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Flexible Footwear Preferable For Toddlers' First Steps

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The old line of thinking used to be "the sturdier the shoe the better" when it came to shoes for children learning how to walk, but now the best shoes are more flexible in more ways than one. NY1's Health reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.

A baby's first steps is an unforgettable event, but finding that first pair of shoes to make sure kids develop all the right moves can be a different kind of experience altogether.

"I think the first thing to find is a shoe that will actually stay on. A lot of her shoes will just fall off and she would trip and fall. That wasn't good," says parent Andy Bolt.

"I felt like it was a little confusing because there's so many choices. Some have leather soles, some have rubber soles, they're all shaped differently," says parent Jennifer Dunn.

In the long run, most of the parents who spoke with NY1 chose more flexible shoes. That is echoed by recommendations from a joint study by the Leon Root Motion Analysis Lab at the Hospital for Special Surgery and shoemaker Stride Rite.

As part of the study, babies from nine to 24 months were analyzed over a two-year period to see how they navigated terrain and obstacle courses in the most flexible to stiffest shoes.

"We found that they stumbled and fell less, walked with a more appropriate and symmetrical pattern and at a quicker speed and had loads more similar to barefoot when they wore flexible shoe technology," says Dr. Howard Hillstrom of the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Stride Rite and other shoemakers are using the studies' findings for their latest designs.

Podiatric surgeon Dr. Suzanne Levine of Lenox Hill Hospital says choosing the wrong shoes might make kids' feet suffer.

"We are seeing a lot of 15-month, 16-month-olds, even in some of our celebrities, they have these designer-type shoes on their little kids with even little heels which are clearly inappropriate. Maybe just for photo-ops, I can see it, but you don't want your child in these fashionable shoes," says Levine. "When they can place both feet on the ground, they are somewhat stable. You want a shoe with a straight lass, you want something that is not too heavy, not too light, but the traditional tie shoes are probably best."

That way, the littlest toddlers can put their best foot forward.

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