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If you've been drooling over those adorable dress shoes for your baby, you may want to hold off: Putting shoes on infants isn't necessarily a good idea. "If it's a special occasion, shoes are fine—but otherwise, it's best to keep your baby barefoot until he's walking outside on unsafe surfaces or his feet need to be covered due to the weather," says Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D., a pediatrician in Westlake Village, Calif., and author of The Wonder Years (Bantam). Meantime, follow these tips to help your child put his best foot forward:
Do get a shoe with a stiff sole if your child isn't walking by about 17 months. "Children who are late walkers tend to have very flat, flexible feet," says Ronald Valmassy, DPM, a podiatrist at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. "They need a stable base of support to push off from."
Don't buy shoes with an inflexible sole unless your child is a late walker. Look for brands that are firm enough to protect your baby's tootsies yet allow him to bend his feet easily. Some great choices: Livie & Luca, Pediped, See Kai Run.
Do skip socks indoors—an unsteady walker can slip on slick floors. If you want to keep those little toes warm, opt for soft, flexible shoes with nonslip or suede soles, like Robeez.
Don't put your youngster in sandals too often. "Sandals are not for toddlers who are running, climbing and getting into everything," Altmann says.
Do re-evaluate the size of your child's shoes every three months. Expect to size up quarterly in the first three years.
Don't worry about ankle support—it's unnecessary.