It can be tough to decide when to get shoes for your baby, but once they start walking, you’ll want to make sure their developing feet are protected. It’s okay for babies to stay barefoot or in socks some of the time as they’re first developing their balance. Once they develop a wider range of movement, especially walking around outdoors and in public areas that aren’t as clean or safe, it’s time to start looking for baby walking shoes.

At this early stage, you don’t need to worry about any forms of support the way you do for adults, since their feet and arches are still developing and your main concern is just keeping their feet covered. The biggest thing to worry about is comfort. At the beginning, you’ll be looking for something flexible that they’ll be willing to keep wearing. Start out with something soft-soled. They should be non-skid, but the soles don’t have to be thick and shouldn’t be too heavy. If they’re higher shoes or boots, make sure that ankle movement isn’t too restricted. They shouldn’t need to be broken in.

The fit should be loose enough to be comfortable, but still stay on easily, and you’ll want to check to make sure the shoes don’t pinch and don’t slide around too much. They should have about half an inch of space at the toe, and have just enough space to fit your pinky between the shoe and your baby’s heel. Try to have your baby stand up in the shoes, so that you’ll get a better sense of how they’ll fit while being used, and have your baby move around in them. Make sure it looks like they’re walking well without tripping, and see whether or not they like the feel.

Choosing shoes your baby likes will help make it easier to get them to keep the shoes on, so see what colors and styles they respond to in the store. As for closures, Velcro or slip-ons can be easier for your baby to take off, but will be easier for you to put on—trying to tie shoelaces on a baby that doesn’t want the shoes on in the first place won’t be fun.

Check regularly to make sure the shoes still fit. Remember that they’ll outgrow the shoes quickly, so while you should make sure the quality is good, you probably won’t want to spend too much money on these. With the right baby walking shoes, your child will be able to walk and start navigating new environments with plenty of confidence.