Nahaufnahme eines Sandigen Untergrunds, darauf ein krabbelndes Kleinkind von hinten, mittig im Bild seine barfüßige Fußsohle.

From first steps to the first pair of shoes

Such tiny baby feet and such delicate little toes! I’m sure all of us have held our babies’ feet in our hands and been amazed at how small they are.

The tender, pink skin shimmers and you can’t stop poking the little toes.

Babies and small children themselves are also so enamoured of their little feet that – long before their first steps – they stretch their legs in the air, grab their feet and play with their toes. Hey, I’ve got feet! How fascinating!

And just as we wait for the first words, we’re also impatient and excited to see our darlings’ first steps. A big development milestone.

Our child's just started shuffling around the floor, and already they’re lifting their bottom in the air and trying to get on all fours. And that doesn't keep them happy for long either. They soon want us to grab their hands and pull them to their feet. And however much they fall over at the beginning, those first steps are inevitable.

Suddenly they’re off. All on their own. Arms stretched out so you can catch them. One step, two steps, three... whoops, tripped! Doesn't matter, nothing can stop them. The world is waiting to be discovered.

Close-up of a child's legs up to the knees. The child is standing barefoot on a muddy surface at the edge of a stretch of water.

Foto: Kleine Ida

As parents we’re soon faced with the question of whether our just-about-toddler needs shoes. And what do we have to consider when buying them?

We at Wildling Shoes have thought about this question for a long time. Here are a few tips:

Let them go barefoot for as long as possible

It’ll be no surprise that we as producers of bare-foot shoes are in favour of going barefoot. But it's also one of the few tips that all experts agree on. Walking barefoot supports the healthy development of the foot and a sense of balance. If little feet are put into shoes too early, they can also become deformed. Stability already gained when walking can be lost again when the feet are in stiff shoes. Sometimes you can see that, when children who were already able to walk on their own start to trip or seem unsure when wearing shoes.

Children aren't bothered by slight unevenness on the ground, and if it's cold they can wear thick socks.

The first pair of “real” shoes should only be purchased once the child can walk reliably on their own.

Finding the right size

It's not that easy to find the right shoe size. Children usually don't realise that they’re wearing shoes that are far too small. Sizes given by shoe manufacturers vary enormously and don't really tell you much about the actual fit and length.

Nor is the famous press on the toe of the shoe a reliable indicator of whether the shoe is too tight after all. Children pull their toes back in a reflex action, or they bend them, making the foot seem shorter than it really is. The best thing to do is measure your child’s foot and then compare that length with the inside length of the shoe. The Wildling Shoes Size Finder will help you find the right shoe size. Children need lots of space in their shoes. There should be at least 12 mm between the end of the longest toe and the end of the shoe in order to make sure there’s enough room for movement.

    Choose flexibility

    So that small children can find their balance, they need as much direct contact as possible with the ground. In particular because the feet are still blessed with a layer of fat on the sole and can adapt flexibly to the surface below, a thick, stiff sole would be not only redundant but also damaging.

    You can see the importance of having a sole that's as thin and flexible as possible if you get children to walk along a (fairly thin) tree trunk. The kids with stiff shoes find it more difficult to master this exercise.

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