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Baby booties are small, soft shoes designed to fit on the feet of babies. Since infants cannot walk, booties are designed with the comfort and warmth of the child in mind, and are usually soft soled. Infants' extremities can get easily chilled, and shoes help to keep feet warm and snug, even in chilly weather. In addition to being practical, they are often designed with bright decorative colors or fanciful designs. Often, booties are part of the going home package given to new parents at hospitals, and some parents save old ones as sentimental reminders of childhood.
A number of materials are used to make baby booties including leather, felt, yarn, and heavyweight cotton, flannel, or other fabrics. The material of choice depends on the age of the child and the ambient temperature. Since infants grow so quickly, they are usually not prohibitively expensive, since they will be replaced within a few months. Baby booties slip on, and are constructed in such a way that the baby has difficulty kicking them off.
Knitted baby booties are very common. The knit is usually made with a soft hypoallergenic material that can be washed in case the booties get dirty. Many knitters make them for their parenting friends as a personal and useful gift. Crocheted baby booties made from an assortment of yarns are popular as well. In both cases, the booties can be made in an variety of sizes, and can be easily decorated with attractive patterns. The soft, flexible knit keeps the feet warm and snug, although it would not be suitable for walking or vigorous crawling.
A variation on the knitted type is felt baby booties. Traditional felting is accomplished by knitting an oversized product and then subjecting it to a hot wash, causing the knitted product to shrink and pull together. This type of felting results in a very strong, insulating shoe. Felted material made by matting textile fibers can also be cut into a pattern and sewn together to make booties, just like with cotton and other fabrics.
Soft leather is a material frequently used in baby booties as well. The leather can be lined for colder climates. Leather booties are usually carefully designed so that the seams of the shoes do not irritate young feet, and the material is highly flexible and treated to be extremely soft. For older infants, they are sometimes used as transitional shoes, protecting the feet while the baby starts to learn to crawl and ultimately walk.