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Your baby will need shoes around the time they take their first steps - you'll probably have soft shoes or booties before then, but until they start to walk, a baby doesn't really need shoes. Shoe sellers will encourage you to buy 'cruisers' before your baby is walking properly, but there seems little evidence that shoes are necessary at the cruising stage; indeed opinion is often that the feet should be left uncovered for as long as possible in order to allow for the most unhindered growth of the bones in the foot.
When buying shoes, make sure that they are made from a 'breathable' material - even babies can suffer smelly feet if their feet aren't able to breath properly. Leather has always been a good material from this point of view, but canvas or other cloth-like materials are also suitable.
In terms of fastenings, velcro is the best bet if you want your child to be able to put shoes on and take them off themselves. Some children find it too easy and tempting to take velcro fastened shoes off though, you may prefer a more tamper proof fastening! Buckles and laces offer good alternatives, but you will want to make sure you can tie a double knot in laces otherwise they will be prone to coming undone the whole time.
Ideally you should have the shoes fitted properly - have your baby's feet measured to establish the best fit shoe. When the shoe is on, there should be enough room between the heel and the back to slip your little finger down, and there should be about a thumb-width of space at the front of the shoe. If there are signs of pinching or rubbing when your child removes their shoes, then they are probably too tight or incorrectly fitted. Once you start buying shoes, you should be checking their sizes every 6 - 8 weeks - their feet will grow rapidly to begin with, and slow down in a couple of years.
Buying your baby's first shoes is a milestone that indicates how rapidly your baby is developing and that your baby will soon be a toddler. Cherish the moment, and make sure you enjoy your first trip to the shoe shop!
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