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

baby shoes at John Lewis & Partners
Sophie Davis,-Contributing Editor

Whether they’re crawling or already on their feet, here’s our guide to measuring, fabrics and styles 

Those first tentative steps are a huge milestone in any child’s life – let alone the parents, who spend every waking moment between the ages of nine and 18 months with phones poised to record the moment for posterity. And whether your child needs shoes for crawling, pre-walking or first steps, it’s important that they have the right footwear, if only to make sure they look the part for their historic journey.

But with so much choice on offer, it can be trickier than you might think. Little feet need proper support and good-quality materials, so here’s our guide to getting the most out of their first shoes. And to make sure you get the right fit, refer to our handy instructions on to how to measure kids’ feet at home.

Choose the right type

Before they start walking, many children crawl or ‘cruise’, when they stand up and take steps while holding onto furniture. Shoes aren’t necessary at this stage, but if you have cold floorboards or you want something to cover their feet, go for a pair of pre-walkers. These are lightweight with a thin, flexible sole, mainly for protection rather than support. Once your child is walking, they’ll need proper shoes with a more sturdy sole. If you are heading into a store, our children’s shoe-fitting service will help you find the right pair – there are fitters available in all our shops with children’s shoe departments. 

Timing is everything

Our feet have a tendency to change size a little over the course of the day, and can often be a bit bigger in the afternoon after a few hours standing or walking. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to go shoe shopping in the afternoon. 

Your child might not be happy about having their feet measured, so bring a toy or book to try and distract them and keep tantrums at bay. Snacks and a drink are also a good idea. Our shoe fitters are specially trained and used to dealing with young children, which will help make things easier. In selected stores we also have Partners trained by the National Autistic Society who will measure your child’s feet in a comfortable environment, tailored to their needs. You can find the closest store to you, the number to book and download a handy visual guide on our fitting page.

Get the perfect fit

When it comes to children’s shoes, fit and comfort are key. The soles should be flexible to allow movement, and the shoes should be in a breathable fabric – leather is a great option as it moulds to the shape of the wearer’s foot and is easy to keep clean. New shoes will shape to their unique footprint and let their bones develop properly. It’s also worth taking socks with you when measuring your baby’s feet and make sure they wear socks with new shoes the first few times to break them in and prevent rubbing.

Go for a fastening that’s quick and easy to secure, such as Velcro or a buckle. Laces are probably best suited to a slightly older child who’s happy to stand still for a few seconds while you tie them. 

Our shoe fitters will check shoes in store, but if you want to keep an eye in-between fittings, try these tips at home. Firstly, use your thumb to press down on the front of the shoe to see how far from the top your child’s toes are. We recommend 10mm of space between the toes and the front of the shoe in pre-walkers and 14mm space in walkers. See if you can slip your little finger snugly into the back of the shoe to check it’s not too tight on the heel, and check there’s a little bit of space round the sides.

Babies’ feet grow quickly, so it’s a good idea to measure them every six to eight weeks to make sure shoes still fit. Up until 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.  

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