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The Right Fit: Baby's First Pair of Shoes

Your little one is upright and taking her first tentative steps. You couldn't be more excited  -- you finally get to buy that adorable pair of miniature Baby Jordans. But does she really need them? Well, yes and no. When a baby first begins to toddle  -- typically between 8 and 18 months  -- there's no need for her to wear shoes inside the house. But outside, those tender feet need protection, so putting on a pair of shoes is a good idea.

The trick to finding the right shoe? Make sure it fits. Though a little extra space in the toe is necessary, don't try to make footwear purchases last longer by buying shoes a few sizes too big. A novice walker has enough trouble without slipping out of her shoes.

When your baby's trying on shoes, watch her response. If a pair seems to hurt or if she's having trouble walking, take them off. Avoid such trendy styles as pointed cowboy boots, which can pinch tiny toes and restrict growth, or clogs, which look cute but fall off easily.

Other shopping tips:

WHAT GIVES

Footwear should be porous and flexible. Shoes made entirely of rubber or plastic tend to be stiff and cause excessive sweating. Choose cloth, canvas, or leather, which stretch and allow a shoe to bend.

BUY BOXY

The dimensions of the shoe should approximate the shape of a child's foot, so choose square or oval shapes.

THUMB TEST

A child's longest toe should be a thumb's width (roughly half an inch) from the tip of the shoe.

FEEL THE HEEL

The back of the shoe should be snug but comfortable. If a baby's heel slides out easily, the shoe is too big; if the shoe pinches the heel, it's too small.

IT TAKES TWO

Have a salesperson measure both of your child's feet. Most babies have as much as a half-size difference between feet. Always buy shoes to fit the larger foot.

HIGH STYLE

For babies between the ages of 9 and 18 months, high-top sneakers and soft leather ankle boots will stay on better than low-cut styles.

KEEPING TABS

Toddlers outgrow their shoes quickly. A new pair may be too small after just three to four months. To ensure a proper fit, do the thumb test every few months.

GET IN THE GROOVE

Moderately grooved rubber soles go a long way toward preventing a wobbly toddler from slipping. Try roughing up the soles of slick-bottomed shoes with sandpaper for better traction.

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