We often let Mr. Man walk when we are in the stores. I'm trying to teach him to walk near me and not pull things off shelves while he is still wobbly enough and slow enough that I can intervene when necessary (which, since I'd prefer he not be run over by carts or topple an entire store display, is all the time).
If you were to follow us around the store, which means you would be walking very slowly because Mr. Man stops every three steps to point out interesting things*, you would hear these phrases repeated continuously:
"We stay close to mama in the store." or "We don't pull things off the shelves, please." or "Yes, that's very interesting, isn't it? But let's leave that there." or maybe you'd just hear me sigh.
*Note: Interesting things are often ceiling fans. Also, have you ever noticed how many animals are on packaging? As each animal is now pointed out to me, I can assure you that they make up a high proportion of what's out there.
Now, just so you don't get the wrong idea, most store walking is done during times when the store is mostly empty or in home improvement stores that have very wide aisles, which we are still frequenting all the damn time because my house continues to be a sucking vortex of in-progress home improvement projects, but I digress. My point is, I'm not letting my 14 month old (that happened! 14 whole months as of today!!) toddle around in the midst of busy shoppers, because I don't want to inconvenience anyone. Also, I'm allergic to death stares.
My ultimate goal is to teach Mr. Man self-control. Like his little leg muscles, self-control must be exercised in order to be strengthened. So we practice different forms of self-control...and I really do mean we, since I'm having to practice pretty hard myself. Certainly it is easier to just carry him or plop him in a cart...actually, he's only ridden in a cart twice and he was pretty sure he wasn't a fan, so that's really not easier. Anyway, my point (yes, I have one) is that I believe taking the time to work with him now, teaching him to stay close to me, be responsive to my redirection, and that he doesn't get to choose what we are getting at the store, is going to make things easier in the long run.
And though it can be draining, it's good practice for me. I'm not going to lie to you, though. There are many times that I don't have the time and/or patience to let his little feet touch the ground. But we make a concerted effort to let him down as much as possible when it's safe to do so.
We still don't let him walk by the toddler snack aisle, though. We aren't that crazy.