These shoes were meant for walking

Are they really? The best shoes for your toddler are no shoes at all!

We often see moms so obsessed with buying the correct shoe that they forget that the toddler needs to walk barefoot as well. Walking bare foot helps build arches and strengthens ankles. Walking on uneven surfaces like sand and the grass helps to further strengthen those muscles and adds great tactile experiences to the sensory system.

Running and playing outside is best done without shoes. Climbing a jungle gym you will find that your toddler has better balance without shoes as they are able to feel the rung and “grasp” it with their foot.

So what about that special occasion where shoes will complete the outfit? Choose shoes that are closest to no shoes. They must be flexible. Leather or rubber soles are best. You should be able to easily bend the shoe between your thumb and forefinger. Although the brand names look ever so cute you cannot see what is happening inside the shoe and what it is doing to the bones in the feet.

The shoes must be low cut and preferably be leather so the feet can breathe. I know the high cut shoes stay on better but experts believe they restrict ankle movement.

Flat bottoms with no heel! A toddler has enough to cope with just practising to balance without adding to it with slippery soles and heels. I am shocked to see heels for 2 year olds. They are lovely for play but not to wear out and about for everyday walking. In fact we should only allow our daughters to wear heels at around 18 when the bones in the feet are better formed.

Look for soft flexible shoes in leather with plenty of room for those cute toes to move in. Bigger is better. Keep checking the fit as toddlers feet seem to grow overnight. Don’t pass shoes onto siblings and friends. Shoes mould to the foot and wearing shoes that have moulded to someone else’s feet is not a good idea. The exception here is shoes that have hardly been worn. Remember that socks that are too tight have the same implications as shoes that are too small.

Bare feet running around the house and playing outside is ultimately best for your toddler.

Written by Liz Victor late CEO of Toptots Early Learning SA

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