As a parent, you may be wondering if a small, soft foot needs support from shoes?
Babies and small children have really soft and really flexible feet, but they don't need sturdy shoes! Vice versa. Below you can read about the development of children's feet and the purchase of their first shoes.
Children start walking around the age of 9-18 months and they invariably have flat feet, it is part of the normal development stages of the foot. The inner arch of the foot has not yet developed, because the muscles of the foot have not had to work hard before standing up. Slowly, around 6-7 years old, the arches of the feet start to be visible and the alignment of the knees straightens.
When did I get my first pair of shoes?
When moving with bare feet, the sense of touch of the soles of the feet and the sense of position develop and balance is strengthened. So there is no rush to get your first pair of shoes. The idea of using slippers and shoes is to protect the feet when it is not safe to move around with bare feet or when weather conditions require footwear.
What are good first shoes?
A child under 1 year old crawls and learns to stand upright and take his first steps, different socks and slippers serve as footwear. A 1-2-year-old is practicing walking and running steps as well as moving faster when playing. You can still use slippers if they can withstand the wear and tear of a child. As the pace increases, a more wear-resistant shoe for outdoor use is often needed. A 2-4 year old often moves quickly. Practices scootering, runs and climbs. A flexible shoe suitable for the season, with a flat and thin sole and plenty of room for the toes, are suitable as outdoor shoes. The so-called barefoot shoes or Light shoes are great shoes for a child.
Flexibility means that the shoes bend and twist even with light force. Shoes should allow the same mobility as when playing without shoes. Thin-soled, flexible shoes resemble walking barefoot, and do not change the foot's natural activity or stride.
A small child does not need padding or shock absorption or supports in the shoes, which can hinder the function and development of the sense of position of the sole of the foot and ankle, because it is more challenging for the sole of the foot to sense the shapes of the ground. A growing foot does not need a heel either, because the heel changes the natural position of the foot and puts weight on the middle and front of the foot, thus changing movement patterns. A thick and supported shoe reduces the active activity of the small muscles of the foot.
When it comes to the fit of the shoe, pay particular attention to the model of the toe. The tip should be spacious enough so that the toes stay in a natural position and can work freely. Many western shoes taper from the tip too early on the big toe side, causing the shoe to bend the alignment of the big toe inwards. The foot can get stronger and the inner arch can develop when there is room for the toes and there is no arch support in the shoe. The heel should fit well in the shoe. The shoe may have laces, stickers or elastic stretches to keep the shoe firmly on the foot.
Shoe size selection
A small child's foot is very soft and flexible, the bones are still developing and the foot grows at a fast pace. In 1-3 year olds, the foot can grow 1.5-2 millimeters per month, i.e. up to three sizes per year. Leave 12 mm room for shoes and a maximum of 5 mm room for growth, less for slippers. In the first years, the shoes quickly become small. Barefoot shoes can easily be recycled for the next user!
In the picture collage, Bobux leather slippers, Bobux Scamp cotton first-step shoes, Froddo Prewalker first-step shoes, Tikki Beetle barefoot shoes, Beda Barefoot barefoot shoes and Bobux Dimension light footwear.
Download here the instructions for choosing recommended shoes (pdf) https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0544/9324/9735/files/suositusumkaisetkengat.pdf?v=1626978422
Author: Leena Airaksinen, Master of Health Sciences, physiotherapist
Sources: Saarikoski, R. 2016; Healthy feet and Bobux New Zealand 2023; Keeping kid's feet healthy
Photos: Bobux, LUMO footwear, presentation photo by Jenny Kåla