Investing in a pair of toddler shoes is a big milestone. After all, it’s an indication that your little one is about to become more mobile, or maybe already is. The best toddler shoes allow your child to get the support they need with a comfortable fit to help transition them into wearing sneakers and sandals regularly. We like the Stride Rite Soft Motion Kylo Sneaker for its comfortable fit and durability, but there are plenty of great toddler shoes on the market to consider.
The best toddlers shoes support our new walkers as they explore new places. ankle boots black
Keep in mind that your child doesn’t need to be in shoes all the time, simply because they’ve started walking. “We should try to keep our toddlers out of shoes as long as possible, assuming that there are no underlying structural abnormalities of the foot,” says Richard H. Graves, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist at Sol Foot and Ankle Centers in Longwood, California. “It's important that they be able to feel the ground surface as their muscles develop.” So, when your little one is at home, “barefoot is best,” Graves says.
Of course, it’s different when you venture outside. “It’s important to have shoes on when children are playing outdoors in a non-grassy setting to protect feet from hazards like sunburn, cuts and injuries,” says Melissa Lockwood, DPM, a podiatrist at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates in Bloomington, Illinois.
The best toddler shoes for your child are ultimately ones they’ll wear. But, at baseline, toddler shoes should be made of breathable materials and be “relatively flexible in structure,” Lockwood says. Beyond that, you can have fun with colors, patterns and styles. Consider these options below for your little one. You might also want to peruse more of our favorite items for growing tots, including the best toddler beds, best convertible car seats and best toys for 2-year-olds.
Stride-Rite is known for creating quality kids’ shoes that are durable enough to pass them down to younger siblings. The brand’s Kylo sneaker is an affordable, durable and flexible pick. It features an Ortholite memory foam footbed for your toddler’s comfort, along with a rounded rubber sole for sturdy traction. This shoe is specially created for new walkers and is approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) for your baby’s foot health.
These shoes last: They were the first sneakers of my now-3-year-old and they’ve been durable enough to be passed down to her 10-month-old sister. The convenient hook and loop closure makes it easy to get your child into their shoes and out the door. Choose from among seven color combinations for a look that matches your little one’s budding style.
At $10, it’s hard to beat the price of these Cat & Jack shoes from Target. But they’re more than just a good bargain. These sneakers have a comfortable cotton lining with a breathable upper to raise the odds your little one will actually wear them. The sneakers secure with the help of two hook-and-loop sticky tabs, helping you to get a more snug fit for those who tend to step out of their shoes. Worth noting: My 6-year-old had these shoes as one of his first pairs, and they held well up enough to be passed on to his younger siblings—not bad for $10. While you’re probably not shopping based on looks alone, it doesn’t hurt that these shoes come in nearly a dozen adorable patterns. Target customers have rated these adorable shoes a 4.5 out of 5 with more than 700 reviews. Many praise their durability. Keep in mind that they are spot clean only.
These sneakers are basically the same as what you’d find in an adult version of the brand’s reliable shoes—just miniaturized—making them an excellent supportive shoe for new walkers. They have a sturdy rubber outsole for impressive durability, giving you a shoe you can easily pass down. The mesh upper is breathable, with a padded sockliner that provides impressive cushiony comfort. A single hook and loop closure makes it easy to secure these shoes as you’re headed out the door. Worth noting: These shoes have cute design extras like a shark “fin” or panda “tail” that might entice little ones to wear them.
If you have a kid that plays hard, you’ll soon learn that you’ll need to replace their shoes (and pants with the knees torn) more frequently than you might have expected. These Merrell toddler shoes are designed with a more rugged construction but still offer tots the lighter feel of a sneaker with easy on and off and a padded EVA footbed. It has a grippy, flexible sole with the right amount of traction for kids tearing up the playground or the nature trail. This particular pair of Merrells is machine washable and includes an anti-stink lining to reduce odors. “I started buying Merrell shoes for my kids after growing tired of replacing their other pairs every few months due to holes and torn straps,” says Rose Gordon Sala, the baby and kids gear editor at Forbes Vetted. “I’ve tried several varieties of their kids shoes and all have held up well to months of wear, but I especially like that these are safe for the washing machine.”
If you can’t be bothered with the Velcro-style straps, consider this sweet slip-on toddler shoe from Simple Joys by Carter’s. It features a comfortable upper that’s stiff enough to hold its shape without digging into your child’s foot. The synthetic sole also helps your little one get a grip on the go. These sneakers are easy to spot-clean with soap and water, just in case of mud puddle run-ins. While little ones with narrow feet may have trouble keeping these on, children with regular- to wide-width feet should have no trouble. Choose from five different patterns, including subtle dinosaurs and a sparkly unicorn.
The See Kai Run shoes often get a shoutout on best toddler shoe lists, because every pair is APMA approved, and the brand puts an emphasis on healthy foot development. This pair is specifically designed for kids who might need a brace or another type of orthopedic insert or custom insole added to the shoe, making them our favorite adaptive toddler shoe. The opening is a bit wider to allow for the addition of orthotics, and it doesn’t automatically flop back to the closed position, and the straps are extra long and can be customized further. This high-top includes a soft and flexible upper and is fully lined with minimal seams to reduce sensory irritation. See Kai Run designs are extra cute, too, and parents report that their kids can independently get the brand’s shoes on and off easily.
Comfort is key with toddler shoes, and these Ugg boots have an abundance of it. They feature a cushiony microfiber lining to keep your child’s feet and ankles cozy, while the suede upper is soft to the touch. A sturdy rubber sole helps your child keep their footing, even over slippery terrain, while the thick inner lining keeps them nice and warm, even in intense winter weather. The shoes easily fasten on and off with the help of a concealed tab. Pick from a range of neutral and more bold colors.
Crocs exist for the toddler set, too—and it makes a lot of sense. These sturdy sandals feature the brand’s signature Croslite material that can easily slog through puddles and streams, making it a great option for a day at the pool, beach or just stomping through the yard. The sandals feature a strap at the ankle for a personalized fit. That, along with another strap around the toe and across the back of the ankle help ensure these sandals stay put. Possibly my favorite part about these shoes is that they’re easy to wipe clean and completely waterproof.
These Amazon bestsellers are specially designed to protect little feet in and around the water. They feature an EVA sole that’s sturdy enough to lend just a bit of support, while protecting your child’s feet from rocks and other sharp objects during any type of water play. Drainage holes in the sole, along with a mesh and knit upper, allow for water to flow in and out without weighing your little one down. There’s also a hook and loop closure to make the shoes easy to take on and off. With 43 colors and patterns, it’s all but a given you’ll find something that fits your little one’s style.
The Adidas Altaswims offer the same cushiony support you expect in an Adidas sandal—but for the pint-sized set. These sandals have a contoured footbed for your child’s comfort, along with a slingback design to help keep the shoes from slipping. The upper features slight padding to avoid digging into your child’s foot and comes with two adjustable hook and loop straps for that perfect fit. An open toe helps prevent sweaty feet in warmer weather.
To choose the best toddler shoes, I spoke to two podiatrists for their input on important features to look for in a good toddler shoe. I also consulted real parents for their take on the toddler shoes they love, along with which they could do without. My own four kids have worn a number of the shoes on this list, and others were recommended by my editor or other parents. I also considered bestsellers and narrowed my list down by sorting through reviews and features like support, comfort, durability and, of course, cost.
Zack O'Malley Greenburg is senior editor of media & entertainment at Forbes and author of four books, including A-List Angels: How a Band of Actors, Artists and Athletes Hacked Silicon Valley and the Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. Zack's work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Billboard, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, McSweeney's and the Library of Congress. In over a decade at Forbes, he has investigated topics from Wu-Tang Clan's secret album in Morocco to the return of tourism in post-conflict Sierra Leone to the earning power of Hip-Hop's Cash Kings, writing cover stories on subjects ranging from Richard Branson to Ashton Kutcher to Katy Perry. A former child actor, Zack played the title role in the film Lorenzo's Oil (1992) and arrived at Forbes in 2007 after graduating from Yale with an American Studies degree. For more, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, newsletter and via www.zogreenburg.com. Got a tip on a music, media & entertainment story? Send it over via SecureDrop. Instructions here: www.forbes.com/tips
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