From birth until walking, shoes are not necessary; including booties. They can be restrictive to natural growth if they are too tight or small. They do not aid or encourage the child to walk. Footwear should be used for protection at this age. If the floor in your home is safe from sharp objects, it is alright to let your toddler walk naturally. When he or she leaves the house, shoes and socks should be worn.
Walking is a natural process. Don't compare your child to other children who may begin walking sooner and do not force your child to walk. Let nature take its course. In a toddler's normal gait (walking) cycle, the feet will appear flattened and turned to the outside, like a duck. With time you will notice the feet and legs rotate into a more straightened position. This will take time. You should notice less flattening of the arches and a straight walking cycle by the age of 6 to 7 years. If the arches remain flattened or legs rotated, an assessment by a chiropodist is recommended.
To help with flatfeet, special shoes or orthotics may be prescribed. To correct mild in-toeing or out-toeing, stretches or strengthening exercises may be prescribed. In a severe case, corrective shoes, splints, or night braces may be prescribed.
Children's footwear should be firm enough to support the foot, yet flexible near the toes for ease during walking and allow proper gait to take place. They can be with laces or velcro. It is important to check your child's shoe size often. Make sure there is space between the toes and the end of the shoe and that the shoes are roomy enough to allow the toes to move freely. Don't let your child wear hand-me-down shoes as this can be the cause of many foot problems.
Remember if your child is complaining of pain, is waking up in the night with pain or you notice that his/her activity level has decreased, it is time to see a chiropodist.