In this guide:
Now that your toddler is — erm — toddling, it’s time to add some shoes to their wardrobe.
With so many styles and colors out there, you are sure to find a walking shoe that looks ridiculously cute. However, there are a few orthopedic basics to be aware of first and it’s very important to get these right to ensure that their tiny feet and legs develop healthily and naturally.
We’ll start by giving you a quick overview, then you can get on with picking the best, most adorable walking shoes for your baby or toddler. Whilst this may help to make the buying process easier, we make no promises about how easy it will be to get your toddler to sit still and actually try on the shoes. But we wish you luck!
Tips for Buying Your Kid’s First Walking Shoes
Before you hit the stores, online or otherwise, you will want to familiarize yourself with the basic facts about walking shoes.
When to Buy
It’s fun to put your young babies in cute shoes to go with their outfits to get that perfect family picture. But once they start strutting their stuff around the house and yard, it’s time to opt for a more functional shoe that will keep those tiny feet safe. If they are whizzing around on a balance bike already but you’ve still not thought properly about orthopedic footwear… aaargh, run to the shops now!
Barefoot vs. Shoe
It’s true that your toddler should walk barefoot as much as possible, as this will help strengthen the feet and stimulate the development of coordination. However, since none of us live in a bubble, and toddlers want to get out into the world, walking shoes are a must. A good pair of shoes will protect those tiny feet from the elements when exploring outside or on any surface that may have splinters or other hazards.
Slip-on vs. Laces vs. Velcro
Slip-on shoes might seem like an easy option until your toddler learns how easy it is to pull them off their feet. This type of shoe is also more likely to be sliding around on the foot, encouraging your child to curl their toes to keep it in place. While this might seem like no big deal, it can hinder proper foot growth and lead to various problems down the road. In short, we don’t recommend slip-on shoes.
Laces, on the other hand, are harder for your child to yank off on a whim and provide a more secure fit. Just be sure the laces are long enough for you to be able to tie a secure double knot.
Velcro, another standard fastener on walking shoes, is easy to adjust to your child’s foot quickly. Where you might run into the same problem that slip-on shoes have and find your toddler pulling them off at inconvenient times, they won’t move around like slip-ons and will give a much more secure fit. Also, remember that Velcro is technically a brand and if you see a shoe with a “hook and loop” closure, it’s the same concept just with a different name.
Types of Feet
Different brands of shoes will fit different types of feet better than others. Here are some typical foot-types that your little one might have.
Flat Feet: This probably won’t be much of a concern for your toddler. Their arches are still developing, so their feet will have a flatter appearance than an older child or person. If you are concerned that your child has unnaturally flat feet, speak to your pediatrician on how to proceed with picking out shoes.
Wide Feet: If your little one is complaining about their shoes being too tight, your first instinct might be to buy a bigger size to alleviate discomfort and potential blisters. Before you do that, consider that your child might simply have wider feet than others. If that’s the case, you’re in luck. There are plenty of brands that offer sizes catering to wide, and even extra wide, feet.
Narrow Feet: If you can slide your finger around the heel of your toddler’s shoe while they are wearing it, they probably have a narrow foot. Since it’s harder to find brands that offer sizes specifically for narrow feet, you’re going to want to stick with shoes that typically run more narrow than others. Shoes that are too wide for your tot can cause the foot to develop blisters, corns, and other issues.
If you are unsure as to what type of foot your child has, or even if you are pretty sure you know but just want to be positive you are shopping for the right sizes, we recommend getting your toddler’s feet measured at a shoe store. This takes the guesswork out of shoe shopping for you and guarantees that your little one’s feet continue to develop at a healthy rate in their new shoes.
Function vs. Fashion
You’re not quite at the stage of needing actual “styles” for your child’s shoes. Skip the flip-flops, crocs, inflexible shoes, anything that goes up past the ankle, and especially heels. Focus on flexible soles, padding, good fasteners, breathable material, a soft upper part, and good traction.
What is a Good Fit?
When your child is standing and wearing the shoe, you want to be able to fit your pinky into the heel of the shoe without having extra space. When you check their toes, make sure there is about a half an inch between their big toe and the front of the shoe, and that their big toe isn’t rubbing against the sides of the shoe.
While it might be tempting to buy a larger size than needed to prolong the life of the walking shoes, do not do this. This is a critical time of development for your toddler’s feet, and ill-fitting shoes will cause way too many issues for that extra growing room to be worth it.
Be sure to check your tot’s feet every month or so to see if they have outgrown their current pair of walking shoes.
Now we have the basics covered, let’s look at some shoes that we feel are best available for the tiny toes of your tiny tots.
Baby’s First Walking Shoes (we round up the best)
You will want to start off on the right foot (pun intended) when you buy your child’s first pair of real shoes. Here are a few great walking shoes to kick off the next phase of your baby’s development, without getting kicked off their feet.
These shoes come in several styles, so they’re perfect for boys and girls. Some parents have reported that they are a little on the wide side, so they will probably work best for children with normal to wide feet.
They are very durable and every pair you buy feeds a child!
Material: Genuine Soft Leather
Closure Type: Velcro
These little shoes are a bit plainer than some others, as well as a bit pricier, but they’re certainly of a high quality. The sole is made of rubber, so it’s flexible and non-skid, while the liner will wick away any moisture that occurs on your tot’s feet as they run and play.
These walking shoes come with Sensory Response Technology™, so your child will feel the ground beneath him and thus have the benefit of a ‘barefoot’ experience while having the protection of a shoe.
Closure Type: Laces
Best Toddler Shoes for Girls
If you have a girly girl who loves a splash of color and flair in her wardrobe, while you are more focused on function, never fear. Here are some great shoes that meet both of your needs.
These affordable shoes come with a flexible rubber sole for traction and are made of breathable mesh. They’re lightweight, machine washable, and available in several colors.
Some parents find that they retain too much heat to be comfortable in very hot weather and that the shoes do not hold up quite as well as their more expensive counterparts. However, if you’re looking for a comfortable shoe at a bargain price, you can’t beat these walking shoes.
Material: Synthetic Mesh
Closure Type: Velcro
These adorable shoes provide both fashion and function for your little lady. They have a flexible rubber sole, are made of breathable material, and are even approved for encouraging healthy foot development by the American Podiatric Medical Association.
They’re machine washable, which is quite the perk if you have a little girl who likes to be on the go when she’s outside.
This product offers a “wide” fit, and their normal size tends to run a bit narrow, so if that’s something your tot needs, be sure to take a look at these stylish walking shoes.
Material: Clarino and mesh (upper)
Closure Type: Velcro
Best Toddler Shoes for Boys
For those boys who will be boys, you won’t have to worry about finding something they’ll be excited to wear on their feet. There’s plenty of designs out there to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites.
These walking shoes come in a few different colors, so you and your little one can have fun picking out the perfect look. They have that flexible rubber sole we love to see in toddler shoes and, with their faux shoelaces, they resemble “big kids” shoes which could make them even more popular with your child.
Some parents find that the lighter colored toe area tends to scuff when worn by a rough and tumble boy, but overall this shoe is praised for its comfort and durability.
Closure Type: Velcro
The cute train design on this shoe is sure to enthrall your little one. And for your peace of mind, this shoe delivers on several levels.
The company is recognized by the American Podiatric Medical Association for producing quality shoes that promote healthy foot development. With this particular style, the rubber sole is flexible and has deep treads for traction, while the shoes remain lightweight and comfortable for your tot on the go.
Closure Type: Velcro
Best Toddler Water Shoes
It’s always a good idea to keep a pair of water shoes on hand, especially in the warmer months. Your child will never be held back from outdoor activities with these picks.
These shoes are affordable and comfortable for your tot to play in if there’s water around. The rubber sole provides traction and protects their feet and, with several color choices, you can find the perfect style for your boys and girls.
Some parents have found that the color tends to fade after continued use in a pool. On the plus side, these shoes are machine washable, so no matter how dirty they get during those outdoor jaunts, these shoes are a breeze to clean.
Closure Type: Hook and loop
It won’t be long before your mini man or little lady is shopping for shoes all on their own, picking out their favorite brands and mulling over which pair will be the biggest hit at school. Luckily, this means you won’t have to hold them down to measure their feet anymore. Unfortunately, it also means you’ll probably be worrying about them hurting themselves on their new stunt scooter.
Until that happy day comes, remember to frequently check your child’s footwear to make sure it is in good condition and properly fits their growing feet. Your little one will be walking many miles in their lives, so be sure to start them off on the right foot.
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