Where it all began
This is us.
December 2018, first time parents when we were told we never would be (but that’s another story), and on our first holiday as a family. Our son Jasper was 5 months old and we had travelled from the Gold Coast to Perth for my younger brothers wedding. By 5 months Jasper had a sleep routine, I had learnt tired signs and I could tell the difference between a hungry cry and a tired cry. So let’s just say that I approached this trip across the country, for a wedding, with an arrogant spring in my step that I was nailing it, our baby was (and still is) a chilled out kid, he did great on the plane and I had intently shopped for a dapper little outfit from head to toe. This included matching polka dot socks to my older brother and of course cute little loafers that made the outfit.
I remember dressing Jasper in the hotel room and after getting 5 minutes down the road he was beside himself. We put it down to the hire car/car seat (babies can tell the difference between a 4wd and sedan, right?! Maybe he didn’t like being lower to the ground!). The wedding venue was a 15 minute drive, we arrived not late, but not quite early either and Jasper was still grizzly, I thought he sounded hungry, so I fed him and confirmed he had a clean nappy. Success! He was settled again. We enter the ceremony venue with about 3 minutes to spare so why not take a quick family happy snap?! In walks my sister-in-law, and Jasper spits his dummy. Cue the tears, it sounded like he was yelling at me, a cry I hadn’t really heard before. I tried all of my usual tricks but nothing would settle him so I headed off to change his nappy – still clean. Although within seconds of taking his little loafers off his feet he stopped crying. I passed it as a coincidence but as I went to put his shoes back on he started kicking and crying again. Surely, these ‘soft, pre-walker shoes’ purchased from a baby shop wouldn’t be the cause of all of this fuss, they weren’t that tight to put on. The shop sold them to me that they needed to be snug around the foot for ‘structure’ and ‘support’, something I thought as a first-time mum that my baby would need to help his development – I mean a baby shop wouldn’t sell me something that would hinder his development, would they? I decided to leave his shoes off for the rest of the night and of course, Jasper was back to my happy little boy.
Once we returned home to the Gold Coast I started my research. I visited any shop that sold baby shoes and found that every single brand of shoes sold as pre-walker shoes or, soft soled shoes, were still restrictive around the ankle, heel and toes, I also noticed that the soft-soled shoes posed a slip hazard for babies learning to pull themselves up or wanting to take those first steps, and then everything for a walking baby had a very thick sole and was even more restrictive. I started to notice when out and about babies in prams with thick, tight, shoes on fussing and kicking, and little toddlers trying to take their steps but lifting their feet as if they were marching or trying to climb invisible stairs. I spoke to medical professionals from all fields. Firstly those in paediatric care who could explain in simple terms to me why I was seeing these babies ‘march’, and then those who worked with adolescents through to adults to understand the possible effects this can have later in life. The general consensus from every professional I spoke to was that babies should not wear thick, heavy, restrictive shoes. They need free movement of their toes to balance and support their steps, and they need to feel the ground to successfully send neurological messages to their brain to develop the nerval system.
From there I started trying other sock shoe brands (we needed shoes as a day care requirement) but I couldn’t find anything to tick all of the boxes – if they had a large toe space they developed a chemical smell quickly after being worn, if they had a rubber sole it was still a thick sole, if they had reasonable grip they were made of a hard rubber that dug into the sides of my sons chubby little feet. There was literally NOTHING out there that actually provided only benefits for delicate, growing little feet…. But I’m sure you can work out what our next move was from there…