It’s hard to resist putting a pair of shoes and slippers on tiny baby feet. Those chubby baby toes look so darn cute you can’t help but want to dress them up! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, socks are all little ones need at first. You’ll know it’s time to upgrade to real shoes when they’re cruising around confidently in their baby walker. Once they start to put weight on their legs and feet, crawl, or try to stand, pre-walker shoes with soft but sturdy soles will give them the support they need.
By the time your baby finally starts taking those Instagram-worthy first steps (usually between 9 and 18 months), a pair of lightweight, flexible, rubber sole shoes — aka walker shoes — will do wonders to help them move safely and more confidently. And even though babies’ feet grow so fast that most shoes don’t last more than a few months, they’ve got to fit.
Dr. Ashley Lee of the Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists advises not to buy a size bigger (like you can with boots for the big kids) so they can grow into them because all that extra room will affect the fit, which can have an impact on their ability to stand, walk, and play with ease. As the previous Chief of Podiatric Surgery at Northwest Community Hospital and current Mama of two boys, she knows first hand what works and what doesn’t when it comes to baby walker shoes.
“Having a shoe that is too small or ill-fitting can lead to various deformities later in life, including hammertoes and bunions,” Dr. Lee said. “If a shoe is too tight or too loose, it can cause falls or make running [or walking] difficult.”
When should babies start wearing shoes?
Babies don’t need shoes until they actually begin to walk. Essentially, as soon as they’re off all fours, you want to ensure that they are protected from anything that could hurt or infect them. Although they’re ready for baby walking shoes, Dr. Lee notes that barefoot is best when indoors. She also says, “children’s feet can grow an average of 9-10 sizes from birth to 3 years old, so make sure to check their shoe fit every 1-2 months.”
Whether your baby is just learning to stand or they’re already off and running, here’s a peek at 8 of the best baby walker shoes that moms love.
Best Baby Walking Shoes
These athletic-inspired shoes are so stylish; we’re shocked there isn’t a celebrity baby endorsement attached. There is, however, a seal of approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), so you can rest easy you’ve stepped in the right direction. With a punch of bright teal (they also come in grey), these shoes have rubber soles with a deep tread pattern that gives an extra boost of slip resistance. A flexible sole makes it easy for babies learning to walk to shift their weight from the back of the shoe to the front, and a mesh cover keeps the whole thing breathable for maximum comfort. Finally, the fan-shaped toe box resembles the shape of a child’s foot, which means your baby’s big and small toes can all move freely.
Speaking of memory foam comfiness, these sneaks from Stride Rite, a major player when it comes to baby walker shoes, also have it in the insoles, where it adds a bit of cushion thanks to flexy little grooves that move with your baby’s feet. The Soft Motion line is designed to mimic your sweetie’s natural movements (plus they’re APMA approved, too). They’ve got a soft suede upper and an easy, double closure that can be adjusted to accommodate your baby’s foot. For all you earth mamas out there, this particular pair of shoes is made in part from recycled plastic bottles— in fact, even the manufacturing of them is done with minimal waste. We love the nine different color combos available for boys and girls. They even come in different widths (med, wide and extra wide).
You’ll have to wait until your baby is at least one year old to rock these, but Natives (as fans know them) have thousands of positive reviews on Amazon, with most parents marking them the perfect shoe for sprinkler play plus visits to the pool, lake, or beach. Comprised of a rubber sole for a no-slip grip and a water-resistant acetate, these adorable kicks dry quickly while also resisting odors (a major bonus for anyone whose experienced the shock of stinky toddler feet). They’re also easy to clean— just hose them down, wipe, and go. A lightweight foam cushion and a rubber rand and toe cap protect your little one when they bump into things, which tends to happen often when you’re just learning how to walk and run. They come in 23 happy, peppy colors that will put a smile on your face — and theirs. One mom who calls herself “a huge snob when it comes to my kids’ shoes,” says they need to be “comfy, easy to put on, and cute. Natives check ALL of the boxes and more.”
With a toe cap to provide that extra bit of protection and non-slip rubber soles that come with tiny sensory pods to prevent slips and help baby maintain balance, these sweet shoes are some of our faves. They come in a ton of cute color combos for both boys and girls, they’re super lightweight, and they have memory foam footbeds so your little one can play all day without sacrificing comfort. A hook-and-loop closure makes them easy to slip on and off in a pinch, too. Moms rave about the mesh fabric overlay that’s perfect for little ones whose feet tend to sweat. It keeps those chubby tootsies cool and dry while they romp, jump, and walk their little hearts out.
For infants and toddlers who are just starting to place their weight on their feet (hey there pre-walkers!), these First Kicks have a cushioned insole with a soft suede bottom that’s designed to get them used to wearing shoes before the big switch to a pair with rubber soles. These come with a soft, elastic band in the back that makes it easy to slide them on and off, but it also keeps them in place so they won’t fall off when your cutie starts cruising. We love them because they remind us of a comfy, cute pair of espadrilles. These stylish kicks also have the seal of approval from the APMA.
Staying inside? These easy-on, easy-off booties will keep Baby’s feet warm as they waddle around the house. They’re made with soft GOTS-certified organic cotton, have no-slip bottoms, and are fastened with snap closures for a secure fit. Oh, and did we mention they’re adorable? Available in white, pink, and grey, and sizes 0-3 months through 12-18 months.
First Walking Shoes for Baby Girl
They weigh just two ounces each but don’t be fooled by these shoes’ dainty appearance! The sweet sneakers are the ideal pre-walker (they’ve even earned the “seal of acceptance” from the APMA). They’ve got a genuine leather upper with a contrast stitch in an adorable eyelet pattern, a soft leather lining, and a cushioned footbed to keep growing feet snug and comfy. The leather outsole has a diamond pattern on it for an even better grip, so your little racer won’t be slipping on her feet anytime soon. We love that they can be dressed up or down, making them the perfect go-to for any occasion.
You can’t go wrong with a classic pair of Mary Janes— they’re a childhood fashion staple. This saucy red pair adds a pop of color to any outfit while supporting your little one’s foot with comfy T straps and a leather footbed, lining, and upper (the latter comes with a fun, perforated design built right in). Each pair of FootMates is packaged with both a medium and a wide fit insole, so you can determine the best fit for your cutie once she tries them on. It’s part of their Custom Fit System, and it makes a huge difference since every child’s foot is different. The flexible rubber sole can handle just about anything, whether your tot is taking her first steps or dancing at your sister’s wedding. They come in seven colors, too, so you can find something more neutral if you like the look but don’t want to commit to the apple red shade (ooh…there’s black patent).
Baby Walking Shoes With Ankle Support
With a classic foldover Velcro strap that secures little feet in a snug and comfy hug, these Carter’s shoes are part of their Every Step collection, which comes in three stages: Crawl (1), Stand (2), and Walk (3). This particular pair is lightweight with a soft sole that provides the right amount of grip for every stage. They’re also roomy and super flexy, so when your little one walks, they sort of bend with the feet. One mom swears the Velcro makes a huge difference when you’re dealing with squirmy kids, adding, “My little guy’s feet are a little plump on top, but these shoes have a “U” like opening that doesn’t feel tight.” We love this pair for its slick brown leather upper and trendy lining, but they come in two different colors for both boys and girls.
For more great stuff for your little mover, check out some of our most recommended baby gear.