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.

  • 2
    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, 2014 at 15:53
  • 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, 2014 at 12:42
  • I wonder what would happen if we bound our hands in equivalent wraps for as many hours in the day as we do our feet, especially when the bones are soft and growing.
    – user13219
    Jan 15, 2015 at 6:11
  • Skidders are a sock shoe. While I'd argue that there's no real reason to make your kids wear shoes at all, living in the desert and having all the pokey things around at least warrants some kind of middle ground. Ignore the feet growing up big thing. That's like the old Chinese assumption that burnt ashes and boy's pee will stop bleeding.
    – Kai Qing
    Jan 23, 2015 at 0:38
  • A couple people said the foot won't get bigger - that is not my experience, but the difference in size is small and the feet are stronger. I know in India (bare feet are common there) shoes are generally wider than in the US, I think because the foot develops fully without relying on shoes for external support. But even then, it would take years and lots of long, strenuous walking while barefoot, to influence developing feet - and if so it would just mean looking for shoes in a wider cut style or marked extra wide or getting slightly long shoes, not any kind of real problem.
    – Megha
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:51

5 Answers 5


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.

  • Generally good answer, but the shoes will be just as harmful if the grandparents buy them as if the parents buy them. If you're going to let the grandparents buy them, at least insist on soft shoes like Robeez.
    – Warren Dew
    Aug 27, 2016 at 19:48
  • According to the AAP, it is not necessary that they be any particular type, just that they be properly fitted. So yes, they "will be just as harmful if the grandparents buy them as if the parents buy them" - not at all harmful, so long as they are new and the proper size. If it can be done in a way that does no harm I personally would do it just to keep harmony.
    – Don
    Oct 7, 2016 at 18:39

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.)


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.
  • 6
    YMMV, but "wear shoes when outside, take them off inside" is not a particularly hard rule to grasp or enforce, even for youjng children. Jan 15, 2015 at 6:26

We've consulted our choice of shoes with an orthopedist. He explained to us that human feet were "designed" to be walked on soft surfaces like mud, grass, sand, etc. A child can safely walk bare-foot on such surfaces, and also on carpets or all sorts of soft surfaces one can imagine. Shoes are not needed in such cases.

However, if your floor is hard - panels, wood, tiles - you should choose shoes for your child to walk at home, comfortable and large enough ones with soft (crepe?) soles. Choosing very thick socks (possibly with anti-slipping enancements;) would also serve the purpose.

As for walking outside - the same rule applies. Hard surfaces - wear shoes, soft ones - not necessarily. But take into consideration the safety of your little one, whether the place you'll we walking is clean, has no broken glass, etc. etc. Shoes also protect baby's feet from physical harm.


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

  • 6
    Most of this is wrong. Bare feet are the best option for learning to walk. Shoes don't allow her to use her toes, meaning it's more likely she will lose her balance and hurt herself. If the floor is cold, get socks with grippy rubber pads on the bottom. Jan 15, 2015 at 6:25

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