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Ever seen a beautiful baby toddling away in some cute shoes? Isn’t it just a sight for sore eyes! When toddlers are learning to walk, should they do so barefooted or with shoes? Does walking barefoot help your toddler to learn to walk better?

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association, your baby learning to walk should do so without wearing shoes in the beginning, if he is indoors. The human foot is still growing while a baby learns to walk. It requires firm support so that the arches underneath, as well as the muscles and bones can grow well.

You know how even with your eyes closed you can tell whether your toe is up or down? This ability to know where your body is without needing to look is called proprioception. Barefoot walking improves the proprioception of toddlers. It also improves their balance and posture. So when a toddler is learning to walk, being barefoot is just great.

Once your toddler starts walking outdoors, he needs shoes to protect his tiny feet from sharp objects and hard pavements that may harm them. In these cases, avoid “fashion” shoes. Go for flat, flexible shoes with nonskid soles. These shoes should not squeeze your toddler’s feet and should have room for growth. It is better if they are made of natural materials. One of the characteristics of a nonskid sole is that it is patterned, states vionic. You want your baby’s foot to have a firm grip even if the floor is slippery. Avoid shoes with hard, stiff soles.

Sometimes you just want to complete your little fashionista’s look with a cute pair of toddler shoes, but if he is just learning to walk, it is a good idea to let him go barefoot as long as it is safe. More importantly, make it safe for him by childproofing your home.

Cowritten with Bridget Numarce, PT, MSc, mGPA.

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