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Shoe Buying Guide for Kids

Shoe shopping may be retail therapy for you, but when it's for your child the experience is usually more ugh! than ahh! There are so many questions: Should you opt for a sneaker or walking shoe? How do you know if you're buying the right size? Is a pair from a bargain store as good as a brand name shoe? We'll answer these questions and more in our buying guide for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

For babies: It's best to let your little one go barefoot as much as possible at this age. "Infants learn to walk by gripping the ground in a heel to toe manner, and it's easiest to do this barefoot," says Tanya Remer Altmann, M.D., pediatrician and author of Mommy Calls. But if you're taking your baby outside and want to protect his feet from the sun or cold, opt for something that's soft, flexible and breathable. You could simply put on a pair of socks, if he won't be tempted to pull them off, or you could look for a moccasin-like shoe, such as those from Robeez and PediPed.

For toddlers: Once your baby begins walking, you have to think about protecting her little tootsies. That means buying a shoe or sneaker with a firm but flexible sole, suggests Dr. Altmann. And be sure to have your child's foot measured by someone who has experience working with kid's feet to make sure you buy the right size. And stay on top of rechecks; aim to do them every couple of months because toddlers' feet grow rapidly. Don't feel like dropping 50 bucks on a pair that will only fit for a few months? Then don't. That's called smart shopping!

For preschoolers: By now your little one is putting his shoes to the test on a daily basis -- running, jumping, splashing in puddles and more. While you'll want to follow the same guidelines as with babies and toddlers, you also want something that's durable. So now's the time when it might make sense to spend a little more. Plus, at this age, you won't have to buy new pairs quite so frequently, but be prepared: Kids can still go up two sizes in a year!

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