Toddler shoes are a tricky thing. That’s because fitting kids for footwear falls somewhere between the waiting at the DMV and listening to Baby Shark on the fun scale. When it comes to finding the best toddler shoes, you want toddler walking shoes and baby walking shoes that are stable, solid, and flexible.
Dr. Jane Andersen, a board-certified podiatrist based in North Carolina, explained what to look for when buying shoes for your toddler. The primary goal here is to protect their little feet. She told Fatherly, “They’re learning how to walk and when you put a shoe, it prevents them from slipping.”
The key elements to look for make total sense. “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.”
What about those rigid special-occasion shoes? Whether patent leathers or Doc Martens, they’re fine – occasionally, for an hour or two. “Their primary shoes need to be flexible so their foot musculature can develop normally,” advises Dr. Anderson.
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.
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 the best toddler shoes to buy, based on the American Podiatric Medical Association’s seal of approval.
Best Baby Walking Shoes
These APMA-approved sneakers for babies give them just the right amount of support and stability.
These baby walking shoes are easy to take on and off. They’re breathable and durable. And they have an EVA midsole for just the ideal amount of cushioning.
This APMA-approved starter shoe is made of lambskin leather with a suede leather sole.
This toddler shoe is sort of perfect. The uppers are ventilated and breathable. The elastic keeps the shoe in place. And the suede sole means your child won’t slip and slide around when walking.
Another shoe approved by the APMA, the Robeez First Kicks shoe is slip-on, with an elasticized back to make sure the shoe stays on. It's easy to put on, and the soft suede bottoms are perfect for beginner walkers.
It looks like a shoe. It wears like a shoe. And yet, because of its cushioned insole, the Robeez toddler shoe fits almost like a sock. It has a suede sole for extra stability for starter walkers.
This sneaker has a breathable leather sock liner that conforms to the foot, and means more comfort and no sliding around.
APMA approves of this style, and it’s easy to see why. The toddler walking shoes offer room in the toebox for feet to move around without being scrunched in. Plus, they’re sweet enough that adults may want to wear them too. Bonus: They’re slip-on.
The Momo Baby shoes are a nice choice for the fashion-forward toddler, and the elastic keeps them firmly in place.
The Momo Baby shoes have uppers are made from ventilated leather, and keep toddler feet cushy and dry. The textured soft suede leather sole stops any unexpected slipping.
This baby shoe, with an APMA-approved sole, is the ideal starter footwear for crawling, cruising, and first steps.
The leather upper is buttery-soft, and the bottoms are are made of tan suede and black recycled rubber tread circles so they’re nonslip.
Best Toddler Shoes
These leather shoes with double Velcro straps are ideal for beginner walkers because of their nonslip bottoms.
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.
These APMA-accepted 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 are superior cold weather boots for kids, due to their equally superior traction.
These APMA-approved winter boots have elastic fastenings protect feet from rain and snow, while the zipper on the side makes them easy to take on and off. Most of all, we love the brand’s grippy traction, so there’s no slipping and sliding around.
These APMA-approved 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.
These APMA-approved shoes are lightweight, ultra-durable, come in a ton of different colors and patterns, and have a classic SKR fit with a wide toe box to allow for toes to move freely as your kid’s feet grow.
Stride Rite's toddler shoe has a lightweight outsole for maximum flexibility, along with rounded edges to decrease stumbles and falls as your new walker find her or his sea legs.
Long a trusted and go-to brand in the kiddie footwear world, Stride Ride makes shoes parents love. This one is no exception. This toddler shoe has rounded edges to keep your kid more stable, and memory foam to make the shoes as comfy as possible. They’re easy to take on and off.
What's better than toddler shoes that look like animals? Toddler shoes that squeak on command, of course. Meet these shoes.
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.
Another brand we (and the APMA) approve of, this Pediped toddler 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.
These are toddler shoes for the active kid, but of course, find one us one who isn’t. You can make sure the shoes fit by adding or removing insoles. The shoe has a flexible rubber midsole and outsole.
Another APMA-proved pair of toddler shoes, these Stride Rites have a sewn-in tongue for a more snug fit.
Because of their superior ventilation and traction, these toddler shoes are equally at home in the water.
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