Fitting new walkers for footwear falls somewhere between waiting at the DMV and watching Peppa Pig on the fun scale. It’s tedious. Sizing is often a guessing game. And it’s even more often a battle of aesthetics versus practicality. You’re focused on functional walking shoes. Your kids clamor for glitter, unicorns, and soles that light up. But when it comes to finding the best toddler shoes, and the best toddler sneakers, you want footwear that’s stable, solid, and flexible. Its main function is to stop kids learning to walk from slipping, to protect their feet, and to give them sense of security.
Dr. Jane Andersen, a board-certified podiatrist based in North Carolina, explained what to look for when buying shoes for your toddler: “You want a flexible shoe without a rigid sole. You want the foot to develop on its own,” she says. “In a perfect world, toddlers could walk barefoot but in this case a thin sole protects their feet.”
- When it comes to sizing, “Make sure you ask if there’s any pain or if the shoe rubs anything. You want a little bit of room, a thumb’s width, in the toe box so there’s room to grow. It’s important to have them try the shoe and be able to test them and wear them around,” says Anderson.
- Special occasion shoes are fine for an hour or two, but “their primary shoes need to be flexible so their foot musculature can develop normally,” advises Dr. Anderson.
- And here’s another pro tip from her: “Try to avoid passing on shoes from siblings. If they’re worn out, they’re not providing the right fit or structure. Don’t share shoes between children. Sunday shoes that you wear for two hours? Pass those on. But daily shoes? Not a good idea to share them.”
These are some of the best toddler shoes to buy, all of which have earned the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval. These sneakers and loafers all have the distinction of being considered “beneficial” to foot health by the organization. Some loafers fun. Others are no-nonsense. But all will serve your beginner walkers well as they find their footing.
The fan-shaped toe box on these toddler shoes is designed to give growing feet plenty of room to move around, instead of being squashed. And the rubber soles with deep tread pattern make these shoes slip-resistant.
A stellar shoe for beginner walkers, this one has rounded edges to reduce stumbles and falls. The hook-and-loop closure makes these easy to take on and off, and the rubber bottoms give kids a nice sense of stability.
These toddler shoes are breathable and comfortable. They have an adjustable hook-and-loop strap that help kids get a great fit. And the built-in rubber toe caps make the shoes even more durable and stable.
A sweet, simple sneaker with adjustable hook-and-loop straps, a padded collar and tongue, and herringbone treads for greater traction when your kiddo is running around.
The leather construction will withstand many a playground outing, and the double Velcro straps and snug fit give your kid a nice sense of security as he or she explores their world.
A cool sneaker with removable memory foam insoles, and molded rubber soles for extra traction.
These toddler shoes have a flexible rubber outsole that provides great traction for safe play. We particularly love that these shoes have an extra-wide opening and adjustable hook and loop strap that gives toddlers an adjustable, secure fit.
These Saucony kicks are colorful, durable, breathable, lightweight, and comfortable. These sneakers, which come in a slew of patterns and colors, have a leather and mesh upper for durability and breathability. There's a 4mm heel to toe drop, meaning kids feel more stable. And the EVA footsole gives kids plenty of cushioning.
See Kai Run's kicks have a herringbone lug pattern that provides great traction for play, which means the ability to run free at the playground during recess. They have a classic SKR fit with a wide toe box to allow for toes to move freely as your kid's feet grow.
These toddler shoes have an adjustable squeaker that you can turn off and are made of breathable materials that provide comfort a-plenty. Plus, each grippy sole has a different color, so there's no confusion on which shoe goes on which foot. Yes, parents, it's a thing.
These slip-ons have elasticized laces and a hook-and-loop strap for an adjustable, comfortable fit. The flexible rubber outsole allows for plenty of movement, while also providing solid traction.
This shoe has a waterproof synthetic upper with a breathable mesh lining, and an insole system that lets you add or remove insoles to make sure the shoes fit perfectly.
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