I am a pediatric physical therapist and I love what I do. I basically get to play with kids all day long. Along with the playing, comes the talking to and working in partnership with parents. For a parent with a young infant/child, walking is the most well known milestone. Who doesn’t talk about when their baby started walking, or worry about when they will start walking. In fact, I think my mom can still tell you the exact age each of her three children started walking (and that was many, many years ago)! Its something that we all understand. What we don’t always understand is that shoe selection can really help. I recently read Best Foot Forward in mom & baby and it recommends and strongly encourages parents to not use shoes until at least 17 months of age (unless your child is a late walker).
According to Baby Center a child’s first steps can occur between 9-12 months and they are walking between 14-15 months although it shouldn’t be concerning if they walk as late as 16-17 months. Well that is a huge range. How is a parent supposed to know if their child is a late walker? The trend in foot fashion for the very young has gone the route of the soft and flexible sole, such as Robeez. This is great if your child has a typical foot. However not every child does. Some kids have less muscle control in their feet and by not providing them with supportive shoes when they begin to stand, their ability to stand and walk independently is delayed. Believe me I understand the need to allow muscles to develop and strengthen in the foot, however not every child is served by this. By providing them with a supportive shoe such as the kind that can be found at Stride Rite (please note, I am not saying this is the only place to buy shoes, however they have a wide selection that is not only supportive, but stylish as well), it will give them the added stability they need to begin taking their first steps, or to begin trusting themselves to stand independently.
I know its not easy to know if your child needs shoes. There are a few solutions. One would be to contact your local pediatric physical therapist and ask some questions. Another would be to go to your local kids shoe store and talk to the people that work there. Even talking to your pediatrician might provide you with some answers. Kids feet can need help because they are too ‘floppy’ or because they are too ‘stiff’ and why not set your kids up for success early, as well as improving their alignment and letting them put their best foot forward! What I hope will be your biggest take-away is that kids don’t come from an assembly line. Every child is different and has different needs. There may be nothing wrong with their feet, however if they are timid and hesitant to start walking, maybe a supportive shoe will give them that little extra boost in confidence they need to take that scary first step. Just think how you feel when you have just the right shoe on!