Unlike backpacks and lunch boxes ⏤ which can last a few years before being replaced ⏤ children usually do need a new pair of kids shoes to start school. Those little feet grow so damn fast. And since kids always want to look fresh when they walk through that classroom door, picking the right pair of back-to-school shoes is kind of a big deal. So, no pressure, dad.
To help you out, we rounded up 10 pairs of kids kicks — from retro sneaks to suede sneaker-boots to a pair of canvas slip-ons emblazoned with Minions — that are not only stylish and comfortable, but also built to withstand whatever the playground can throw at them.
PLAE Kids Ty Sneaker
Thanks to interchangeable tabs on each Velcro strap, kids can customize their PLAE kicks with different colors and prints. The lightweight neoprene kids shoes are machine washable, rock a thick toe guard, and feature shock-absorbing (and anti-bacterial) Eco-Ortholite soles. And speaking of “eco,” the upper is made from recycled milk jugs.
Just-released by former Nike head designer, Jason Mayden, SuperHeroic’s debut TMBLR has grippy sidewalls to help kids climb the wrong way up the slide. It uses an internal lining that fits like a sock, held in place by a sturdy utility strap. Meanwhile, the extra-large heel tabs can shave up to 6.7 seconds off the daily dressing routine. Boom.
Keen Kids Sprout Mid
This stylish mid-top combines elastic laces and an adjustable loop strap to keep kids’ tiny feet secure during manic playground sessions. A wide entry makes these kids shoes easy to slide on, and the removable footbed has a clever “check your fit” indicator so you know just how soon they’ll need a new pair (answer: probably yesterday at the rate they’re growing.)
Vans x Dallas Clayton Authentic
Dallas Clayton is the author and illustrator of the Awesome Book series, and his Vans collaboration will turn heads regardless of age. Complete with signature Vans details like rubber waffle outsoles and metal eyelets, these shoes have wraparound “Keep It Moving” graphics inspired by his books. Caution: You may be tempted to put these in a display case instead of on your kid’s feet.
See Kai Run Monroe
The Monroe is a suede sneaker-boot that can be dressed up for fancy dinners or dressed down for muddy parks. It has an extra wide toe-box for maximum wiggle room and a single strap-on top makes for effortless on and off drills. A deep Herringbone lug pattern on the sole keeps even the clumsiest of kids upright, even on slick surfaces.
Converse Custom Chuck Taylor All Star High Top
The only thing cooler than watching your kid lace up his first pair of Chucks is sitting down with them to dial in the NikeID customization. From colors to prints to adding your own text, the options are limitless. The only thing you can’t control is the placement of the star-centered ankle patch ⏤ but why you wouldn’t want to mess with that symbol of shoe perfection anyway?
Nike Roshe One
The grown-up version of the Nike Roshe One was inspired by the concept of Zen meditation, which, of course, is impossible to do when raising an active child, but still. This kids shoes model (which comes in ten colors) uses breathable mesh, lightweight foam, and waffle tread to keep your future Deena Kastor’s feet comfy and supported.
Native Monaco Low NP
Native makes “beast free footwear,” which is another way of saying they don’t use animal products. The low-cut Monaco, however, would be better classified as being in beast mode: it’s made from slick brushed fiber that’s been debossed with stylish perforations, comes in one of five colors, and is brandished with practically no logos or branding.
AKID Liv Despicable Me 3
At $80, it’s safe to say you’re probably paying as much for the kids shoes as you are for the movie licensing. That said, these comfy AKIDs kicks bring the quality with a premium cotton canvas upper and a 100-percent, full-grain leather lining. Of course, all your kid needs to know is “The Minions’ eyes glow!” and they’ll be racing to the school bus.
New Balance 520
Maybe it’s that crisp “N” logo. Maybe it’s the characteristic suede-mesh construction. New Balances have always stood out, even if they weren’t always cool. These scaled-down classics have a durable “hook and loop” closure and a flexible EVA midsole.