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The infant is 9 months old. She started walking (without support) when she was 8 months old.

My parents are pressurizing me to force her to wear shoes. They say she should get a habit of wearing shoes otherwise when she is outside she won't wear them. Also they say that if she doesn't wear the shoes her feet will grow up big.

What is a good age for the child to start wearing shoes and why (assuming she already walks - comfortably)?

Authoritative answers requested.

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This may not be the case over here on Parenting so much as other SO sites, but isn't requesting an authoritative answer a bit redundant? –  dotVezz Apr 8 at 15:53
    
@dotVezz Pardon, I didn't get your point. All I meant was that I need answers with references. Is that asking for too much? –  TheIndependentAquarius Apr 9 at 1:22
    
Oh, no! Not at all! It's an excellent question and I have no problems - I just figured that one line was redundant since authoritative answers are essentially the point of the SE network. –  dotVezz Apr 9 at 12:42

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Unless she needs them to protect her feet, never. In the words of the AAP: "Style is the only reason for a baby to wear shoes at all until the child begins walking outdoors or is taken out in cold weather."

First, the idea that her feet will get too big is somewhere between ignorant and harmful. Wearing correctly-sized shoes will not prevent foot growth. Wearing shoes that are too small WILL retard foot growth in entirely bad ways.

The American Association of Pediatrics states there's no need to wear shoes other than for protection and that walking without them allows your child to use her toes for gripping and balance.

As far as altering foot growth, here's the AAP article warning of improper shoe use.

The foot takes the shape of the shoe, not vice versa. Improperly fitted or manufactured shoes may be the primary cause of acquired foot deformities and problems. Shoes that do not fit properly can deform an otherwise-normal foot, resulting in hammertoes, hallux valgus, bunionettes, corns, and, ultimately, the need for surgery.

Make note: other studies have indicated that even putting your child in used shoes can be problematic, as the shoe will have become deformed to varying extents by the previous wearer. That alteration can then be passed on to your child's feet.

As far as the habit of wearing shoes, I'm not sure I believe it's likely to make a difference. Some kids can be acclimated to things they dislike, some will fight you to the end. However, in the interest of grandparent harmony, why not let them buy her some shoes? You will surely take her places where she needs footwear to walk around so having some won't be harmful. Just make sure they are properly fitted and you move on to the next size as needed.

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thankful to you. –  TheIndependentAquarius Apr 9 at 1:33

Addressing your parent's comments:

  • "They must get into the habit"
    • There is some truth to this. A rule of "you must always wear shoes" is generally easier for kids to stick with than "you must wear shoes in the front yard". This is really about having managable rules (ones you can enforce & the child can follow).
  • "feet must have shoes"
    • This is patently false. The general conclusion of recent research is that feet do just fine on their own. Unless there is a specific medical issue that require corrective footwear, kids do not "need" shoes to give them support or to ensure they grow "correctly". If you do get shoes, look for ones that are very flexible, and allow for the most natural walking.
    • Shoes do provide some protection -- notably from sharp objects. Our kids usually go barefoot in the back yard, and we've had 2-3 scrapes & 1 severe splinter in 27 kid-years of running around.
    • The soles of your feet have built-in thermal protection, which if the kids commonly go barefoot will be thick enough to handle temperatures (based on my experience) from 45F up to 95F.
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Do you wear shoes indoors? If so, perhaps the baby should too. I would choose very soft shoes, moccasins or slippers. Nothing hard-soled or stiff sided. Whatever "support" a foot or ankle needs should come from a child's own muscles and ligaments.

If, like me, you don't wear shoes inside your home, then get the baby some shoes and keep them by the front door with yours. When it's time to go out, everyone puts their shoes on, baby too. If you will mostly be carrying the baby (or using a stroller, pram, sling, or baby backpack), or you're headed to an indoor destination before the baby will touch the ground, then the same sort of lightweight soft shoes are a good choice. (It is no fun to be kicked with a hard baby shoe.) If the baby will be walking on rough ground or where sharp things might be, a harder shoe is a good idea, just to protect their feet outdoors. And if it's muddy or snowy, look at boots.

Some children really despise shoes and get very good at taking them off. I have never seen any correlation between that hatred of shoes and whether or not they were made to wear them early. I would focus on showing the baby that everyone is wearing shoes and the baby is going to wear them too. (Though for some toddlers, I know that doesn't always work.)

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I think it depends on your situation and what you feel comfortable with. We have wood floors so we started with shoes immediately because we did not want her feet getting cold. Socks were too slippery on the floor so shoes were the next best thing. Shoes will also help your baby walk better as they help by giving the baby a solid footing and if they have high sides it will help support and balance as well. If you have carpet it may not be as necessary to get shoes on as quick but I would say once the baby is walking or even attempting to walk shoes are not a bad thing to get them started with.

My authority? 3 kids.. lol :P

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