You may have heard from your pediatrician that the best footwear choice to teach your child how to walk is actually no footwear at all. Children learn and develop fastest when they are allowed to walk barefoot. Unfortunately, it's not possible for most toddlers to walk barefoot all the time. Since your toddler needs to wear shoes, it's best to learn what qualities to look for to help him get the ankle support he needs.
Since the best way for toddlers to learn to walk is to go barefoot, the next best thing is to provide your toddler with shoes that feature soft, flexible soles. Flexible soles allow your toddler to feel more of the ground beneath her feet. This helps her balance herself. At the same time, these flexible soles should protect your toddler's feet from cold weather, puddles, sharp objects and other hazards of walking. Soft, flexible rubber soles are also a good way to transition from your toddler's soft, all leather shoes to the tougher, rubber soles of most big-kid shoes. Hard rubber soles can cause ankle injuries when toddlers trip over them or struggle with them.
Wide, Flat Soles
In addition to flexibility, it is important for your toddler's shoes to have wide, flat soles. Most toddlers have wide feet and squeezing them into narrow shoes can cause them pain, discomfort and awkwardness, thus slowing down the learning process when it comes to walking. Most babies are also naturally flat footed. According to Dr. Peter Gabbons, this causes many of them to turn their ankles in when walking, leading their parents to believe that they have weak or problematic ankles. This turning in is actually totally normal and healthy, though. It would be a mistake for parents to put their toddlers in high-top shoes to correct this turn because the shoes won't affect the toddler's arch, the cause of the problem, and may actually inhibit walking.
Contrary to what you may have learned from your grandparents, toddlers ankles naturally tend to roll and wobble as they learn to walk. This is perfectly healthy. Do not put your toddler in high boots which constrict her movement. These boots will cause her discomfort and in the long run prevent her from developing strong, healthy ankles and legs. Choose shoes that have soft, padded collars around the ankles to prevent blistering and sores from forming as your toddler's ankles rub against her shoes while she is learning to walk. Shoes that allow the maximum freedom of movement are best for your toddler. Do not buy her shoes that restrict her ankles unless specifically directed to by her pediatrician.