Fitting new walkers for sneakers falls somewhere between waiting at the DMV and watching Peppa Pig on the fun scale. Finding the best toddler shoes is tedious. Sizing is often a guessing game. And it’s even more often a battle of aesthetics versus practicality. You’re focused on functional toddler walking shoes. Your kids clamor for glitter, unicorns, and sneaker soles that light up. But when it comes to finding the best toddler shoes, and sneakers, you want footwear that’s stable, solid, and flexible. The main function of any toddler shoe 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 Dr. 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 shoes will serve your beginner walkers well as they find their footing.
Soft and flexible, these sneakers have cushioned arch support and hardy rubber sole. They're great as budding walkers develop their stable stride and if they get filthy at the playground? They're machine-washable.
We're into the cool look of these kicks. They're made from rip-stop nylon with rubberized overlays, and designed for hard-core outdoor play. They're slip-on, with a padded collar, elasticized laces with a hook-and-loop closure strap, and a rear pull-tab.
Great for first walkers, these shoes have a fan-shaped toe box that is shaped like your toddler's foot, allowing the toes to move freely.
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.
These adorable, breathable shoes have a single strap so they're easy to put on and take off, and the squeaker turns on and off. 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
Talk about smart water shoes: These have an open mesh upper with rubberized overlays and a molded rubberized toe cap, as well as a removable EVA sockliner so shoes dry quickly after a romp at the beach or the pool.
A great shoe for the outdoors, this one is made from ultra-durable, rip-stop nylon with rubberized overlays. The traction is rock-solid, as well.
Ridiculously cute sandals, these also have a squeaker you can turn on and off. There's a Velcro strap, non-marking soles, and solid traction. Plus these are breathable for summer.
It's like slip-on sneakers, but for toddlers. These clever shoes have a textile upper, a removable insole, and an EVA and phylon outsole. They're slip-on and off.
With rounded edges that mimic the shape of your child's foot, Velcro closures for easy on and off, and really grippy soles, these shoes make outdoor adventures a breeze.
The oversized opening on these shoes makes it even easier to put them on and take them off. They have a patent leather upper and hook and loop closure, plus memory foam for extra comfort.
Pretty much a perfect breathable warm weather shoe, this one is machine-washable, has uppers that encourage airflow, and a padded tongue and collar for comfort.
These APMA-approved Merrell hiking boots are made from leather, with mesh panels, an abrasion-resistant toe bumper, elasticized laces, hook-and-loop ankle strap, and a cushioned collar. They're breathable, which is a must for summer hikes.
Thanks to this shoe's extra wide hook and loop closure, they're easy to put on and take off. Plus, they're machine washable. The cushioned outsole is flexible and there's a padded tongue and collar for extra support.
The soft jersey lining in these sandals lets kids wear them barefoot, with total comfort. The outsole is non-marking and slip-resistant. And there's a rubber toe bumper that gives new walkers extra protection and stability.
These kicks have a soft rubber sole, rounded edges that mimic the shape of a your child's foot, solid heel stability, and a soft toe box that lets toes grip the floor. The soles are made of thin, natural rubber, for maximum traction and flexibility.
Cute and functional, these sneakers have a combination leather and synthetic upper, a hook-and-loop closure strap, and padded tongued and collar. The memory foam footbeds make these a standout in the comfort department.
Your kid will rule the playground in these sneakers, which are easy to put on and take off, thanks to elastic straps with a hook-and-loop closure. The tongue is padded, and the insole is removable. And these have pretty awesome cushioning.
Cute and warm, these sneaker-boots are made from two layers of slip-resistant leather, and have nicely cushioned arch support and a soft, flexible rubber sole; the Velcro closure makes these easy to take off and put on.
Tsukihoshi makes next-level ultra-lightweight toddler sneakers, with ample room for growing feet. The shoes run wider than regular medium-width shoes so toes can spread out, and have a machine-washable synthetic leather and nylon mesh upper. The hook and loop closure makes putting these on and taking them off a breeze. There's also a green tea-infused removable insole because of course there is.
If they made these booties in adult sizes, we'd be all over them. They have a side zipper, for easy and off, and a rubber outsole with a herringbone lug pattern that gives these shoes great traction for play. Oh, and they look dope.
Made for warm-weather adventures, these shoes have a breathable mesh upper with a protective toe cap, and a fabric lining for extra coziness.
If you're looking for best-in-class traction, these shoes are pretty much it. They have a rubber outsole with a herringbone lug pattern for stability and balance, and faux elastic laces for a secure fit and easy on and off.
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 machine-washable kicks, which have a rubber sole and a Velcro enclosure for adjustability, are tailor-made for running and climbing with abandon.
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.
Cute yet practical, these Mary Janes have a soft leather upper with a grippy, flexible rubber sole.
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 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.
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