“What shoes should I buy for my cruising baby?” or “When should I buy my baby his first pair of shoes?” are questions you hear again and again in parenting groups. It can be really hard to know what’s right, with lots of conflicting advice around, and all kinds of shoes available in the shops.

When my eldest was a baby, I came across Dotty Fish leather shoes (although at the time known by a different name), and they were amazing! My boys were all on the later side in walking (at 15 months, 18 months and 14 months) so they spent quite a while in that stage where as non-walkers, they weren’t quite ready for “proper” shoes but still needed something to protect their feet so that they could explore in places like the park.

Nine years and four kids later, I’m still loving Dotty Fish shoes and have a few different pairs for N. I got her first pair at 7 months once she was cruising around and wanting to stand, to prevent her from slipping while in tights or socks, but still giving her freedom not to be restricted or weighed down by heavy shoes.

Dotty Fish have been working with The London Podiatry Centre, one of the most advanced podiatric clinics in the world. They looked closely at the effects of soft-soled footwear on a child who is learning to walk and taking those crucial first steps.

Dotty Fish have always been passionate about baby foot health and are keen to get the message out to parents on the benefits of wearing soft sole shoes. “We want to give people the information needed to make an informed choice when buying footwear for young children. We want to create a movement, one that looks at what is best for babies’ feet.” explains Helen Chapman, founder of Dotty Fish

The London Podiatry Centre has one of the most advanced dedicated podiatric gait facilities anywhere in the world and have a wealth of information when it comes to foot health especially paediatric foot health. This is the first time they have ever worked with a baby shoe brand to analyse a child taking those early steps wearing a soft sole baby shoe.“We are an evidence-based clinic and we use very advanced technology to help us determine if something helps biomechanically” explained Ron McCulloch, Consultant Podiatric Surgeon and Director at The London Podiatry Centre. “So far the results have been encouraging”.

For many years there has been a perception that a baby’s first shoe should be a structured shoe that will help keep them steady on their feet, but this is a misconception. Dotty Fish and The London Podiatry Centre hope to re-educate parents about the right kind of footwear they should be choosing for their children. In fact, the very best thing for a baby learning to walk and a toddler who is new to walking is to have bare feet but this isn’t always practical in the artificial, modern world we live in. The next best thing is to have an extremely lightweight flexible shoe with a thin, non-slip sole that protects a baby’s delicate foot and prevents slipping. This type of shoe will still give them all the benefits of walking barefoot whilst protecting their feet and allowing them to feel the floor beneath them.

“We want to educate parents and childcare professionals on why soft soled shoes are better for developing feet. The anatomy of a baby or toddler’s foot is different from an adult and we need to take this into account when buying those first few pairs of shoes,” explains Helen. “A baby’s foot doubles in size between birth and the age of 4 years. By their first birthday their foot is almost half the size it will be as an adult. Babies have 22 partially developed bones in their feet that are mostly cartilage while adults have 26 bones. This rapid growth and development needs to be kept in mind when choosing which shoes to buy.”

Shoes for young babies and children need to be:

  • Flexible so feet can move naturally

  • Lightweight allowing for natural ankle, knee and hip movement

  • Wide around the toes to allow the feet to spread when standing

  • Thin soled so children’s toes can grip the floor in the same way as if they were barefoot

  • A snug fit so they don’t come off but without restricting movement or growth

  • Made from a breathable material as babies’ feet sweat 2-3 times more than adults’ do

This short video on the testing at the London Podiatry Centre was really interesting to see, and it’s clear that Dotty Fish really do care about how shoes affect babies feet, and designing a product that is just as good developmentally as walking barefoot.

Now that N has been walking for a good few months, I was really interested to try out a new product from Dotty Fish – Shimmy Shoes, which are a slightly more structured shoe for early walkers. They are a more luxury shoe which are lovely for parties or special occasions, and although are a little more structured they are still soft, with a flexible slip resistant rubber sole, and good quality leather uppers.

I chose a pair of patent black party shoes for N, and she seems to find them very comfortable. She was running around happily as soon as she put them on, and she often gets them out of the wardrobe saying “shoes! shoes!” asking to wear them so I think it’s safe to say she is a fan.

When she first started walking more confidently unaided, I did take her to get her feet measured and interestingly she refused to walk in some of the slightly heavier first walker shoes and wasn’t happy with them at all. So we put her into a pair of “cruiser” shoes, even though she was a walker not a cruiser. A few of my friends have done the same thing and found that transitioning via a lighter more flexible pair of shoes does help, even though your child is already walking. I would say the Shimmy Shoes are definitely more flexible and lightweight like the cruiser type of shoes, but they are sturdy enough that I feel very happy with N wearing them out and about on all kinds of flooring or outdoors.

The Shimmy Shoes do not come with a width fitting, but they are wide opening and fastened with velcro that can be closed as tightly or loosely as you need. N is in a 3G size shoe with her cruiser shoes, so I decided to try a 4 with the Dotty Fish Shimmy Shoes and I would say that was the right decision. There’s not a huge size difference between them as you can see from the photo below, but there is a sizing and measuring guide on the Dotty Fish site to help you out.

Visit DottyFish.com for info on both their Shimmy Shoes and baby leather shoes ranges, and find out more. I really would whole heartedly recommend them, and other mums that I’ve told about these shoes have been so happy to discover them too.

*Some of the shoes pictured were sent for review