Let me paint a picture for you. I’m standing on the playground, letting my kid play, when I catch a woman and her husband struggling to put shoes on their one-year old little boy, who isn’t yet walking. I watched in silence, which took a lot of effort on my part, but as she glanced up in my direction, she immediately started to explain her situation, knowing that I’m a podiatrist in Houston.
“He’s not walking yet,” she said, “and I left him with my mother last week. She bought him some shoes because she thought it would give him the push to start going.” I heard the apologetic tone in her voice, and assumed it was there because she’s known me long enough to know what I was thinking: wrong!
Babies that aren’t walking yet don’t need shoes; in fact, wearing shoes may actually make your baby walk a little bit later. Babies’ feet gain the balance, strength and coordination necessary for walking by feeling the floor; shoes act as a barrier between your baby’s foot and the ground.
In fact, the only reason walking babies need to wear shoes once they have mastered mobility is to protect them from sharp objects, dirt and hot or rough surfaces—when they’re home, I’d still recommend letting babies go shoeless, as long as there aren’t any obvious hazards in their way.
And if you think shoes just delay walking, thinking again…lots of bad possibilities can crop up when kids wear shoes too soon. Just read on to find out more!
What Happens When Babies Wear Shoes Too Soon
Want to know the age of the youngest patient I’ve ever seen in my podiatry practice?
6 months old!!!
The patient was a baby who had been suffering with painful, inflamed, and infected ingrown toenails almost since birth. He had been seen by a number of doctors who all told his mom the same thing....to soak his foot in warm water.
This poor baby was hurting! As I reached for his foot, he instinctively pulled it away. He had nasty ingrown toenails on both great toes. I felt his pain!
Infant's nails are different than adults. They are thinner and more pliable. They are more easily filed than trimmed and often grow in odd directions. Because of the flexibility, however, it is not common for them to be as infected. So I knew his treatment would require a different approach.
When I see an adult with an infected ingrown toenail, the best way to care for it is usually with a procedure to remove the ingrowing portion of the nail from the skin. With children this young, however, a procedure is not usually necessary. Some topical antibiotics, along with some other recommendations, is all it will take.
Still, I needed to figure out why this baby was having problems. And can you guess the main culprit? It was the fact that he was wearing shoes on a regular basis! Infants and toddlers who are not yet walking do not belong in structured shoes, as I’ve already mentioned. Socks and soft booties are fine, but a regular shoe or sandal is not....even if it matches the outfit. Access to the feet is important in a baby's development and helps the child learn to walk on schedule.
So there you have it—to my friends, patients, and all the other parents reading this—your pre-walking baby doesn’t need shoes! And if you need me to give you reassurance, or if you have any other concerns about your baby or child’s developing foot, come see me at Tanglewood Foot Specialists, for the advanced care and gentle touch your little one deserves.