Learn the importance of making sure your little one’s shoes are the right fit for their age
With thanks to Start-Rite for these tips
It’s hard to resist planting a kiss against the silky softness of a baby’s foot. It’s even harder to imagine that one day that foot will become a fully-functioning mechanism propelling the body forward. Mastering all the crucial development stages from crawling and walking to running, jumping and playing along the way.
These milestone moments come in quick succession too, so understanding how best to support your child’s growing feet at each life stage is important. Here we take a deeper look at how babies’ feet develop and grow so you can make the right foot care choices for your baby as their bones grow, muscles strengthen and stability increases.
Soft, squidgy and ‘toe’tally kissable
Part of what make infants’ feet appear so kissable is their structure. At birth, babies’ feet are soft and pliable; they are at their most delicate because they don’t have a fully formed bones and have no visible arch. They are simply soft cartilage with a chubby appearance that can easily be harmed by constrictive, ill-fitting shoes. Even socks that are too tight can compress their feet, causing damage.
The world at their feet
When babies start to crawl and shuffle and pull themselves up to standing, they’re at a new stage of development. They’ll hold onto your hands, furniture and anything else they come across as they start to use their new trunk strength and control as a platform for walking.
Jenni Foster, Research and Innovation Manager at Start-Rite Shoes, specialists in children’s footwear comments: “Don’t be tempted to put your baby in shoes too early; this is only necessary if their adventures mean they need protection for their soft skin. If necessary, the best option is to provide a soft, protective covering to protect your baby’s feet; A relaxed-fitting sock with a soft leather bottom is a good choice or of course a cute style from our specifically designed soft and supple pre-walker range, but remember these should be professionally fitted to ensure they are the correct fit for your baby’s feet at this important stage in their development.”
Not all babies crawl – some go straight to walking, so don’t worry if this happens quickly. While a baby is preparing to take its first tentative steps, so too are its feet. The bones are beginning to harden but ligaments in the feet still haven’t fully formed, so feet are still soft and vulnerable.
Independent walking will follow but for now, gentle support from nearby furniture and lots of hand-holding will help little legs and feet get to where they want to go. Walking occurs when the feet, legs and spine are all strong enough to start bearing weight. Remember, this is instinctive for each child and occurs at different times.
This stage presents an exciting milestone moment – purchasing your baby’s first pair of shoes. A children’s footwear specialist can help you personalise the fit for optimum comfort, protection, and crucially perfectly positioned flexibility that will aid and support the development of healthy growing feet.
The right fit
Children’s footwear specialists, Start-Rite Shoes, recommends infant feet are measured every six to eight weeks. While this sounds a lot, it’s important to remember that children often grow in spurts and, up until the age of around two years old, a child’s foot grows approximately two centimetres a year, so getting regular fittings to measure length, width and arch is a must.
Foster continues: “At this stage ,your toddler needs to have as much contact with the ground as they can to augment sensory input. An ill-fitting shoe will inhibit this process by reducing the critical connections made between the child’s receptors and brain, which are necessary in order to develop their coordination and motor skills.
“First walking shoes should allow natural movement and the right level of support and protection for your toddler’s uniquely soft and light structured feet. This allows them to develop naturally, gain the right level of feedback from the terrain beneath and protect them throughout their exploring.”
Try some of these pre-walking activities to help your baby develop whilst crawling:
- Place a cushion on the floor for your baby to explore manoeuvring over it.
- Make a game of pointing to an object or toy and let your baby crawl to it.
- Use verbal encouragement and praise when they are moving about – babies respond well to your voice
- Explore sensory play, which uses hands-on to provide endless amusement for your baby – and adults too! This can stimulate your child’s five senses as well as anything which engages movement and balance.
As a child develops, bones grow, muscles strengthen, stability increases and the foot gradually becomes a full functioning, efficient mechanism propelling the body forward. Start-Rite shoes are developed for what the child needs at each stage of its development. Whether it’s the correct shape of last, the right amount of flexibility and torsional rigidity, or the right fastening system.