Skipping Shoes Can Actually Help Your Toddler Walk, According to Doctors

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The toddler years officially begin when a child wakes up on their first birthday, but the word toddler itself actually refers to the first stage of walking. New walkers adorably toddle along on their own two legs, which may make you think it’s time to get them some shoes. (And have you seen those little shoes?! So cute!) But as they begin to walk, should they really have shoes on their feet? Does it help or hinder their progress? We reached out to the experts to learn more about whether toddlers should wear shoes.

Should Toddlers Wear Shoes?

Toddlers should wear shoes while outside to protect their feet, but going barefoot inside may actually be beneficial for them, Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, a medical consultant at Mom Loves Best, told POPSUGAR. Skipping the shoes is good for their foot development and it can help little ones learn to walk faster, she said.

In fact, toddlers should be barefoot as much as possible, said William Spielfogel, DPM, chief of podiatry in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and director of the Podiatric Medicine and Surgery Residency Program at Lenox Hill Hospital-Northwell Health. “Walking barefoot can help not only to strengthen the arch of the foot but it can help their muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the foot develop,” he told POPSUGAR. “It can also help toddlers improve their coordination and proprioception (their awareness of their position in relation to the space around them), which is extremely beneficial for their motor development.”

Dr. Spielfogel said that although staying barefoot is ideal, sometimes it’s more important to protect little feet. “Toddlers should wear shoes [when outside] to help protect feet from injury from the elements such as sharp objects and rough surfaces on the ground,” he said.

What Types of Shoes Are Best For Toddlers

“Shoes that are soft and flexible are best for toddlers,” said Dr. Poinsett, adding that shoes should be made of mesh or leather and the soles should be made of non-slip material. “There is no need to wear hard shoes with high tops,” she noted. “Wearing a shoe with a soft, non-skid sole is better for walking and feeling the ground which also helps to develop the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the foot,” said Dr. Spielfogel, adding that you also want the shoe to be lightweight and flexible because hard, stiff shoes restrict movement.

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