My husband’s four-month old nephew has the cutest loafers. His mom is hip and stylish, so she only lets him wear the absolute best in baby fashion. His loafers match his hat, which match his little winter jacket. Though his multiple pairs of baby shoes are totally chic, I became curious as to whether or not babies actually need footwear. I’m all for fashion, but he obviously wasn’t in dire need of protection from the elements considering he wasn’t walking yet. I researched the question and found that a baby who wears shoes for too long each day might actually develop foot problems.

Before I get into the details, take a look at your baby’s feet (if you don’t already have their appearance memorized). Most babies have flat feet. This is not at all a cause for concern, as arches don’t develop right away. However, if the arches don’t develop eventually, your baby could have lifelong foot and leg pains unique to flat footed people.

If your baby wears structured shoes too often or for too long every day, he or she might develop flat feet. One recent study shows that children wearing shoes for more than eight hours every day are more likely to develop flat feet. It makes sense when you think about it, considering a shoe will interfere with the rapid growth a baby or child is going through at any given moment. If development is going normally, you’ll start to see arches by age three. Though, obesity also was a factor.

When your baby starts hobbling around and walking, it’s really important that you buy shoes specifically designed for the first few months of walking around. These baby shoes have special arch and ankle support so that the foot develops normally and that a normal gait is developed. However, even when the walking has started, take baby’s shoes off as often as possible. Don’t leave them on after he or she is done walking around, and only strap them on when it’s time to go outside or take laps around the house. If your child is at daycare and shoes are required all day, definitely slip them off when you both get home and give those feet a break for the night. The less often your baby wears structured shoes, the more likely it is that his or her feet will develop normally with strong arches.

Source: Josip Ivanovic: The Influence of Footwear on the Prevalence of Flat Foot. Medical Health Sciences News July 2011