Baby’s first steps are an exciting (and somewhat scary!) milestone for parents. Your formerly stationary baby now has all the moves to get into all the things you don’t want them to. (If you’ve already babyproofed, kudos! If you haven’t, check out our guide here.) It also means baby can no longer rock just a pair of socks to the playground.
Before shopping for their first pair of real shoes, make sure you know what to look for in a walking shoe. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends baby hang out with bare feet as much as possible to help strengthen the muscles in their feet. First shoes, then, are really meant to protect their little feet from injury or infection, while preserving as much as possible the benefits of being bare foot.
A good first shoe should be:
- Lightweight: Learning to walk is hard! A too-heavy shoe can make it even harder by making it tough for baby to fully pick up their feet.
- Flexible: You want to be able to easily bend and twist the shoe. Stiff or structured shoes can lead to foot deformities, lack of mobility and weakness, according to the AAP.
- Non-skid: There’s a reason even the littlest socks come with nonstick grips on the bottom: learning to walk is slippery business! Look for rubber or leather soles that will provide a solid platform for baby’s early steps.
- No corrective features: The simplest shoes are the best. At this age, baby’s don’t need ankle or arch support, and in fact, those features can be detrimental to baby’s developing feet.
Now that you know the features of a solid first shoe, here are our picks:
BEST FOR EVERYDAY
These adorable shoes have a very simple, flat rubber sole that promotes baby’s ability to stabilize themselves while also ensuring they don’t slip. The reinforced toe provides protection from an errant piece of furniture and the single velcro strap makes getting these on and off squirmy feet a breeze.
BEST BUDGET FIND
Baby feet grow fast, so if you’re looking for a shoe that’s fairly inexpensive but also cute and functional, you’ll want to nab a pair of these. They look like a cross between a sock, a sneaker and a moccasin. Generally baby’s do well with some sort of fastening mechanism to keep the shoe snug around their feet, but if these fit properly, the elastic should work similarly. They’re super breathable, can be worn without socks and have solid rubber soles and toe protection.
BEST MARY JANE DRESS SHOE
If you need a dress shoe, this Kuner Baby shoe is perfect. It’s largely comfy padded leather, with two rubber patches on the soles to provide traction. Sadly it doesn’t come in a gender neutral version, but if your little one likes pink, they’re in luck!
BEST BOAT DRESS SHOE
If you’re looking for a classic, always-in-style option for fancier events, you can’t go wrong with this super cute boat shoe from Carter’s. The sole is a bit thicker than those of the other options featured here, but is still intended to allow your little one to feel the ground when walking.
BEST MOCCASIN STYLE SHOE
If you’ve loved dressing your little one in baby mocs, never fear! Lucky Love makes moccasins perfect for first walkers thanks to their simple, durable rubber soles. Same adorable style, but now perfectly functional for your kiddo’s first steps. The company also guarantees their shoes for life, so if for any reason you aren’t happy, simply contact them and they’ll make it right.
BEST BARELY THERE BOOTIE
Technically these are booties, not shoes, but when it comes to baby’s feet staying comfy and cozy, who cares? Zutano, whose booties you’ll see on newborns everywhere, makes a version that can double as an early walking “shoe” thanks to the grippy bottom. They won’t work in wet or very cold weather, but they’re a great option otherwise and can be thrown in the wash after a day at the park.
Editorial Director of MamasUncut. Currently back on the East Coast. Most days spent chasing after two young kids and our very patient rescue mutt. Learning that parenting never really gets easier it just gets … different. Love running and water views. Also all the coffee.