Look for baby shoes with these features:

Comfortable (the correct size)
Nonskid sole
Soft, flexible sole (You should be able to bend the shoe in half, touching toe to heel, but the sole should still be thick enough to protect against rocks and sharp objects.)
Firm yet flexible heel cup
Wide toe box
Slight rise in the toes

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the two most important things when buying baby and toddler shoes are comfort and nonskid soles (to prevent slips and falls).

They also advise not spending too much money on baby and toddler shoes, since they’ll likely outgrow them within just a couple of months. (Your kiddo’s feet will grow fast up through age two, and even then they won’t slow down by much.)

Remember that barefoot is best, but “if you cannot let your walking baby go barefoot, choose a soft, flexible-sole shoe to provide protection while still giving many of the benefits of being barefoot, like being able to move and bend the foot easily,” Dr. Agnese says.

Soft-soled shoes vs. hard-soled shoes for babies and toddlers
Soft-soled shoes are lightweight and flexible, making them better for new walkers as they get used to balancing and positioning their feet on the ground. These aren’t to be confused with soft-soled moccasins or booties; soft-soled shoes that are appropriate for walking babies and younger toddlers have a firm heel cup and soles that are thick enough to protect little feet from sharp or rough objects.

Hard-soled shoes are heavier, rigid and typically have thicker soles. They should be avoided for new walkers because the rigidity can impair foot development and make it harder to learn to walk. Hard-soled shoes are better for providing more stability once your toddler has started running, jumping and climbing, Noland writes.