Mazal Tov! Your child has finally completed five steps on his or her own, without your support and without the support of any mobile toy or your once-white walls. But just before you rush off to the shoe store to buy supportive, soft, flexible footwear, Dr. Udi Lebel, Director of Shaare Zedek's Pediatric Orthopedics Department, explains why – in most cases – it is better for you to wait and let your child walk around barefoot.

Your baby has smiled, turned over, crawled and his or her digestive system has already adapted to the world outside the womb. Now their new and challenging assignment – should they choose to accept it – is to walk!

In studies among 'barefoot' populations – Africans, Asian Indians and others – it has been found that their feet are largely much healthier than their shoe-covered peers (although there are not that many studies on the topic.)

"We have no reason to assume that wearing shoes is beneficial," explains Dr. Lebel. "Obviously they must protect their feet in cold countries and apparently that's where the "First Steps" Shoe idea came from. Shoes that are really no more than socks."

"Your baby doesn't really need you to interfere with his steps"

"Let's take one step back," says Dr. Lebel. "Healthy children begin to walk between 1-2 years old. If the child is healthy, there is no need for any significant examination before the age of two."

"…From our point of view, a "First Step" shoe should be walking barefoot. The reason for this is that we prevent the child learning their surroundings and feeling the world around them for the first time. We believe the child needs to feel the ground. The sensation has significance for the baby's development and so we don't need to stop them feeling floors, earth, grass, stones, sand or sidewalk. To start putting shoes on your child is the same as putting gloves on them. And we don't want to do that. Granted, there is not a great volume of research in this area but if the child is not cold, and there are no thorns, glass or other dangerous objects, and if the sidewalk is not too hot, there is no need for shoes."

"… In addition, we do not recommend trying to lead your child with walking accessories if they are healthy. There is no proven benefit to devices such as the various swings and walkers because walking is a built-in stage in the brain's development and its relationship to the muscular system, eye contact and balancing limbs. It is not conditional upon the maturation of the child's muscles. The child can stand from a very early age, as anyone who has held a baby and seen it push its legs to stand can attest. We recommend letting the child walk with as much support as they want, until their muscles, eyes and balancing system are ready.

"And if we've already succumbed to the trend… which shoes are best to buy?"

"If the child is developing normally, it is best to keep them barefoot for as long as possible, because that is how they will achieve stability – from the foot itself rather than from shoes. For children who find it harder, we recommend a shoe that supports the ankle and provides more stability. The shoe complicates the child, makes walking difficult, especially during the winter. Winter children's walking is always clumsier than summer children who are ‘lucky’ enough to walk barefoot. Any "First Step" shoe must be very simple and there is no need for shoes that are over complicated or expensive. But they should be attractive."