Is your baby beginning to take their first steps? Or has your toddler outgrown the baby slip-ons?
Shoes are essential. For pre-walking babies, they’re a cute accessory, while for walking toddlers, a means of protection.
If you’re anything like me, you love shoe shopping. However, buying shoes for a little one who’s just started walking is a completely different ball game.
That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you find the best baby walking shoes for your specific situation.
Different Types of Baby Shoes
There are many different types of shoes available. Since your munchkins are still too little to tie their own shoes, the kind of closure you choose is entirely up to you.
Here are a few:
- Laces: Personally, laces are my favorite. Yes, it can be a headache tying tiny strings, but there’s just something about it that makes babies look like mini adults.
- Velcro: Velcro is your classic baby shoe strap — it’s excellent for teaching your toddler how to open and close, not to mention easy for mommy and daddy. They’re also very adjustable for wider or narrower feet.
- Slip-ons: These are great for a first shoe. However, once your toddler gets serious about walking, they may not be suitable. As easy as they are to slip on, they’re also easy to slip off.
- Snaps: This type is similar to the slip ons, but they provide a bit more support and are more secure.
- Buckles and straps: An example is sandals with ankle straps. These are more for experienced walkers who are already secure on their feet. They don’t provide much support, depending on the type you buy of course.
Choosing the Best Baby Shoes
When your little ones are ready to walk, either with your support or by themselves, you should be looking for a supportive, comfortable shoe. Because your baby’s feet are still developing, the footwear should be sturdy, with proper shock absorption (1).
Make sure that the shoe isn’t stiff. This can interfere with how your toddler walks. If they’re just beginning to get on their feet, it could really become a hindrance.
When shopping around for baby and toddler walking shoes, look for:
- Good padding: Especially around the ankle and back of the heel.
- Correct size: Curled toes or too much space is not a good sign. If the exact shoe size isn’t available, don’t go up or down a size: choose a different style.
- Provide support: Shoes should be sturdy and comfortable, to support little feet and legs.
- A flat, flexible sole: The shoes should be able to bend easily, to give little feet the flexibility to move. And flat is essential, i.e. no heels for little girls!
- Non-slip soles: Look for grooves or texture on the sole, so kiddies new to walking won’t slip and slide.
- Closure: Ensure the type of closure is secure, so the shoes can’t come off easily.
Best Baby & Toddler Walking Shoes of 2020
Now we should have a general idea of what to look for in shoes for when baby starts taking their first steps.
I’ve searched and found the best shoes fitted for various types of feet, styles, and seasons. So let’s get started.
1. Saucony Kids' Baby Ride Pro Running Shoe
When your toddler has flat feet, you need a shoe that supports the arch. These lightweight running shoes from Saucony are a great fit.
Although they say running shoes, your little one can use them anywhere. These are great on the playground where your toddler will likely be very active. Since flat feet can get sore faster, these provide enough support for some extra play.
The only downside is that they can be a bit pricey.
2. New Balance Kids' Running Shoe
These shoes from New Balance are the perfect fit for toddlers who are always on the move. They’re easy to slip on since they have a wide Velcro strap.
A thick midsole provides more than enough shock absorption, while the outsole is made from rubber, making for excellent durability and flexibility.
There are, however, two downsides to this shoe. While they’re perfect for wider feet, they aren’t as suitable for children with narrower feet. Also, the color options aren’t that creative. Pink/grey or grey/purple for girls and black/grey or grey/grey for boys.
But in saying this, the shoe itself is fantastic! (Can I get an adult size, please?)
3. Stride Rite Sneakers
The Stride Rite sneakers take all the summer essentials into consideration.
This is the perfect type of shoe for summer vacations — half sneaker, half water shoe! They’re great for days at the beach, pool, or by the garden sprinklers. The upper is 100 percent EVA rubber, with a synthetic sole.
On the outsole, there are rubber pods, which provide a non-slip grip. To secure the shoes, there’s a hook and loop closure. Your little one can wear these in and out of the water, so you don’t have to worry about slippery rocks or scalding sand.
Another bonus is that they’re machine washable. However, these sneakers can cause blisters if worn for too long, so take them off whenever possible.
4. Converse Kids All Star Sneakers
Converse All Stars are classic sneakers. The material is 100 percent textile, making them lightweight and breathable with a rubber sole. They come in several different colors, all with the classic lace-up look.
Converse are my all-time favorite. My kids love them since they can customize them with different colored shoelaces.
The only thing I would say is that they’re a little too firm when new. Some moms suggest throwing them in the washer on the cold setting, then drying them on low heat in the dryer to soften them up.
5. Kamik Footwear Insulated Boot
They come with a Velcro fitting strap above the ankle, ensuring that as little snow as possible can enter. This also makes the boot sturdy and supports the child’s feet.
The only negative is that the sizes run large. However, if your toddler has wide feet, these should be a good fit.
6. Timberland Adventure Seeker Two-Strap Sandals
These sandals from Timberland are excellent for summer exploring. We’re probably all familiar with the brand and the fantastic outdoor footwear they create.
This sandal does not disappoint! It’s made from lightweight materials of 100 percent textile, with a synthetic sole and EVA foam footbed. They’re water friendly, and the straps adjust for wider feet.
One grumble is that they’re quite inflexible when new. This can make little feet tired after a while. But once worn in, they should soften up.
7. Saucony Kids Jazz Sneakers
Velcro is the choice for most parents and for good reason, too. It’s adjustable and easy to open and close. These sneakers from Saucony come with a durable, and large, Velcro hook and loop closure.
The shoes come with synthetic soles, and the material is a mix of nylon and suede.
However, they tend to be a little stiff for the first couple of uses. But besides that, these come close to perfect!
What I love about this shoe, apart from the Velcro, is the thick heel, providing a decent amount of shock absorption.
8. Sperry Halyard Hook & Loop Boat Shoe
This shoe from Sperry Halyard is more than suitable for active toddler boys.
They come in either medium or wide fit, with enough support at the arch to allow tiny feet to explore a bit further. The colors available are adorable for baby boys, ranging from khaki to grey and blue.
They’re quick to slip on and off with their Velcro loop-strap feature. Finally, the soles are rubber, which makes for excellent durability and traction.
On the downside, they’re quite pricey for a soon-to-be-outgrown shoe.
9. New Balance Kids Running Shoes
I know I already mentioned New Balance on this list, but they really do make some great shoes. Especially footwear fitted for broader feet.
These New Balance running shoes meet all expectations. They come with a hook and loop strap, which is easy to adjust, plus a padded heel and sole for shock absorption. In all, excellent for active toddlers.
There are loads of colors to choose from, too.
10. Airwalk Kids' Legacee Sneaker
When your toddler has narrow feet, you want a shoe that hugs them just right. These sneakers from Airwalk come very close.
They support the foot in the right places without being too stiff. The upper is 100 percent canvas, with a cap toe. The insole is padded rubber for extra support.
The look of the shoe is similar to a Converse All-Star. Fortunately for us, the price is a little lower. With many colors to choose from, there’s sure to be one you’ll love.
11. Oaki Rubber Rain Boots for Kids
During late fall and early spring, we’re usually “blessed” with a decent amount of rainfall. My toddlers loved playing in puddles, making mud pies or even “chocolate milk” (don’t ask). But things tend to get messy, and there’s no avoiding wet socks.
Fortunately, these rain boots from Oaki will minimize the water touching your toddler’s tootsies. The boots are breathable, and come with cute handles for an easy pull-up. The material on the outside is rubber, and on the inside is a 100 percent cotton lining.
The boots come in many vibrant colors, inspiring your little one’s new adventures.
However, because these are so lightweight, some moms complained that the seams split after a couple of months of use.
12. Crocs Kids Slip-On Sneakers
These slip-on sneakers from Crocs Kids are a win-win for any outdoorsy toddler.
The perforated matlite uppers have a ventilated top and a foam footbed sole. This prevents sweat and odor, while supporting fast-growing feet.
These Crocs also fit a wide range of feet, and they have a stretch panel on each side, making them super easy to slip on and off.
One thing that I love is the fact that you get the comfort of Crocs, but in a more fashionable way. Plus, like original Crocs, they’re super easy to clean.
13. Kids Bron Mary Jane Ballet Shoes
These ballet shoes from Kids Bron are cute and fabulous. Whether your little girl loves glittery silver or is into glossy black, these do the trick. They come in many different colors; red, black, and silver, etc. — fitted to individual personalities.
At first glance, they look a bit stiff. However, they’re actually quite flexible and provide an ample amount of support.
The style is slip-on, but the toddler sizes come with an elastic strap to keep them in place. The sizes are reported to run a bit small, so buy a size up to be sure of a good fit.
14. Carter's Every Step Walking Shoes
The Carter’s Every Step walking shoe is the perfect type of footwear for a walking newbie.
They are 100 percent polyurethane, and have a sleek look to them. The shoe has a synthetic sole, with a molded outsole.
To help your little one master the right balance, the heel and forefoot have sensory pods. What I love the most is the adjustable fit, which allows for natural development of the foot.
15. Keds Graham Classic Lace Up Sneakers
As I said earlier, there’s something adorable about toddlers wearing lace-up shoes that I just love. If you’re like me, these sneakers from Keds Graham are another good candidate.
They have a canvas upper, with flexible rubber soles and padded toe protection at the front. A terry cloth lining ensures comfort.
Three widths are available, but the fit is reported to be narrow, so if your little one has wide feet, it’s best to order the extra wide size for comfort.
Are Baby Walking Shoes Necessary?
Some people say that shoes for babies aren’t needed until they’re much older. While this may be true for babies who are still not walking, how important are they once they start toddling about?
Barefoot vs Shoes
For small babies just beginning to stand, or maybe taking their few first steps, shoes are not necessary. In fact, for this stage, they’re more of a hindrance when learning how to walk.
Some old wives’ tales state that not wearing shoes helps little one’s feet to develop properly. There is some truth to this. Letting your little one go barefoot when learning how to walk will only make it easier for them.
When walking barefoot, your baby’s feet receive sensory information from the surfaces they touch. This will not only build strength and form arches, but it also helps them gain a sense of balance and coordination.
In turn, this improves their proprioception (spatial awareness), which will eventually lead to good posture (2).
Shoes exist to protect feet; however, they don’t promote the natural growth of the foot.
This is why it’s so important that, when our babies do wear shoes, we choose wisely. Too small or restrictive footwear can lead to all sorts of impairments such as ingrown nails or crumpled toes as well as making it difficult to work on balancing
Unfortunately, many of today’s shoes weren’t designed to promote natural growth and stimulation. We’ve all seen those toddler heels for girls and mini motorcycle boots for boys — these don’t seem appropriate for developing feet.
But before we get all anti-shoes here, they are important items to include. We live in a world full of unnatural substances and materials that a toddler’s feet need protection from.
When to Start Using Shoes
Shoes become essential as soon as your little one’s feet need protection. For instance, when they begin to walk around outside, at the playground, park, or mall. Here, there can be all sorts of harmful items, like glass and dog poop, to name just two.
However, experts suggest that as soon as it’s safe, you take the shoes off. When at home, and the floor is a little chilly, baby socks with grips to prevent slipping are a better option.
If you have a small baby, it can be tempting to let them wear shoes when you go outside. Baby footwear is beyond cute, no argument there — it is, after all, a billion-dollar industry. But as we just read above, they’re highly unnecessary.
Different Types of Feet
Although most feet will have five toes, a heel and a sole, some are narrower than normal, while others are broader. This is simply due to our genetic makeup.
It’s also what makes shoe shopping for babies and toddlers so tricky. Good manufacturers make sure their footwear fits a range of different feet.
But before we go into that, let’s get a closer look at the different types of feet.
1. Flat Feet
Flat foot is a condition where the arch of the foot is less developed than usual. Nearly all babies have flat feet when they’re born; this is perfectly normal.
For most, the arch will develop naturally around the age of six. In fact, only about one or two out of 10 babies will continue to have flat feet through adulthood (3).
There’s no need for medical intervention unless it’s severe or causing discomfort.
If your toddler has flat feet, the best shoes to buy are those that provide enough support. Look for a shoe that supports the arch; this also helps build a good posture.
2. Wide Feet
Being a mom of children with wide feet, I know how real the struggle of shoe shopping can be. Most of the footwear will fit perfectly in length, but then their little pinky toes are being squashed, causing discomfort.
Fortunately, it’s possible to find suitable footwear for wide feet. Look for styles that are made from flexible material, as you would see on tennis shoes or sneakers. Opt for Velcro or laces, since you can adjust these accordingly (4).
Never compensate with a longer shoe! This will neither help your little one’s feet, nor your pocket.
3. Narrow Feet
Oh, how I’ve always envied narrow feet. It seemed that the shoe options are endless.
That is, of course, until I talked with a mom whose kids have narrower feet. Apparently, there aren’t many companies catering to those children. Yes, some styles do run a little tighter, but there isn’t a wide (or narrow!) selection.
After talking with this mom, it became clear to me that narrow feet often glide out of the heel of a badly-fitting shoe. This, in turn, causes pain and blisters.
If you’re unsure whether your child has narrow feet or not, let them try on some shoes of the correct size. If there’s too much room at the sides, it’s probably due to a narrow foot (5).
How to Fit Baby Walking Shoes
Once your little one is wearing their new potential kickers, glide your pinkie down into the heel and around the ankle. It should be a snug fit all round.
Next, you should feel the tip of the shoe by pressing lightly while your child is standing. Ideally, there should be no more than a half-inch space between the big toe and tip of the shoe.
To check if the shoe is too narrow, look at the sides near the pinky toe. If there’s a small bump, it’s too tight.
Do’s and Don’ts
When shopping for your kiddo’s new footgear:
- Do: Opt for comfort rather than cuteness.
- Do: Pick a shoe with an ankle-cut or high-top, preferably secured with either Velcro, snaps or laces.
- Don’t: Buy hand-me-downs from someone else. These are likely sculpted by their previous owner and won’t necessarily fit your toddler.
- Don’t: Assume you know the correct size; instead get your little one’s feet professionally measured. Or, at least, check the shoe when it’s on, to make sure it fits well.
Shoes are essential at times, we all know that. They keep tiny toddling feet protected from harmful substances and items found on the ground.
Still, letting your little one walk barefoot whenever possible is very important. This will help build balance and good posture, while promoting the natural growth of the feet.
But finding the best baby walking shoes can be a tricky task. As a mom of kids with wide feet, I love the New Balance Kids running shoes. These were the perfect fit, providing enough support and comfort without hindering the baby’s walking progress.
Did our baby shoe reviews help you make a decision? Do you have a favorite shoe brand for your toddlers? Let us know in the comments below!