This is a problem I had when we transitioned out baby; she flat-out refused to wear anything except soft-soled shoes.
Needless to say, I had to do some research. And I found that babies tend to transition with the least amount of difficulty when they are learning to walk around the furniture, but are still supported by hanging on to something. For most babies, this occurs between the ages of 8 and 12 months. At that point, it's a good time to transition to a shoe with a flexible sole, such as the SRT by Stride Rite.
While I am a huge advocate of shopping for used baby clothes, I do not recommend this practice for baby shoes.
Just like an adult shoe, any baby shoe will mold to the foot that it is being worn out. And the shoe that fits little Johnny down the street may not be a molded, precise shoe for your little one. In addition, as your baby walks, the top of the shoe creases to accommodate the movement of your baby's foot; this crease at the top of the shoe will be different for every foot.
For these reasons, I recommend that you always purchase new baby shoes.
Getting a proper fit is crucial to buying baby shoes. When purchasing the first pair, follow this article, 6 Steps to Buying the First Pair of Baby Shoes.
Luckily, many baby shoes now come with a removable insole that can be placed on the ground and that your baby can stand on. Similar to those metal devices we used as kids, these insoles have lines which tell you when the shoe is a perfect fit and when it's time to buy new.
Another signs that your baby's shoes are too small is the obvious, "if it's hard to get on, it's too small."
Shoes that are too small are painful and uncomfortable for your baby; be sure you always put him in the proper size.
Additionally, it's a good idea to reference a baby shoe size chartbefore making any purchases.
While the price range for baby shoes is all over the map, I've found that 99% of the time, you get what you pay for. More expensive shoes tend to be made of softer, more flexible leather; have a more flexible sole with a wider footbed or a choice of widths; and are incredibly breathable.
So the answer is actually, "no," you do not need to buy expensive baby shoes. However, I do recommend that you not skimp on baby shoes.
With the cost of baby shoes, this is a common question. After all, who wants to spend $40–$50 on a pair of baby shoes, only to have them not fit within a few weeks?
Here's the good news. On average, a pair of baby shoes will last around 3-4 months if your child is growing at an average rate.
As you've likely noticed, nearly all baby shoes for early walkers are made of leather. This is because leather is flexible and molds quickly to a baby's foot when warmed up from your baby toddling around the house. Additionally, leather is a breathable material so it promotes a dry and healthy foot.