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The tried and tested way to choose your baby’s first shoes

Sarah Wiltshire,
Partner & Editor

Let us lead you through the stages of choosing and purchasing the right pair of shoes for your little one

Baby Shoes

Nothing can really compare to the moment when your baby takes their first steps. It’s a magic and somewhat emotional time - on the one hand you’ll be bursting with pride that your baby is taking their first, tentative leaps into the big wide world, and on the other hand you might feel a twang of sadness that the baby days are moving to the next stage.

Either way, it means it’s now time to start thinking about your baby’s first shoes. You may have already bought a pair or even had some given to you (tiny shoes are hard to resist), but it’s actually healthier for your baby’s developing feet to let them go barefoot until they are confidently walking around outside, as feeling the ground under their feet will help with coordination and balance.

Buying your child’s first shoes is a special moment and we can help. Our children's shoe-fitting service is available in all our shops except for our at home stores.

There are three stages to walking that your baby will go through and we work together with trusted brands to give you and your child a great first shoe experience and beyond, so that you’re safe in the knowledge that their little feet are properly supported and can continue to develop naturally.

Stage one: crawling

Every baby has their own style of crawling, whether that’s using their hands and knees or shuffling on their bottoms. It’s best to keep babies barefoot during this time as it helps feet to develop, or try crawling shoes that allow free movement and gentle support.

Stage two: cruising

 It won’t be long before your baby is pulling themselves up to a standing position and side-stepping around furniture. They will start to take more of their weight on their feet and just use their hands for balance. It’ll be a great new game for them and it’s the last stage before trying to take those first few steps independently.

Stage three: walking

Most children learn to walk between nine and 18 months, but don’t worry if it takes your toddler longer. At this stage, their bones are still soft and pliable so it’s important to choose comfortable, well-fitting shoes. A lightweight sole will also help them feel more stable and therefore more confident in walking.

Little girl looking at her feet

The right first shoes

We understand that the needs of each child can be very specific, so all of our shoe fitters are specially trained to give the best possible recommendations and find the perfect fit. This is really important, especially with young children, as they can’t really communicate clearly if a shoe is uncomfortable, and as their nerve-endings are still developing, they may not even feel any discomfort despite the damage an ill-fitting shoe can cause.

The perfect fit

A lot of parents wonder how frequently they’ll need to replace their child’s shoes. Babies’ feet grow really quickly, so it’s worth checking them every six to eight weeks to make sure shoes still fit. Up to the age of four, your child's feet can grow by two whole sizes each year, slowing to about one size a year by the time they start school.  

You’ll know if your child’s shoes are too small by gently pressing down at the end. If you can feel the toes, the shoes are too small. We recommend 10mm of space between the toes and the front of the shoe in pre-walkers and 14mm space in walkers.

If you think your child has had a growth spurt or if you’re just not sure that their shoes are fitting properly, our trained shoe fitters will be happy to check for you.

All Clarks and Start-Rite first shoes come in a variety of widths so you can get the best possible fit, which is really important at this stage in development. We often stock alternative colours or fabrics on our website, so there's even more to choose from online. You can even get these styles delivered to your local John Lewis & Partners (except our at home shops) and still have the reassurance of it being fitted by one of our trained Partners.

Toddler Shoes

Top tips for a smooth shoe-fitting experience

Our shoe fitters are specially trained and used to dealing with young children, but if your child’s a bit resistant to the idea of having their shoes fitted or you’re unsure of how they will respond, then here are a few ideas to make it a simple and fun experience.

Get them excited

It sounds obvious, but if they’re old enough, talk to your child before you go out to get fitted. Get them excited about going to get some new shoes. It helps if they’re prepared and know what to expect.

Make sure they’re wearing socks

Our fitters measure feet with socks on, so it’s helpful if your child’s wearing some or you at least bring a pair to the fitting. It might just help keep your child calm, especially if they have a ‘thing’ about wearing their own clothes. If you arrive without any, don’t worry, our fitters will always have a spare pair on hand.

Timing is everything

Life is unpredictable with kids and you can’t account for every eventuality, but when booking your fitting appointment, avoid nap times and meal times so they’re not overly tired or hungry. Snacks are a good decoy for the child that might be a little unsure, as are story books and their favourite toy.

Remember, buying your child’s first shoes is a big step for them too, so keeping them occupied and calm will help to create a fun and happy memory for you all. See their face light up when they take their first little steps in their shiny new shoes and if you’re lucky, you might be able to grab a quick snap as a lasting memento to share with family and friends.