If you were to ask 20 doctors whether your baby should wear shoes or go barefoot while learning to walk, you would probably see a 50/50 split. For years, it was believed that children needed to wear shoes to get proper balance for walking. In fact, you will find a number of shoe manufacturers that have designed shoes specifically for the baby learning to walk. These shoes are wider and flatter, with the concept that this helps with balance.
However, many pediatricians and parents, me included, believe that allowing a baby to walk barefoot is more natural and an easier way to learn. By going barefoot, your child can feel the floor underneath his/her feet, using the toes for balance. The only real drawback to this method is that allowing your baby to go barefoot is not always a practical choice. Obviously, if you were out shopping, you would not want your child walking around without shoes.
More and more, pediatricians are starting to see the barefoot option of walking as viable. By letting your child go barefoot, he/she is actually able to develop better motor and muscular skill. Therefore, when your child first starts exploring on his/her own, going without shoes is fine. However, as your baby grows into the toddler phase, pre-walker shoes are a good idea, giving the child a little better grip, especially as they gain speed with age.
Just remember that when you do reach the point of buying shoes, they need to fit properly. The goal is for the shoe to have enough room at the toes for movement and even a little bit of growth. Although many parents will find shoes on sale, buy them, and assume they will fit, it is actually better to buy shoes when the child can be fitted. After all, you want your baby’s feet to be protected but also have shoes that will not do harm. Visiting a local baby or shoe store is usually the best option, allowing the salesperson to measure front to back and side-to-side. That way, you know the shoe fits.