What Are Soft-Sole Shoes for Babies?

If you are a new parent -- and even if you have some experience -- there is so much conflicting information out there on how to raise children.  It feels like you could read a hundred different sites and come up with a hundred different opinions.  I can only speak to my experiences, and throw out my opinion.  That is where I come up with a questions that I've seen:

What are soft-sole shoes for babies?


These are shoes that are soft, flexible and have soles that aren't made rubber, but usually of leather or other natural material and may have some texture to help avoid slipping.  These are usually used for babies all the way up to toddlers to aid in the protection for the foot, help a child to learn how to get used to shoes and maintain stability on slippery surfaces. 

The reasons for using a soft-sole shoe at such a young are fairly easy to understand:

  • A soft-soled shoe is more comfortable for a foot that is beginning to develop and working on things like walking and balance
  • A soft-soled shoe provides a layer of protection that a barefoot or socked-foot doesn't have, especially when outdoors
  • A soft-soledshoe doesn't restrict or mold a foot into an unnatural or painful position like a hard-soled shoe could
  • A soft-soled shoe is much lighter in weight and allows for a much more natural feel when a baby is learning to walk

Why even buy shoes for a baby?

Many parents have taken a stance of not introducing new items unless or until they are absolutely necessary and shoes have fallen into this aspect.  To those parents I would say, "Absolutely!"  There isn't any damage that will happen if they aren't wearing shoes from 3-months old and on.  This is when intuition and personal beliefs play a part: if you want to hold off on shoes, please feel free.  If you do a lot of outdoor activities, shoes may be a necessity.  You know what's best for your child!

Can shoes cause damage to a baby or child's foot?


The simple answer is yes.  Most times this occurs when a shoe is too small or edges, either inside or out, cut into the skin.  A baby's foot grows quickly and may require buying new shoes ever 2 to 4 months, but will slow down when they are toddlers.  Even a soft-soled shoe that is too small can restrict movement, push the toes into unnatural positions, cause pain and ultimately restructure the bones and soft tissue as the foot develops.  

Most babies will let you know when they are in pain, and our first instinct is to make sure they are fed, the diaper is changed and if anything is pinching them, but we don't always check their feet to make sure that isn't where the pain is originating.  If there is a piece of material or something else that is causing irritation on the foot, the area could be irritated, or in worse case scenarios the area could be bruised, indented or bleeding.  Discontinue using those shoes until the problem is solved.

Do the shoes have to be worn all the time?


If a little time is good, a lot of time must be better, right?  No.  Babies and toddlers need time outside of the bounds of shoes.

  •  Even the softest of shoes can restrict, so allowing time to let little feet be little feet is essential in their overall development
  • When we wear shoes we walk differently, young ones need to learn how to navigate both in and out of shoes.  This can affect the strengthening of the muscles and tendons in the toes and foot
  • Children learn to maneuver and avoid danger when allowed to go without shoes.  This is because when they do step on something sharp or stub a toe, they learn how to avoid doing that again in the future
  • Baby's feet sweet a lot and thus trap a lot of fungus and bacteria that could fester inside of a shoe.  Allowing feet to roam free can help avoid infections, stinky feet and other more damaging effects that require doctor's visits

Is there a clear-cut answer to the shoe question?


My best answer to that is that you have the answer.  Confused yet?  Well, no matter what advice you might receive, it could be the wrong recommendation for your child.  You know what is best, you may have to discover this with a little trial and error, but you are the best answer for your child's whoa's.  And to throw more confusion to this question: you may find that each child is different and requires more or less time in shoes than the older one(s).  

One thing is absolutely true in all this: don't keep shoes on all the time, especially when sleeping overnight.  If it is cold enough where foot protection is needed, don't rely on shoes to keep his or her feet warm.  There are many other alternatives that are safer.

At some point, most children where soft-soled shoes as a way to get used to wearing shoes and to provide a little more protection for young feet.  

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