Dr. Jane Andersen, a board-certified podiatrist based in North Carolina, explained what to look for when buying toddler shoes. The primary goal 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.”
See more: Best Water Shoes for Kids
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 Toddler Shoes
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.
This shoe has the American Podiatric Medical Association seal of approval, and it also happens to be mad cute. This toddler shoe is made of lambskin leather with a suede leather sole.
This toddler shoe is sort of perfect. The upper 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.
See Kai Run is approved by the APMA as a solid toddler shoe line. These kicks have an SKR fit with wide toe box to allow for toddler toes to move freely and develop, and they're built with a rubber toe cap for extra foot protection.
These sneakers are flexible and made for developing feet. The soles are made from flexible rubber, allowing toddler feet to move freely and flex all over the place. The uppers are leather with a breathable lining and Velcro closures.
Another APMA-approved toddler shoe, this pair is made of soft leather and has anatomic soft bottoms in a cork/rubber compound to ensure flexibility and stability.
The bottoms of Naturino’s Velcro shoes are a cork and rubber mix, ensuring extra support and stability. They’re high-tops, providing extra ankle support as well.
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 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.
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.
If you're looking for a sneaker, then get this pair of Saucony sneaks for your toddler. They're comfortable, they're cute, and the way they're built means toddlers feel more grounded.
Perfect for running around, these Saucony toddler shoes are easy to put on and take off, and just as easy to clean. It provides nice, solid support.
The Momo Baby shoes are a nice choice for the fashion-forward toddler.
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.
These super-cool shoes are easy to take off and put on, and the mesh upper provides durability and breathability.
What kid wouldn’t want to put on these sneakers? There’s even an anti-stink lining that helps prevent bacterial buildup.
Every product on Fatherly is independently selected by our editors, writers, and experts. If you click a link on our site and buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.