This round up is just one in Fatherly’s exhaustive Back To School Product Guide. Check it out for everything from your kid needs, from winning math to standing at a bus stop on the rain (which is what you used to do, only uphill both ways).
Just as surely as kids need shoes, the kids shoes they need are mainly pretty damn uncool; a veritable minefield of squeaky soles, blinking lights, and bedazzling. If you search long enough, though, you’ll find a few kickass kicks. From classics like Vans slip-ons and Converse All-Stars to brands you’ve never heard of like AKID and Plae, here are the outliers of the back-to-school kid shoe stratosphere. AKA, the ones you wouldn’t be embarrassed to drop your kid off at school in.
Shoes for Little Kids (<5)
Plae TyIf these aren’t instantly cooler looking than any tennis shoes you own, they’re definitely more versatile. They’re a sneaker-aqua sock hybrid made of an eco-friendly, vegan materials (because sneakers can be vegan now, apparently) and built to handle any activity little feet can tackle. They come in 17 colorways, and because kids immediately want the opposite of whatever you bring home, the velcro straps are interchangeable.
Vans Bones Dance Slip OnsWhen a love of Vans slip-ons starts young it stays with you throughout your entire life, eventually rendering the art of tying a shoelace as useless as cursive. This particular style is ideal if your preschooler aspires to one day join the Cobra Kai.
AKID Anthony HiYou might think only North West and Blue Ivy Carter have access to these premium canvas, leather-trimmed, jet black high tops, but they are in fact available to regular kids. The only difference is, North and Blue Ivy get theirs sent to them for free. You’ve got to pay full freight. Seems worth it, though, to have your kid look so fly they could break the internet.
Shoes for Big Kids (>5)
Adidas SambaThe last time somebody actually played indoor soccer in the most perpetually cool turf kids shoe of all time was likely sometime during the Reagan administration. Still, kids shoes classics are classics for a reason. Lace ’em up and start practicing your Run DMC karaoke.
Converse Chuck Taylor Core HiDitto the above, but with basketball and timeless Chucks. Kids’ grow out of shoes like cars depreciate in value — immediately and perpetually. When you’re replacing kids shoes that often, it’s important to find a pair that look good at any age, and Chucks definitely fit that bill. Case in point: you probably have a matching pair, which you might be wearing right now.
Nike Free 5.0The Free has evolved since its debut to offer runners a flexible ride that adapts with every step but stays secure thanks to Flywire cables. Basically, that means whoever wears these kids shoes will be the fastest kid at recess, or at least the fastest looking. Either way, they’ll definitely have the most comfortable feet.
Shoes for Adults
Cole Haan LunarGrand Plain Toe OxfordYou might think these Cole Haan oxfords with cushiony sneaker soles were made on the moon, but it only feels that way. Lunarlon is actually just the name of the Nike comfort technology in these puppies that makes you feel lighter than Neil Armstrong, even if you’re only taking one small step towards your office.
Tawny Goods Toe Cap BootA super fancy appropriation of what used to be workwear. Or, if you don’t want to sound quite so shallow about it, a combination of Oxford fashion and American attitude that’s classic, masculine, and refined for wear with jeans, khakis, or even a suit. Actually, now you sound pretentious. Just call them stylish, comfortable, work-ready boots.
Nike Flyknit Lunar 3If you’ve ever wanted to own a pair of Nikes that look as radical as all those yarn-bombed street poles that have been popping up lately, here’s your chance. If you just want a customized version of one of the most advanced running shoes on the market for all that kid chasing, that works too.