby can still wiggle his or her ankles so it is easier to walk in.  Keep baby's feet cool and comfy with shoes made of a breathable material.

Knowing It's The Right Fit
How do you know if the shoe is a proper fit?  You should be able to put your pinky finger in between the heel of the shoe and the baby's foot, and there should be about a thumb-width between baby's toes and the end of the shoe.  It's a good idea to have your baby walk around the store for a while in the shoe to see how baby walks in it.  Does the shoe appear to be too heavy?  Does the child seem to trip over the shoe?  When removing the shoe, check for signs of chaffing or pinching.  Just like adults, baby's feet may swell toward the end of the day, so go shopping in the afternoon to be sure the shoe will accommodate swollen feet.  

Knowing The Right Type
From slip-on loafers to Mary Janes, there are a lot of different styles of baby shoes.  Choosing which one works best for you and your baby is really a matter of personal choice.  Here are some pros and cons.  Velcro shoes are the easiest for baby to learn how to fasten and refasten, and they're also quicker for you to put on and take off compared to lace-ups, which you'll have to retie often.  If you choose a slip on shoe, be sure it is a good fit and does not flop when baby is walking.  Otherwise, the shoe might be prone to falling off when you're out and about.  

Learning to walk is an exciting time for baby—albeit a jiggly journey.  Use these tips to help make their wiggly, wobbly world a little more stable with soft, comfortable baby shoes.