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Looking for a pair of shoes for toddlers? When little ones start cruising along and taking many (expected) spills along the way, the right footwear matters.
First, know that toddlers are kids between one and three years old. This is a huge age range in terms of physical development. Around one they may be taking their first (unsteady) steps, but near age three, they — like my son — will be running and jumping all over the place.
If they’re working on stumbling around, resist buying the walking shoes for babies that are made to match an outfit. “From a health standpoint, if babies are just learning to walk, they’re more stable if they don’t have shoes,” said Dr. Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando. Once active and steady on their feet, their tootsies need shoes as protection from sharp objects and infections they can pick up outdoors, she said. (She’s treated kids who’ve stepped on snakes and gotten bites — yikes.)
For younger tots, look for soft-soled and flexible shoes to assist in taking steps, said Moorjani — firm soles make it more likely they’ll trip. Older toddlers will do well with sneakers. Velcro closers are best, as it gives them the ability to secure their shoes on their own. Besides, laces that come untied are a trip risk — they don’t know how to stop and tie them, after all.
And they may have little feet — but they’re not narrow. “A lot of toddlers have really wide feet,” said Moorjani. If you take their shoes off and you see a shoe imprint on their skin, you may need to go for a pair available in a wider width for better comfort.
Here are seven pairs of toddler shoes that look great and are healthy for their feet.
Best For Learning to Walk
Freshly Picked Soft Sole Moccasins, $60, Amazon
The soft soles make perfect protectors for little feet during indoor play, and they’re flexible enough to let tot toes “grip” the floor.
Best For Tot Fashion
Zutano Leather Sandal, $29, Amazon
The leather sole is flexible for first steps and grips the floor for better traction. They’re also built to last through seasons. (And if you have an infant, they come in a 6-month size, too.)
Best For Comfort
Stride Rite Soft Motion Jamie Sneaker, $44, Stride Rite
Moms love these because they keep feet steady but are soft for comfort. They also have the American Podiatric Medical Association Seal of Acceptance as a pair fit for foot health.
Best for Back to School
Keen Jasper Sneaker, $55, Nordstrom
Sizes for this sneaker start around the 2-year-old foot mark, making it perfect for their foray into preschool days. The capped rubber toe is everything — little feet trip all the time. Plus, the rounded toe box gives their naturally wider feet room to wiggle.
Best For Everyday Wear
Smallbirds Wool Runners, $55, Allbirds
Their feet get all hot and sweaty, but these wool (yes, wool!) shoes let their feet breathe and stay cool without all the stink. Best of all: They can be worn sans socks and you can throw them in the washing machine.
Native Kids Monaco Low Slip On, $50, Amazon
These slip-ons are another breathable alternative.
Best For Active Toddlers
New Balance 574 Core, $55, New Balance
The brand makes a wider toe box to allow toes to splay when walking. (They’re also available in wide widths.) The Velcro lets toddlers help with securing their shoes, something they’re all about in the “me do it” phase.
Best for Muddy Adventures
Native Jefferson Slip-On Sneaker, starting at $25, Amazon
These are must-have shoes for warmer months. And they’re an Amazon no. 1 best seller for a reason. Take it from this mom who buys one pair a season. Built with the protection of a sneaker but the breathability of a sandal, kiddos can wear these without socks and they rinse off easily.