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Your toddler’s feet may be tiny, but they’re made up of 26 bones, 35 joints, and a complex network of muscles, ligaments, and nerves just like ours. And, once those little feet start picking up speed, you may be wondering when it’s time to introduce a pair of shoes.

With so much to consider and so many styles to choose from, it can be hard to figure out what type of toddler shoe is best for early walkers. Here are some points to ponder when choosing shoes for your toddler, as well as some suggested brands and tips for getting the right fit.

The exact age when you’ll want to put your toddler in a pair of functional shoes will vary depending on when they start walking. Most babies begin walking sometime between 8 and 18 months.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), barefoot is best at first. In fact, walking without shoes on allows a child’s foot to grow and for muscles to develop strength from heel to toe.

But when your toddler starts walking more frequently and ventures outdoors, it’s time to start thinking about shoes.

When walking outdoors, you’ll want something that will allow for flexibility and full range of motion, all while protecting their tiny feet from injury. And that’s where shoes come in.

For this list we focused on a range of sturdy shoes for different activities, all with great ratings from the APMA and parents like you. We also read a lot of reviews — both positive and negative.

Price guide

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$50
  • $$$ = over $50

Best toddler shoe for learning how to walk

Ten Little Everyday Original

  • Price: $$
  • Size range: toddler 4 to 13

Beginning walkers can benefit from Ten Little’s wide, foot-shaped toe box that’s meant to support natural foot motion and muscle development. This shoe also features reinforced toe caps, a no-slip tongue, and non-slip sole for added stability.

The overall design is simple and uses vegan leather in a variety of colors that can be further customized with the brand’s specialty stickers.

These lightweight and breathable shoes also boast the APMA’s seal of approval.

Considerations: Several reviewers say that despite the claims that these shoes are flexible, the sole is actually quite rigid. A few others share quality issues, like the finish on the tongue peeling off with time.

And one reviewer shares that if you need to exchange sizes or return for some reason, you won’t be able to return the stickers and may be charged $5.

Pros

  • shaped to promote healthy foot development
  • lightweight, breathable
  • fun colors and stickers for custom look

Cons

  • rigid sole
  • material quality issues
  • returns issues with stickers

Best toddler shoes for wide feet

New Balance Kids’ 888 V2

  • Price: $-$$$
  • Size range: toddler 2 to 10 (standard, wide, extra-wide)

While various brands are known for being wide in general, New Balance goes a step further by offering both wide and extra-wide widths for its 888 sneaker.

And this offering may be key for more than just wide feet — one reviewer mentions that the extra-wide width is handy for accommodating a leg brace without having to size up.

Other design features include a rubber outsole, impact-absorbing midsole, and reflective safety tape. Another reviewer shared their delight in finding this wide shoe by explaining that an “XW girls’ shoe with Velcro [is] more rare than Yeti.”

Considerations: Overall, the sole of this shoe is more rigid than others on this list. Reviewers explain that the Velcro straps may break easily with rough wear. Otherwise, parents say these shoes fit pretty true to size.

Pros

  • wide and extra-wide widths
  • reflective safety tape
  • impact absorbing midsole

Cons

  • Velcro straps break easily
  • sole is rigid

Best toddler sandals for adventures

Keen Newport Toddler Sandals

  • Price: $-$$$
  • Size range: toddler 4 to 7

The best-selling Keen Newport is built for summer fun, both on and off the beaten path.

This small sandal features multiple adjustable components — straps and hook-and-loop — to get the right fit. They come in a wide range of colors, too.

The synthetic outsole is designed to offer support and protection for the toes all while providing water channeling for creek adventures. Reviewers say these shoes are “comfortable from day one” and that the adjustable nature keeps even the most particular kids happy.

Considerations: Several people say the sizing of these sandals is not consistent with other Keen sizing, so you may want to order up a whole size.

Others say this sandal is difficult for older toddlers to take on and off themselves. And a few people say that their children’s feet sweat in these sandals because they are closed-toe and can get toasty when wearing for long periods.

Pros

  • straps and loops for custom fit
  • rubber toe protects little feet
  • water-friendly

Cons

  • may run a size small
  • difficult for kids to put on/take off themselves
  • may make feet sweat

Most adorable toddler sandals

Saltwater Sweetheart Sandals

  • Price: $$–$$$
  • Size range: toddler 5 to 10

Saltwater sandals offer a classic design. The Sweetheart style features a leather lining and footbed with a synthetic textured sole to help prevent slips. This sandal comes in all sorts of vibrant colors and metallics.

Reviewers also like that these sandals are made to get wet.

Considerations: Reviewers note that this style sandal may be best for kids with narrow feet. Others say the sizing isn’t very consistent with other brands, so you may need to try a couple pairs before you find what fits best.

And more than one person mentioned that the Sweetheart’s two-buckle design leaves opportunity for chafing and blisters.

Pros

  • scuff-resistant
  • water-friendly
  • lightweight

Cons

  • not great for wide feet
  • sizing not consistent with other brands
  • potential for chafing and blisters

Best toddler shoes for winter

Bogs Waterproof Insulated Boots

  • Price: $-$$$
  • Size range: toddler 4 to 10

Bogs are well known for their rain boots, and this insulated edition is designed for cold weather days — as they’re rated for temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C).

Parents love that these boots are easy for toddlers to get on and off by themselves, and that they’re machine washable.

Considerations: Several parents mention that, despite the name, these boots are not actually waterproof. So, depending on your climate, you may also want to check out the Bogs B-Moc Winter Boot (sizes and colors are in high demand, so quantities are limited).

Otherwise, reviewers say these boots run somewhat large, so consider sizing down.

Pros

  • toasty in temps as low as 14 degrees F
  • easy to get on/off
  • machine washable

Cons

  • not waterproof
  • runs large

Best toddler shoes for comfort

See Kai Run Stevie II

  • Price: $$-$$$
  • Size range: toddler 4 to 13.5

All See Kai Run shoes are engineered with a child’s developing foot in mind, according to the company.

These shoes are designed with wide toe boxes and a flexible sole — meaning your child’s feet should be free to move with comfort and style.

The Stevie II earns high marks with reviewers for design and quality materials. They feature a rubber outsole with a zigzag pattern for added traction, and faux elastic laces for custom fit.

Considerations: Some reviewers note that while the shoes are comfortable, the actual materials may be firm, creating uncomfortable rub points.

Others say that the sizing is off; some reviewers say they run small and to order a full size bigger, while others say the shoes run large and wide. Lesson here: Hold on to your receipt if you have to exchange.

Pros

  • wide toe box
  • flexible sole
  • made from quality materials

Cons

  • sizing may be off
  • potential for blisters/rubbing
  • stiff materials

Best budget-friendly toddler shoes

Dadawen Athletic Shoes

  • Price: $
  • Size range: toddler 5 to 13

Another best-selling shoe, these Dadawen sneakers are unisex and come in a variety of colors with a breathable mesh construction and a rubber sole.

You can slip them on and off your tot with ease, and fasten them snugly using a single Velcro strap.

Reviewers say these shoes are a good buy for the money. They also share that they are lightweight and sturdy, making them “Great for new walkers!”

Considerations: While these sneakers are a solid choice, they do tend to develop holes and fraying with rough wear. A few parents say to size up, and that the thin mesh material is best for warmer weather and dry conditions.

Pros

  • budget-friendly
  • breathable mesh
  • easy on/off

Cons

  • not for rough wear
  • not for cold weather
  • runs small

Best toddler shoes for active kids

Stride Rite Made2Play Indy Sneaker

  • Price: $$
  • Size range: toddler 4 to 10 (standard, wide, extra-wide)

The Stride Rite shoes brand is known for its attention to toddler foot health and use of quality materials. The Indy sneakers are no exception.

These come in full and half sizes, as well as regular and wide widths to suit a variety of foot shapes.

The hook-and-loop closure helps this shoe go on and off easily. Reviewers like how stable these shoes are and say they’re wonderful for hiking. And many people mention that you can toss these shoes in the wash for easy cleaning.

Considerations: Several parents say that the wide width isn’t a true wide, so you may want to choose another style if your child has especially wide feet. Others complain that the strap tends to fray over time.

Pros

  • wide and extra-wide widths
  • stable design
  • machine washable

Cons

  • strap frays easily
  • fit may be narrow for widest feet

Best waterproof toddler shoes

Native Shoes Jefferson

  • Price: $-$$$
  • Size range: toddler 3 to 13

The best-selling Jefferson shoe by Native Shoes is a popular choice among parents for its bright colors and easy slip-on design.

These shoes are lightweight, fast-drying, and offer a grippy rubber sole for protection from falls. Reviewers share that these shoes are “indestructible,” and like that you can toss them in the wash if they get muddy.

Considerations: Beware sizing with these shoes, however. A few people mention that they’re a tad on the big side.

They’re also meant to be worn without socks (water shoes!), but a few reviewers say their children got blisters with long wear.

Pros

  • waterproof
  • lightweight
  • easy slip-on design

Cons

  • run big
  • may cause blisters

Best toss-and-go toddler shoes

Crocs Classic Clog

  • Price: $$
  • Size range: toddler 4 to 10

If you’re looking for a shoe that is easy to get on and off, the classic Croc may be for you.

These shoes are made from molded Croslite material, giving them a cushy feel that is also waterproof and easy to wash off. Your little one can wear them with or without the heel strap for custom fit and comfort.

Crocs feature ventilation holes to keep feet cool. These holes can also be customized with Jibbitz charms with your child’s favorite characters or icons for added fun.

Considerations: The youngest walkers may have trouble with Crocs because they are higher off the ground than other shoes.

Some reviewers say the sizing is small and narrow, which can cause rub marks on wide feet.

Pros

  • lightweight
  • waterproof, easy to clean
  • wide variety of fun colors and prints

Cons

  • not suitable for beginning walkers
  • sizing is small
  • may be narrow for wide feet

Best classic toddler sneaker

Converse Chuck Taylor

  • Price: $$
  • Size range: toddler 2 to 10

Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneaker is a classic, recognizable shoe that’s been worn for generations.

This toddler-friendly style features a double Velcro closure and basic colors like black, navy, and pink. There’s even an option to customize your own color combination if you like.

The rubber sole is designed to be sturdy and provide ample traction for little walkers. Reviewers like how these shoes stay on feet and how the Velcro makes them easy to slip on and off.

Considerations: The brand explains that this shoe runs about a half size large, so keep that in mind with sizing.

A few reviewers share that the Velcro tends to hold onto lint and other debris. And at least one person notes that these shoes may be marked up at different retailers, so check prices to find the best deal.

Pros

  • Velcro closure
  • rubber sole for traction
  • customizable

Cons

  • run large
  • Velcro traps lint
  • pricing varies depending on retailer

Best white toddler sneaker

Keds Little Kid’s Champion Toe Cap Sneaker

  • Price: $$
  • Size range: toddler 1 to 10

The Keds Champion Toe Cap Sneaker features a classic, lace-up design in crisp white that will go with any outfit your child wears.

It’s designed with a memory foam footbed for added comfort, and a rubber outsole for maximum traction. This specific version is made of premium leather that’s easy to wipe clean of messes.

Bonus: This shoe also carries the APMA’s seal of approval.

Considerations: Some reviewers say this shoe runs narrow and small while others say it may run big. Again — keep those receipts for exchanges/returns.

And a few other reviewers share that the shoelaces are quite long for toddlers.

Pros

  • classic design
  • memory foam footbed
  • easy to clean

Cons

  • sizing is off
  • shoelaces are long

PriceSize rangeBest forProduct callouts
Ten Little Everyday Original$$toddler 4-13learning to walkwide, toe-shaped foot box; rigid materials
New Balance Kids’ 888 V2$-$$$toddler 2-10wide feetstandard, wide, and extra-wide widths; rigid sole
Keen Newport Toddler Sandals$-$$$toddler 4-7sandals for adventureswater-friendly; difficult to put on/take off
Saltwater Sweetheart Sandals$$-$$$toddler 5-10adorable stylewater-friendly; narrow design
Bogs Waterproof Insulated Boots$-$$$toddler 4-10cold winter weatherwarm in temps as low as 14° F; not waterproof
See Kai Run Stevie II$$-$$$toddler 4-13.5comfortable fitwide toe box; stiff materials
Dadawen Athletic Shoes$toddler 5-13budget conscious easy on/off; not for cold weather
Stride Rite Made2Play Indy$$toddler 4-10active kidsstandard, wide, and extra-wide widths; straps fray easily
Native Shoes Jefferson$-$$$toddler 3-13water playeasy slip-on design; may cause blisters
Crocs Classic Clog$$toddler 4-10toss-and-goeasy to clean; not suitable for beginning walkers
Converse Chuck Taylor$$toddler 2-10classic look, rubber solerubber sole for traction; runs large
Keds Little Kid’s Champion Toe Cap Sneaker$$toddler 1-10white, go-with-anything shoesmemory foam footbed; long shoelaces

New walkers’ feet grow rapidly, so a toddler’s first pair of shoes might only last them a few months. Be sure to check the fit of your child’s shoes every month or so to ensure there’s enough space for their little toes.

So, while the shoes you purchase should be worth the money and effort, it’s important to remember that you’ll probably be sizing up your toddler’s shoes at a speedy rate. (Read: You might want to avoid racking up credit card debt on tiny designer sneakers.)

The key when looking for toddler shoes is to find something that is lightweight and stable, but not too rigid. Natural materials are also preferred because they allow the feet to breathe and stay dry.

Beyond that, the APMA says there are three main areas to examine when choosing toddler shoes.

  1. Heel cup: The area of the shoe surrounding your toddler’s heel should not collapse when you pinch it between your thumb and index fingers.
  2. Toe flexibility: The sole should allow your toddler’s toes to flex, but not too much or too little.
  3. Rigid middle: If you grab the shoe with both hands, you shouldn’t be able to twist it in the middle.

Toddler shoes also come with all sorts of prints, colors, and features. If you’re having trouble choosing a pair, consider making a checklist that includes things like:

  • your toddler’s foot shape (narrow, wide, etc.)
  • the season you’re in (cold weather, summer conditions, rain, etc.)
  • your preferred materials (artificial or leather)
  • your budget (some toddler shoes are expensive!)
  • your child’s foot conditions (if any)
  • your intended use (everyday shoe, hiking/playground, water play, etc.)

With so many brands and sizing differences, it may be a good idea to take your toddler shoe shopping with you whenever possible to make sure you’re getting the right fit.

Your child’s feet swell slightly as the day goes on. So, it’s also important to shop for shoes in the afternoon or evening hours, when her feet are at their largest.

Other tips for the best fit:

  • Look at your child’s foot. Do you see any areas of irritation on the toes or heel? This may be a sign that their current shoes don’t fit properly. Or maybe they need a wider/narrower fit.
  • Examine their current shoes. Be sure to bring up anything unusual to your child’s doctor. For example, uneven heel wear may be a sign of a foot issue that needs treatment.
  • Choose a fit that accommodates your child’s bigger foot. Feet aren’t always the same exact size, so you want to be sure they’re both comfortable.
  • Don’t forget the socks! When you need to go up in size in shoes, you may also need to get bigger socks to ensure your child’s feet are comfortable and free to move.
  • Skip secondhand stores. While it can be tempting to grab a variety of gently used pairs cheap, this may not be the best idea for foot health. Hand-me-down footwear may harbor some unpleasant things, like athlete’s foot or nail fungus.
  • Seek professional help. Consider having your child professionally fitted if you feel like you’re having trouble.

And while you may have heard that shoes need a “breaking in” period, experts share this just isn’t true. Your toddler’s shoes should feel comfortable from the minute they put them on.

So, if they’re complaining or you notice they are uncomfortable, take the shoes back and choose something different.

What’s the best type of shoe for toddlers?

The best shoe for a toddler allows the foot to make natural motion. You’ll want to avoid bulky or heavy shoes that may make walking difficult and don’t allow for development of the growing foot.

Qualities to shop for include:

  • being lightweight
  • having a flexible sole
  • being easy to get on and off
  • a breathable design
  • made from natural materials

There’s no one best shoe for all children. By trying some on, you may find a pair that suits your child’s unique foot shape and your family’s lifestyle/activities. And remember that the most expensive shoes aren’t always the best —there’s a “best” shoe for every budget.

Do toddlers need special shoes?

The youngest toddlers need shoes that facilitate natural foot movement. This is important so the muscles in the feet can develop appropriately.

The feet also provide your child with a lot of sensory information, so flat, soft-soled shoes are a good choice to give the feet protection but also a barefoot-like feel.

Toddlers who have mastered walking can opt for firmer soles.

No matter the shoe type, though, it’s important to pay attention to the fit (both length and width), the toe space (allowing ample room), and the fastening mechanisms (so the foot stays securely inside the shoe).

At what age should your child start wearing shoes?

You may try shoes at any time when your child starts walking, which is anywhere between 8 and 18 months.

The APMA shares that when babies and toddlers first begin walking, no shoes are needed indoors. Instead, barefoot walking may be best to learn. However, if your child is walking outdoors or on some type of rough terrain, a flexible, lightweight shoe is appropriate at any age.

It’s exciting to pick out your child’s first pair of real shoes, so make it fun! Involve them in the process. Keep your list of guidelines in mind and be sure to check their feet frequently to see when you need to size up.

When in doubt, consider consulting the APMA’s list of companies that have earned their seal of approval for good foot health.