When Does Your Toddler Need Their First Walking Shoes?

When Does Your Toddler Need Their First Walking Shoes?

Children's Foot Development

Buying baby’s first shoes is a special moment, especially for your first child. So when is the best time to buy the first walking shoes for your baby boy or girl and what shoes are best?

When they’re born the bones in children’s feet are still forming and their feet are made almost entirely of soft tissue and cartilage. An adult foot has 26 bones, 19 muscles and around 100 ligaments, but these will take up to 18 years to form and harden, or ossify. Until then the developing foot is in danger of being harmed by bad shoes. At birth, a baby's tiny feet are so soft they are not designed to take any pressure from walking or shoes, and ill fitting shoes or even tight socks can easily distort them.


Children who are only starting to crawl or cruise won’t need a fully formed shoe. A Start-Rite pre-walker is ideal, something that is very soft and flexible and roomy in the toe-box, with a toe and heel bumper to protect the shoe from scuffing while still crawling.

Leave Them Barefoot

Having said that, don’t rush - your child doesn’t need their first shoes until they really need them! That may sound crazy but it’s far better to let your baby explore barefoot for as long as you can. It’s great exercise for tiny feet and it’s how they learn to balance and develop their foot and leg muscles.

In the summer you’re likely to be able to leave toddlers without shoes for longer. If you need sandals to protect their feet when you're out and about, Bobux makes beautifully soft barefoot first walker sandals with a protective toe and heel cup that are ideal, and many can be worn in water - even the sea.

First Shoes For Nursery

If you need shoes for nursery that might bring the decision forward. A pre-walker is ideal for younger children and will encourage their natural development as they move confidently over new ground. Sooner or later children will need their first shoes to protect their feet as they explore and that’s when you need to choose carefully.

Have Shoes Fitted Properly

Have your children’s first shoes fitted properly in a shop like To Boot that has experienced fitters and plenty of choice of style and size, including width fittings. One size does not fit all. Avoid shoes that are sold by age, such as "6 - 12 months", it is meaningless in terms of shoe size. Ideally, visit a shoe shop like ours that is on the Children’s Foot Health Register or is a Society of Shoe Fitters member, where your toddler will be measured properly and fitted carefully.

We also understand that having their first shoes fitted is a new experience for a young child, and even the best behaved children have their moments. We are always patient, and help to put baby at ease to make their shoe fitting a happy experience - for them and for you - and something that they will look forward to in future. 

Shoes For Confident Walking Toddlers

Once a toddler is walking confidently and starts running and jumping they’ll need something more substantial. These shoes will still need to be very flexible, so as not to alter their natural gait, but will have a firmer sole and a good secure fit around the heel. Our range of shoes for toddlers and young children, as well as being flexible and supportive, have generous padding around the ankle collar and tongue and in the footbed, to make them comfortable.

What To Look For In A Baby's Shoe

With so many so many types of shoes and different places to buy them nowadays, how do you know what is best for your baby’s feet?

Young children’s feet are almost triangular in shape and their shoes should be the same – narrower at the heel and wider across the toes. They should also be completely flat with a little bit of grip to help them move around. A good quality first shoe should let their feet grow normally and give them the same range of movement they would have if they weren’t wearing shoes. That’s the principle behind “barefoot” shoe brands such as Bobux and Ricosta. They are designed to follow your child’s natural movement almost like a second skin.

Italian brand Geox, known and loved for it's school shoes, has a range of specially designed baby shoes that have a special sole unit that is extra flexible, lightweight and padded t absorb the impact of toddlers' stomps. They are made of very soft glove leather and have the unique respira sole that lets baby's feet breathe.

Natural, breathable materials - ideally leather - are always best, and something with a toe-bumper is a great practical choice to avoid scrapes from scuffing. Choose an adjustable strap or lace for the best fit, and a style that opens up wide at the front so that chubby baby feet will fit in easily, even when squirming. A removable insole is also very useful for checking where their toes are and if they need checking.

Top Tips For First Shoes

Don't just take our word for it, here are some top tips from Karen Randell, a podiatrist and chartered physiotherapist whose team works with Start-Rite: "Buy good quality shoes and have them fitted right from the start”, she says. Shoes that are too narrow or too wide can do as much harm as shoes that are too short or long. “Cheaper shoes are not necessarily available in different width fittings and don’t have small enough increments in terms of size”.

As owners of To Boot we, Kerrie and Ruth, are both Mums who know from experience what a child's shoe needs to deliver (and we just love cute shoes!). We hand pick all the shoes in our shop to be the best of their kind and to give us a range of sizes and width and depth fittings to suit different shaped feet. Many of our brands are European, so the shoes are made in EU sizes that have smaller size jumps than full UK sizes.

Bobux, Ricosta Pepino and Start-Rite First Shoes

The brands we sell invest in custom made “lasts”, the 3D model of the foot that they use to make the shoes. Too many high street shoe sellers have a "one last fits all" approach, but the likes of Bobux for example, have re-designed their lasts to match the chubby shape of a toddler’s foot.

Ricosta Pepino uses the "width and depth" system, WMS, to account for a toddler's wider and deeper feet, which is why their shoes fit young developing feet so well. Start-Rite designs a new last for each new style and because it makes shoes in half sizes and four width fittings it has tens of thousands of lasts in its archive to draw from.

Why Sizes Fit Differently Between Brands

That’s why every shoe in our shop will fit slightly differently – whether it’s a first shoe or a school shoe - and our job is to assess your child’s foot and know what will fit best. We make sure your child is moving happily in their shoes. We like kids to “test-drive” their new shoes around our shop to make sure their gait is natural and fluid and that they’re not tripping or bumping into things.

“If a child is in shoes that allow them to go out and explore and get around more, they’re not going to want to take them off,” says Karen Randell. “If they’re irritable and trying to take their shoes off all the time something is wrong, so check their feet.” In this video Karen explains more about when children are ready for their first shoes. 

How Often To Check Children's Shoes

Have your children’s shoes checked regularly. Kids’ feet grow in fits and starts - just like the rest of them. In the first three or four years they can grow as much as two sizes a year, so check their shoes every six to eight weeks. Growth does slow down, probably to one size a year when they’re school age, so checks can then be every three to four months.


First Shoes Every 4 - 6 weeks
Toddlers Every 8 - 12 weeks
Primary Age Every 3 - 4 months
Teens Every 4 - 6 months


You shouldn’t need new shoes every time, good quality children’s shoes are designed to fit properly with plenty of growing room built in and you could reasonably expect to get a season out of a pair of shoes. But every child is different, so have them checked regularly and you won't miss that sudden growth spurt.

At To Boot we are always happy to check the fit of any of our shoes, it only takes a moment. We won’t sell you shoes if you don’t need them, it’s part of our commitment to the Children’s Foot Health Register and we’d rather you trusted our advice than for us to make a quick sale.

Measuring Advice and Size Calculators

A personal shoe fitting is always best, but if you have to buy your children's shoes online, we can help. We have brand specific measuring advice and size calculators on our website and if you message us we can advise you on potential suitable styles for your child's feet. We're here to help you find the best shoes for your baby.

Happy Shoe Shopping

So with all that advice to hand, we wish you "happy shoe shopping"! If you would like to plan a visit to us you can make a fitting appointment here, but outside of our busy back to school season in August, you are welcome to walk in without an appointment.

We love meeting new little customers and watching them leave wearing a smile and some gorgeous new shoes or boots. Once they're at school they have to wear black shoes all the time, so we always have some colourful brights alongside the more classic styles and colours. If you find you can't decide between all the lovely styles, don't worry, they will be outgrown before long and you can choose something different next time!

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