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Ages & Stages

Shoes for Active Toddlers

​​In the early months, babies' feet develop best if they're not confined in shoes; socks are all that's needed to keep their feet warm; however, once children start walking outdoors, they need shoes for protection.

Shoe Shopping Tips for Parents

  • Look for comfortable shoes with nonskid soles, such as sneakers, that will help keep your toddler steady on slippery floors.
  • Buy well-made shoes, but don't spend a lot of money.
  • At this stage, your child's feet grow so rapidly that the first pair of shoes won't last more than 2 or 3 months.

Checking the Fit

You should check the fit about once a month; the top of your child's big toe should be about finger-width distance from the inside edge of the shoe. It's better to have no shoes at all than shoes that are too tight.

Common Concerns from Parents

"My 15 month old is showing no signs of getting ready to walk. He shows little interest in moving about."

  • Possible cause: Developmental delay
  • What parents should do: Talk with your pediatrician to arrange an evaluation of your toddler's development.

"My child turns her toes noticeably inward when she walks."

  • Possible cause: Normal developmental stage
  • What parents should do: This tendency usually disappears as your child matures. It rarely interferes with mobility. See Pigeon Toes (Intoeing).

"My child is limping. She is complaining of pain."

  • Possible cause: Injury, infection, arthritis, or another condition that requires treatment
  • What parents should do: If you can't see and remove an obvious source of pain, such as a splinter, ask your pediatrician to determine the cause of the limp.

"My child limps but isn't complaining of pain. He walks with a waddling gait."

  • Possible cause: Neuromuscular weakness or hip joint disorder
  • What parents should do: Talk with your pediatrician, who will examine your child and determine whether he should be seen by another pediatric specialist.

"My child often walks on the balls of her feet after many months of walking."

  • Possible cause: Habit or a neuromuscular problem
  • What parents should do: Although normal during early walking, walking on the toes or the balls of the feet after 2 years of age should be evaluated. Ask your pediatrician to determine whether your child has a problem that requires treatment.

"My toddler has difficulty walking. He falls a lot and has trouble getting on his feet again. He uses his hands to climb up his legs when trying to stand. He tends to waddle when he walks."

  • Possible cause: Muscular dystrophy or another neuromuscular condition that requires diagnosis and treatment
  • What parents should do: Call your pediatrician, who will examine your child and may refer you to another pediatric specialist. If the diagnosis is confirmed, your child will need long-term treatment. Your pediatrician will also help you find support groups for children and parents.

Last Updated
The Big Book of Symptoms: A-Z Guide to Your Child’s Health (Copyright © 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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