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Best Shoes For Toddlers
Updated on
December 6, 2023

Best Shoes For Toddlers

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Best Shoes For Toddlers.
Best Shoes For Toddlers

Buying the first shoes for your toddler can be an exciting milestone–but one that comes with lots of questions. What style or brand of shoe is best? Do they need expensive shoes or can they get by with a more affordable style? How do you know when they’ve outgrown them? We’ve got your answers to everything, from what to look for in your toddler’s shoes to tons of comfortable options. As a pediatric physical therapist, I have plenty of recommendations and insights to help you figure out how to get the best fit for your little one’s feet.

If you’ve seen recommendations for the best shoes for new walkers, you may be wondering what the difference is between a “first walker” or “new walker” shoe for toddlers.

The key differences are:

  • First walkers should be even more flexible and minimalist. They can include things like moccasins or soft-soled shoes. You want your new walker to be able to feel as much of the ground beneath them as possible, and often they aren’t yet encountering much out in the world that would puncture the sole of their shoe.
  • First walkers can have a larger toe rise to reduce tripping and falling.

Disclaimer: The recommendations in this article are for babies and toddlers without physical developmental delays or mobility aids. If your child requires special recommendations for shoes due to physical differences, please consult their pediatrician.

What to Look For in a Toddler Shoe

1. Heel loop for easy pulling onto chubby feet: Trust us on this one—it will make your life easier and promote independence for your toddler!

2. A firm, but flexible heel cup: This allows for freedom of movement at the heel, which is crucial to get your toddler to adapt to changing surfaces or challenges. You do want it to have slight resistance when you pinch the heel together, so you know it’s also assisting in stabilizing their foot within the shoe.

3. A protective, but flexible sole: Ideally, you could fold the shoe in half from the toe to the heel. While you want it to be flexible, you also want to ensure it’s protective against extreme heat or cold, or objects out on the ground that could puncture their foot.

4. Removable insoles: Kids outgrow shoes FAST. A super-simple way to add a little bit of extra room while you wait for their next pair is to remove the insoles. This is also a great trick if your toddler’s feet are on the wider side, or if they wear orthotics.

5. A wide, foot-shaped toe box: This one can be tricky if you don’t give it a careful eye. The toe box should not curve inward near their big toe or taper at the front of the shoe. This allows your toddler’s toes to fully grow and splay for optimal balance and stability.

6. Minimal-to-no lift in the toe box: Ideally, the shoe should have what’s called a zero drop sole. That means there’s no elevation from the heel to the toe and no elevation of the toe. Occasionally, a slight toe rise can be helpful if your little one struggles with tripping, but as soon as they’re more sure on their feet, be sure to find a shoe with a flatter toe box.

7. Velcro straps: You (and their daycare providers/teachers) will thank us. Velcro not only makes it easier for you, but also promotes independence—your toddler will be able to take their shoes off and on (… which is helpful most of the time). Velcro also allows a high level of adjustability to your little one’s unique foot size.

Tip: If you purchase a shoe with laces, consider replacing them with elastic laces to avoid having to tie and re-tie them all day long. And again, this promotes independence, allowing your toddler to put them on and take them off.

How Should Toddler Shoes Fit?

  • All shoes should allow the toes to splay out in standing without being scrunched or shifted in any direction other than the way they naturally lay.
  • There should be some space between the ends of their toes and the end of their shoes. This isn’t an exact science, but if you ask them to wiggle their toes and feel with your fingers or thumbs and the toes are right at the end of the shoe, it’s time to size up! Some companies like Ten Little have removable insoles with a line indicating when it’s time to size up. Simply have your child stand on the insole and you’ll be able to see where their foot lands within the shoe.
  • You shouldn’t notice any pressure points, red marks or impressions on your little one’s foot when you remove their socks and shoes.
  • If you’re finding that your child has wide feet, here are a few tips:
    • Try removing the insole to allow for more room in the shoe.
    • Adhere the Velcro behind the tongue of the shoe to give more space.
    • Purchase strap extenders to make the Velcro longer.
    • Buy size wide or extra-wide shoes from brands like Stride Rite or New Balance (although these shoes are more rigid and often don’t meet the desired criteria for a foot-healthy shoe, having a shoe that fits is more important than having the most ideal shoe).
    • Most importantly, try not to size up a full size to accommodate for width. The excess length is likely to lead to tripping and/or falling.

Buying Toddler Shoes For Special Physical Needs

  • If your little one is in need of adaptive shoes or orthotics, it’s best to consult with their therapist directly regarding footwear recommendations. However, here are a few general guidelines:
    • Try to increase width with the tips above before sizing up.
    • The See Kai Run adaptive line or Ten Little adaptive line are great in that they offer a more minimalist shoe while also accommodating orthotics (including mixed sizes).
    • If possible, speak with your child’s therapist and orthotist to determine if cutting the footplate back to behind the toes is an option–this not only decreases the need for added shoe length, but also allows for proper use of the toes in balance and stability activities.
    • Because orthotics limit foot and ankle motion, try to find a more minimalist shoe, as it improves your little one’s ability to feel through their feet and learn to adjust and adapt accordingly.

Best Affordable Toddler Shoes

Best Adaptive Toddler Shoes

Best Waterproof/Water Resistant Toddler Shoes

Best Sandals For Toddlers

Best Water Shoes For Toddlers

Best Outdoors/Hiking Shoes For Toddlers

Best Machine Washable Shoes For Toddlers

Best Special Occasion Shoes For Toddlers

Ten Little Mary Janes.

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Best Rain Boots For Toddlers

Tree Grandpa Toddler Rain Boots.

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Ten Little Rain Boots.

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Kailee Noland

Pediatric Physical Therapist, PT, DPT

Dr. Kailee Noland, PT, DPT is a pediatric physical therapist and mama of two (soon to be three). She is a self-proclaimed baby & toddler enthusiast and is passionate about helping families incorporate developmental play into everyday routines and rhythms. She has also helped countless families feel empowered to choose the right shoes for their children. You can find support and encouragement in all things motherhood and motor milestones within The Movement Mama community.

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