Q: Any thoughts about hard vs. soft shoes for a 1-year old? The shoe salesman says kids need support until age 2 but I thought I'd read that pediatricians recommend flexible shoes.
A: We are asked this question frequently! It's a myth that "sturdy shoes" with hard soles and high tops are better for your child's feet; they are only more expensive. They will not help your child learn to walk sooner or better. You will need to replace your child's shoes every two to three months, because feet grow rapidly at this age; so price is an important consideration.
The purpose of shoes is to protect the feet from injury. A soft shoe with a non-skid sole can do this quite adequately and be comfortable as well. Pinch the shoe in front of your child's foot: If the shoe is big enough, there will be a full 1/2 inch of empty shoe.
Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.