The importance of soft-soled footwear
Baby footwear brand Dotty Fish have been working with The London Podiatry Centre, one of the most advanced podiatric clinics in the world. They looked closely at the effects of soft-soled footwear on a child who is learning to walk and taking those crucial first steps.
For many years there has been a perception that a baby’s first shoe should be a structured shoe that will help keep them steady on their feet, but this is a misconception. Dotty Fish and The London Podiatry Centre hope to re-educate parents about the right kind of footwear they should be choosing for their children. In fact, the very best thing for a baby learning to walk and a toddler who is new to walking is to have bare feet, but this isn’t always practical in the artificial, modern world we live in. The next best thing is to have an extremely lightweight flexible shoe with a thin, non-slip sole that protects a baby’s delicate foot and prevents slipping. This type of shoe will still give them all the benefits of walking barefoot whilst protecting their feet and allowing them to feel the floor beneath them. “We want to educate parents and childcare professionals on why soft soled shoes are better for developing feet. The anatomy of a baby or toddler’s foot is different from an adult and we need to take this into account when buying those first few pairs of shoes,” explains Helen. “A baby’s foot doubles in size between birth and the age of 4 years. By their first birthday their foot is almost half the size it will be as an adult. Babies have 22 partially developed bones in their feet that are mostly cartilage while adults have 26 bones. This rapid growth and development needs to be kept in mind when choosing which shoes to buy.” Shoes for young babies and children need to be: • Flexible so feet can move naturally • Lightweight allowing for natural ankle, knee and hip movement • Wide around the toes to allow the feet to spread when standing • Thin soled so children’s toes can grip the floor in the same way as if they were barefoot • A snug fit so they don’t come off but without restricting movement or growth • Made from a breathable material as babies’ feet sweat 2-3 times more than adults’ do.
As children’s feet develop they need room to spread and move in as natural a way as possible. When they have soft, flexible shoes on they do not impede natural foot movement and this allows development to take place unhindered. Ron explains, “A key thing is actually that we don’t want to see any change between bare feet and the shoe, we just want to see normal natural function and to make sure that it’s not impeded by footwear and so far the results are encouraging.”