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Baby's First Shoes

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Best shoes for an early walker?

July 2010

Hi everyone, I am looking for advice about which shoe brand to choose for a 14 month old. We are pretty much beyond the 'moccasin' style shoe, and looking for sandals/sneakers that are easy to walk in, but hopefully not super expensive, but all and any recommendations are welcome. Walking commenced at about 13months, and now he is constantly on-the-go! yay for walking


I pretty much kept my kids barefoot as much as possible or they wore Roobeez or Preschoolians when they were new walkers. Jan
The shoes I have started all of my kids in when they were ready for 'real' shoes has been Stride Rite's Jamie style. It is the sort of retro boot-ish baby shoe... lace up and high-top. I prefer laces because you can double-knot the bow and baby can't untie them. Babies quickly become pros at undoing velcro shoe fastenings in my experience. The most recent pair I purchased were less than $15 including shipping for a nearly new pair (never walked in, only worn a couple of times) on eBay. It took one week from winning the auction 'til they were at my door. I love these shoes because they are flexible yet supportive, not difficult to get on and off for the adult, and cute. mom2toddler2

When is the right time to switch to hard soled walking shoes?

Jan 2005

When is the right time to switch to regular hard soled shoes? My little girl is 14 months old and walking with confidence. I took she shoe shopping this weekend and she hates wearing shoes. She cried and would not even take a step. Is it necessary for her to switch from the robeez to regular shoes? I also cannot believe the prices for these shoes....$50.00 +++ is this really necessary? I would like to know what other moms purchased for their children's first shoes. Sandra


Both my children walked by 11 months, but I stuck with the Robeez until 18+ months. They are so flexible and soft. The longer they could stay like this the better for their feet. mary
We just graduated from Robeez to Preschoolians. We love them! You can buy them at A Child's Place (top of Solano) or Sweet Potatoes (bottom of Solano), but we got ours at www.preschoolians.com. They have thin, flexible soles, but are waterproof, unlike Robeez. They are about $35, which is still expensive, but . . . Noel
I can't address your daughter not liking to wear shoes, but I can help with the other parts of your question. My understandi! ng, and what we did with our own son, is that they need something more solid than Robeez once they start walking around outside - to protect their feet from rocks and things. He has continued to wear Robeez, socks or bare feet inside most of the time, and shoes outside. You don't have to buy the $50 shoes, although the salespeople may try to make you feel otherwise - they just need to have flexible soles (you should be able to fold the shoe in half in your hand) so the baby's foot can move naturally. These shoes are generally designated ''first- walkers'' or something like that. I found Stride-Rite sneakers for first walkers on sale at Nordstrom for about $20 (they put all women's and kids' shoes on sale twice a year), but their regular price on many toddler shoes there is fairly good (way less than $50), and the staff is much nicer (and less harried) than at the Stride-Rite mall store. End-of-seas! on sales at local kids' stores, like Cotton & Company on College, generally have good prices as well. JP
First pair of shoes...I am of the opinion that first shoes are important and it's best to spend the money on a good pair. I am familiar with the ''other camp'' who professes it really doesn't matter. We bought our first pair (stride-right) from Nordstrom's when my son was 12 months old, and they lasted a nice long 6 months. The soles were flexible(which they should be) and the boot a little higher on the foot for stability and fit. They were such good shoes that my second son wore them too.

One way to afford the nice stride-rights is to hit the Nordstrom's half-yearly kids sale in June/July (there is another sale later in the summer) and find stride-rights for $19-29/each.

These are shoes your child will wear everyday, and they need to fit well and be comfortable. Think if you wore the same shoes everyday? Also, I think it is important to find a place that can fit your child well, which is not available at mervyn's or target. We also kept our Robeez till my kids were almost 20 months as an alternative shoe. Good shoes = happy feet


I'm grateful that I wore good shoes as a kid. I'm middle aged, and back then most kids wore good sturdy lace-up shoes most of the time from very early on. One of my friends has a daughter who is just now a teenager. She's has always been allowed to wear whatever shoes she wanted, and already her feet are flat and she's a bit knock-kneed (which she wasn't when she was younger). She has problems running and has no confidence about it, and I can't help but think that the kinds of shoes she has worn are a good part of it- none of them provided good enough support for learning how to run. She doesn't even own anything vaguely resembling an athletic shoe because she doesn't like the way they look.

I think that it's a good idea to start with the good shoes very early on, and to buy sandles with good support also. She'll get used to them- lots of good habits have rocky beginnings. Talk to her about what a big girl she's getting to be and that these are special big girl shoes! And of course, there's always times like at the beach when flip-flops and jellies are appropriate. If $50. is a problem, you might look at consignment shops and/or the Goodwill. Since kids outgrow their shoes quickly, there's usually a lot of life left in them. anon


i bought hard-soled shoes for my son once he walked more than 10 steps or so outdoors. mostly i wanted his feet protected if there was the possibility of little pebbles or something that might hurt through the robeez. he still wears robeez indoors, like at daycare. if your little one isn't a lot of places that might have sharp things on the ground, or if you are vigilant about clearing a path, i'm sure there's no problem with sticking to robeez a while longer.

we went to nordstrom's, i figured that even if it was a little pricier, i wanted good customer service and a good fit for my son's first pair. the salesperson was very helpful, very good with kids, and gave him a stuffed animal (''nordie'') and a polaroid pic of him wearing ''my first shoes''. we got stride rites that were $30- still about as much or more as i pay for my shoes, but then i usually shop at payless. of course if you want to you can spend $50+ for eccos or another brand. i wonder if your daughter was crying because the shoes were too tight? our salesperson told me that stride rites were good because they came in wide widths. my little guy apparently has chubby feet, so he wears 5 1/2 W. cachien


I found a web site called Preschoolians.com. They have these really cool shoes that have thin rubber soles, and are so light and flexible. They're ideal for toddlers that are trying to transition to shoes, and they are good for outdoor conditions. My son loved his, and was able to try a heavier shoe after about 6 months without complaint. Check them out! Stephanie
I just had to recommend the shoes on Preschoolians.com. They are great! The prices are about the same as Stride Rite, but you order them on the net, no tax, no shipping. Plus, the customer service is fabulous. The shoes are wonderful and most can be machine washed and dried. Another great feature is that the insert comes out and the toe part of the sole is clear so you can tell when your child needs new shoes. My daughter is 20 months and she still wears them. Great features and people are always complimenting the shoes. Monika

Shoes for 14-mo-old new walker

Oct 2003

Our daughter is almost 14 months and has just started walking- takes about 5 steps at a time usually and can go across the room sometimes but does best still holding on to someone's hand. I've heard that you shouldn't buy shoes until they're ''walking well,'' and we've never put anything but socks on her feet-and yet most babies I see out and about who I know aren't walking yet have shoes on. We're looking for some advice as to what kind of shoes to get (the ones I saw at Target all had really thick soles-like adult running shoes, and I've heard you're supposed to start with a thin sole)...and good places to get them. What should we be looking for and where? Julie


I recommend Robeez brand shoes. They're soft, slipper-like shoes which I understand are the next best thing to going barefoot (which supposedly is best for a new walker, at least indoors). They're made out of soft leather, with an elasticized opening that helps keep them on (they're the only shoes my 16 month old can't pull off of his feet). The soles have pretty good grip, and they offer a bit more protection than just socks -- my son even wears them outdoors. They're a bit pricey ($22/pair), but I think they're worth it -- I think there are also some cheaper Robeez-like shoes available though I'm not quite sure where to buy them. Diane
I am not a pediatrician or a podiatrist, just a mom of a 14 month old walker, so you might want to do a quick check with your baby^Rs doctor.

My son started to cruise about 3 months ago and has been walking all over the place for about 1 1/2 months. Although our parents were always told to put new walkers in hard soled shoes this information has now been discredited by the medical profession, as far as I know. The newest common advise is that you don't put beginning walkers in shoes until you have to (to keep them warm or to protect their feet outside, for example) since it's more beneficial for them to 'feel' their feet and the ground they're walking on while they're learning this new skill. Makes sense. I've even seen baby shoe advertisements state this up front in the form of "barefoot is better but when it's time for shoes"

If you keep them in socks make sure they have rubber treads on them so they don't slip. Payless and The Gap make soft soled tennis shoes but they seem to only go up to 12 months or size 3 or so. The best shoes I've found are the Robeez. You won't find them in Target or Babies 'R' Us but instead in smaller baby stores. These are great little leather shoes that are comfy, conform to baby's feet, and maintain a feel for the ground as they learn and perfect walking. And they won't slip off. They are expensive though, between $20 and $25 with tax. I'm quite the tightwad and we are a single income household but this expense was well worth it.

p.s. About those little tiny, thick, rigid soled shoes. Just because they're cute and available everywhere doesn't mean that they're necessary or even beneficial baby's feet. Mom running five steps behind


We were told that kids don't need shoes at all until they can walk well outside. My now 16-month-old just got her first pair of real shoes this week (made by Stride Rite - very flexible soles). She started walking at 13 months and for that 3-month period we kept her in bare feet or socks indoors and Robeez outdoors. Robeez are the little leather shoe/slipper-like things with suede bottoms so the kids don't slip. They go in the washer when dirty and we found them great for going to the park, learning to walk on the sidewalk, etc. They offer more protection than just socks would. They come in all kinds of colors and designs and can be found just about anywhere kids shoes are sold. I've also found them at Rockridge Kids and Cotton & Company. Sweet Dreams/Teddy's Little Closet on College in the Elmwood district had a particularly good selection. Lisa
Your baby needs shoes designed for new walkers, with very flexible soles. My personal favorites are Elefanten (sold at Nordstrom, Cotton & Co., and higher end kids shoe stores)~ They are soft, very flexible and offer good support for young walkers. They have white (my favorite)and also colors. Stride Rite also has early walker shoes which I have heard are very good. The key for young feet is flexibility. Rachel
check out Cotton and Company on College Ave - they know a lot, are very helpful, and know how to get a fidgety todder fitted and out of there quickly == our favorites when our daughter was a new walker were Stride Rite bootie type shoes with a very flexible sole - we've been told by everyone (doc included) not to have a stiff sole for a new walker. Ioana
Go to Cotton and Company on College Ave. They carry Stride Rite and other good brands of baby/toddler/kid shoes. Their staff is well-trained in proper fit--they won't sell you shoes that won't fit, and if they think your daughter isn't quite ready for shoes, they'll ask you to come back when she's a bit older. I can't remember her name, but an older woman (the owner?) with glasses does a marvelous job. I think Nordstroms carries similar shoes, but the prices are the same and Cotton and Co has a wider range of sizes, which is important is your daughter has really narrow or really wide feet. Kristine
We bought our son's first pair of shoes before he was really walking because we were going on a ski trip, and we wanted him to be able to romp in the snow with protected feet! We took him to the Cotton & Co. shoe department where the salesperson observed him ''cruising'' (walking while holding onto something) and said he'd be fine wearing shoes occasionally because of something about the position of his feet.

Somewhat thick-soled shoes are fine as long as they're very flexible. Stride Rite's ''first walker'' shoes are in this category. You can also go for something like Padders or Robeez slipper-type shoes, which have very thin soles -- just a little tougher than socks. These provide a little warmth, protection and grip for a baby who is standing and cruising but do not interfere with the development of the baby's feet or his learning to walk properly.

I wouldn't recommend Target shoes until your child really is walking well. (They're great for preschoolers though!) But Payless Shoes has pretty good Stride Rite knockoffs, which are a good option for early walkers if you don't want to pay $40 for a pair! Holly


I never put shoes on my one-year-old child in the house, no matter how cute the shoes were. Kids' shoes look cute, but they don't really do the kids any good indoors. When he did need to wear shoes (e.g. at the park, especially when it's cold), I used one of two things. Either some soft, slipper-like shoes (I think they're called Robis), or some very soft-soled tennis shoes (soft enough that I could fold them completely in half) that I bought at Rockridge kids. I didn't buy the harder soled tennis shoes until he was two years old and walking with no trouble at all. Maybe a little extreme, but I've had foot trouble off and on all my life, and would prefer to help my child avoid it. anonymous
My pediatrician also advised no shoes until walking was firmly established. Then she recommended a shoe with a flexible sole. Boy, let me tell you those baby shoes are not cheap! Recommended places for fittings are: Cotton and Company (Rockridge), Nordstrom(Marin) and ECCO (San Franscisco). Recommended brands Stride Rite, Elephanten, ECCO. I followed the Doctor's orders. Wallet now empty. Leslie
You should definitely stick to thin soled shoes for ''new walkers.'' Kids need to feel the ground with their feet to develop good walking skills. There are lots of good soft soled shoes around that protect their feet while they learn to walk. Several stores are carrying them now. Some of the brands are Robeez (I think that's how you spell it) or Bobux. They look like little leather mocassins with elastic around the ankle to keep it on their feet. Nordstrom is a good place to start because I know they have several patterns, but you can also look up Bobux on the internet if you want to shop from home. Good luck! Kristin
Stride Rite makes a wonderful line of shoes called ''pre- walkers''. They're soft and thin-soled and specifically designed for babies learning to walk. Check out the Stride Rite outlet at the Gilroy Outlets or Petaluma Outlets (only about 40 mins. up Highway 101). We've bought numerous shoes at over 50% - 60% off at the outlet! Linda

Where to buy the first pair of shoes

May 1999

re: child's first shoes
I bought my children's shoes at McPhee's Junior Bootery in the El Cerrito Plaza. Paul, the older gentleman who works there, is an absolute artist at fitting shoes to children's feet. I often feel that that little shop is a gold mine tucked in a wasteland (the El Cerrito Plaza). The shoes may have been more expensive than most, but they were great shoes, and they always fit. It also reminded me of some of my happiest childhood memories, when my parents took me into the nearest city, two hours away, to be fitted with Stride Rites. I was sorry when my kids outgrew that shop! Melissa


The UCB Parents web site almost unanimously recommends McPhee's Junior Bootery in El Cerrito Plaza. They are, apparently, one of the last old-style children's shoe stores around. They're great. They give you a lot of attention; fit your child's shoes; send reminders in the mail to come for fittings or have the velcro on your shoes fixed up; give the kids balloons with their purchases; etc. What you might want to do is have your child fitted at McPhee's for a first pair of shoes (such as Stride Right, which probably run about $35), and then for the second pair try to find similar shoes at a discount place like Marshall's (which sometimes carries Stride Right). Or, make sure to have at least one "good" pair of shoes in your son's size that you can alternate with less expensive shoes that maybe don't have as much arch support, e.g. A few stores that carry less structured shoes that run about $20 include Hannah's and A Child's Place, both on Solano near the Alameda in Berkeley, and Tiddly Winks on Gilman. Elisa
The first walkers ARE about $40, and they only keep for about 2 months. That's why we buy all our baby's shoes used. The exact same shoes that would have cost almost $40 at the childrens' shoe store on El Cerrito Plaza (I don't remenber the name of the store) I got in excellent condition for $4.50 at Darla's. Shop around in the usual second-hand baby stores. It's worth it! Angela

Another source for Stride Rite's is Carlin's in Alameda. Excellent customer service. They keep track of the shoes and sizes for you and have a buy 10/12??? shoes, get one free thing. Sophie


What we were told (by our pediatrician, I think) was that the first pair, especially, should be the good (i.e., expensive) kind, and they should be fit professionally. I guess since you have no way to know whether your child has especially wide or narrow feet, etc. They should also be supportive & good quality (i.e. flexible & sturdy, with some ankle support) for feet that are still very much in the developmental stage. Four years later, we still get one pair of the least expensive sneakers we can find at McPhees at El Cerrito Plaza 2 or 3 times a year, just to make sure about the fit. (They definitely seem to know what they're doing.) Then, if we need sandals or extra shoes we go to Target or something & hope for the best. I think that the cheaper shoes often run a little bigger, but it's hard for me to tell (which is why I go to McPhees.) I like McPhees the best because they're small & independent, & one of the few remaining businesses at the Plaza, but if it's more convenient, a friend recommended buying Stride Rite shoes (which is probably what you'll end up with, anywhere you go) at Nordstrom (Marin, I think) where the staff is competent and kind, & the prices were actually a little lower than the Stride Rite store itself (also Marin? or Hilltop?)

One more quick thing about McPhees - good info even for those who love the place already - if your child's shoes wear out before their feet grow too big for them, they will likely replace the shoes for free. We bought boots with hard toes once (won't do it again) & very quickly holes wore through both the toes. They suggested that we don't buy hard-toed shoes any more, but they replaced them for nothing. I wouldn't have known if a friend's dad hadn't told me (they had the same shoes.) Leah


McPhee's at El Cerrito Plaza is just terrific! They carry a great selection and are very knowledgeable and helpful with kids. Super service. We've used them since I was a kid myself.


Rockridge Kids on College Avenue just south of the Rockridge BART station has (or used to have, last time I looked) lightweight canvas rubber-soled kids shoes with Velcro fastening in sizes up to 7, available in navy blue and red. I don't remember the price, but I'm pretty sure it was under $20. They also have sturdier leather shoes which go up to larger sizes. I had a very difficult time getting my daughter to tolerate shoes until I found the canvas ones at Rockridge Kids, which she found very comfortable; when she grew out of them we moved on to their leather ones. The canvas ones wear out fairly fast, but at that age kids outgrow them fairly fast too. Hannah


shoes for kids: I heartily recomment McPhee's at El Cerrito Plaza. Nice selection, nice people who take time with your child to make sure the fit is correct.


I recommend McPhees at El Cerrito Plaza. They aren't as cheap as Target, but are very honest. They really know their business and will make sure that your child's first pair of shoes fit correctly. Also, they will not sell you new shoes if your child doesn't need them!! Barbara


I like Cotton & Company on College Ave. in Oakland. Call before you go and check if Colette will be in the store (she's one of the owners or mom of one of the owners). Colette has been doing this for a long time and is well experienced and very patient in fitting younger kids who'd rather be somewhere else. They also have a basket of books/toys that help. C&C carries Stride Rites and Elefanten, among other brands. While their selection is clearly limited compared to say Nordstroms, the service and attention we've received from Colette is unbeatable. We bought our first pair of walking shoes there when my daughter was 17 months old. My daughter is now 3yo and I still buy her primary shoe(s) for the season there (and "supplement" with shoes from other stores). (Colette is the only person who's ever pointed out that my daughter's feet are of different lengths--by 1/2 size.) IMO don't buy cheap shoes. You'll pay more, but you'll notice the difference re. fit, sole flexibility, leather softness and breathability, and how the shoe stands up to wear and tear. Debbie


McPhee Junior Bootery in El Cerrito Plaza is a great place to get childrens' shoes -- personal service by people who know what they are doing. Marie


We have had luck finding shoes and sandles at Rockridge Kids (in the $17-$24 range) on College Avenue. Also, Ross, located in downtown Berkeley or Emeryville has shoes at large markdowns (i.e $10/pair) but it is hit or miss there, and when they have nothing decent you have to be willing to try again another week. We have also used McPhees, a kids shoe store, which is pricey, but sometimes has good shoes on sale in the $25 range. It may be a good idea to get your first shoes at a kids shoe store like McPhee's (in the El Cerrito mall), so you can learn from an experienced fitter, and then do it yourself afterwards. Good luck. Mpbannet


I just have to respond to all the recommendations re: McPhee's Junior Bootery in El Cerrito. While I agree that they are very good at fitting, I want to caution you. Our daughter was born with "positional clubbed feet" meaning her feet were bent inwards, but were flexible enough to bend back to the regular position. We went to the head pediatric orthopedic doctor at Children's Hospital regularly, (who told us that she could just wear hand me down shoes from her brother...expensive/Stride Rite/children's shoes don't matter as much as people think they do.) He said she needed no special shoes, etc. Having been told that, I went to McPhee's anyway, as I'd heard they were good. The owner refused to size her, saying that he couldn't in good conscience recommend shoes for her, since he believed that she should have reverse-laced shoes - those that sometimes have a bar between them and that are facing the opposite way of regular shoes. We assured him we had been seeing a doctor for her and he said that regular shoes were fine. The owner wouldn't budge. (Moral - HE IS NOT A DOCTOR! Her feet are fine...she is 5 1/2 now and has always worn "regular shoes"...he overstepped his bounds as a shoe salesman, in my book.)

Diana


McPhees' Jr. Bootery at El Cerrito Plaza They're great and they won't try to sell you new shoes if you don't need them. Barbara
We've always gone to McPhee's, in El Cerrito Plaza. The shoes there are not as cheap as the ones at Target, but you're always sure they fit. Paul, the manager, seems to have been selling kid's shoes for about 40 years. Christina
To the parent looking for a good shoe store, I have been going to McPhees at El Cerrito Plaza in El Cerrito on San Pablo near Fairmount. The store itself is near Lucky's. I found the sales people knowledgeable and patient and concerned with the proper fit for growing feet. It can be crowded on Sunday afternoons, but they hold store hours 7 days per week. They will also send you a reminder notice after a few months to come in and check the sizing on the last pair of shoes you bought. If you go on a Saturday, there is a Farmer's Market at the Plaza that is also nice. Good luck! Mary
McPhee's Bootery in the El Cerrito Plaza is a full service shoe store for kids. They fit your child and keep a card on each child so that they will be able to track the growth of those little feet! They cost more than other shoe stores, but you're paying for the service, and they do have good sales periodically. Leslie
I bought my children's shoes (mostly Stride Rites) at McPhee's Junior Bootery at the El Cerrito Plaza, from the time they first "needed" shoes (walking outdoors) till they outgrew the sizes, and I always felt that my children were very well fitted, and that we were treated with the utmost care and consideration. Good shoes aren't cheap, and you'll pay more for Stride Rites than Target specials, but in this area, and during the important developmental stages, I felt it was absolutely worth it. It's especially nice if you can get Paul, the manager, to fit your child, as he is the best I've ever seen at this sensitive task.

It was a sad day when I bought my daughter her last pair of Stride Rites. (I'd like to hear from other parents with these feelings about good shoes as to where to go for the next round -- from elementary school till middle school, when I suppose my opinion on shoes won't count for much!) Melissa


On the subject of walking shoes, I highly recommend Junior Bootery in El Cerrito Plaza, I have bought most of my kids shoes there, and always get professional and friendly service. It can be busy on weekends (the only time I get to shop) and the help is sometimes young and new, but they always get a second opinion from a more seasoned sales person if they are unsure about the fit. And both of my kids are HARD to please. Helen
May I be the 10th to repeat that McPhee's Junior Bootery is of course the A#1 best children's shoe store around. (In fact, they could be the only children's shoe store around.) They are one of the last businesses left at El Cerrito Plaza. They are extremely knowledgable and helpful about correct fit, and which shoes will really last and which are junk (mostly they don't even carry junk). Go early on Saturday (10ish), check out the Farmer's Market, and don't miss the train in the Kit & Caboodle window. (It's real boring to hold your child up & walk back & forth 50 times, but she/he will love it.) If, like me, you need more shoes than you can afford every once in a while at McPhee's, just try the Berkeley Ross upstairs. I even found StrideRite there - once. I depend on McPhee's for fit though, always. They invariably tell me my son's feet are bigger than I thought. Leah
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