21 of the Coolest Things to Happen in the Kids’ Shoe Market This Year (So Far)

As mini-me dressing continues to gain momentum — fueled by today’s fashion-loving millennial parents — the category is a standout in a tough climate.

Here’s a look at some of this year’s highlights, including high-profile launches, must-have collaborations and hot licensing deals.

Powering Up

Super Heroic has had quite the action-packed year. The sneaker startup (led by former Jordan designer Jason Mayden) scored a $3 million investment from industry giant Foot Locker and laced up its first licensing deal, a partnership with Hasbro to create footwear and apparel inspired by the Nerf toy brand. The company also surprised its fans with the launch of a comic book franchise chronicling the adventures of five young heroes on a mission to make the world better.

Nerf Super Heroic Kids Shoes
The Nerf x Super Heroic kids’ shoe collab.
CREDIT: Super Heroic

Slam Dunk

Skechers is looking to score big in the athletic space through a new partnership with Shaquille O’Neal. The California brand has teamed up with the NBA legend on its first line of kids’ basketball shoes, unveiled in July. Packed with performance features to power young players through some serious on-court action, the Shaq by Skechers styles also incorporate kid-friendly details like adjustable Velcro straps.

Shaq Kids Sneakers
Shaq by Skechers kids’ collection.
CREDIT: Skechers

Out for Delivery

From cook-at-home meal kits to cosmetics, the subscription box business is exploding. So it’s no surprise that the world’s biggest athletic brand is getting in the game. After a two-year test run under startup partner Easy Kicks, Nike rolled out a first-of-its-kind sneaker subscription service for kids. The new Nike Adventure Club offers three membership tiers ($20, $30 or $50 a month) that give time-strapped shoppers access to a selection of more than 100 shoes, all delivered straight to their door.

Nike adventure club
Nike Adventure Club
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike.

Leading Lady

Ciara continues to “Level Up.” With seven hit albums under her belt — including this year’s “Beauty Marks” — the R&B singer and mother of two is taking on a new challenge. At the start of the back-to-school shopping rush, Finish Line tapped her to serve as creative director for the chain’s fall ’19 Nike and Jordan kids’ collections. In addition to curating fresh looks for the season, Ciara also is sharing fashion inspiration and other personal content with her millions of social media fans.

Ciara Future Zahir Finish Line Back to School Campaign
Ciara and her son, Future Zahir, model sporty looks for Finish Line.
CREDIT: Finish Line

Oh Baby

Christian Louboutin dipped his red soles in the children’s world two years ago when he created a single baby shoe for Goop. This spring, he upped the ante with a chic mother-daughter collection, featuring satin bow-trimmed slippers for little ones and coordinating sandals and sneakers for grownups. Considering that the limited-edition designs sold out in mere hours, the French designer could have a big opportunity in the kids’ business.

Christian Louboutin
Christian Louboutin mommy-and-me styles.
CREDIT: Christian Louboutin

Shark Attack

Just in time for summer, Vans sunk its teeth into a collaboration in honor of Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week television event. From surf-inspired tees and printed board shorts to sneakers branded with scarily realistic shark images, the collection celebrated the ocean’s most fearsome and fascinating predators in Vans’ signature cool-kid style. Plus, proceeds benefitted the Oceana organization, which is working to end a global shark fin trade that harms more than 73 million animals each year.

Vans x Shark Week
Vans x Shark Week

Roll With It

Heelys is putting a basketball-inspired spin on its popular wheeled sneaker. Building on its partnership with the Harlem Globetrotters — which saw the world-famous entertainers wearing its shoes during exhibition games across the U.S. and abroad — the brand in November will debut a limited-edition style for fans. Produced by licensee BBC International, the retro-inspired high-top features the Globetrotters’ signature red, white and blue uniform color palette, accented with pinstripes. Both kids’ and adult sizes will be available.

Heelys Harlem Globetrotters Sneakers
Heelys’ Harlem Globetrotters sneakers.
CREDIT: BBC International

Strapped In

When Plae skipped onto the scene six years ago, it quickly carved out a niche with its clever concept: shoes with interchangeable straps — or tabs — that allow kids to switch up their look in a snap. This fall, the brand is taking things to the next level with its new Tab Designer customizing tool. With just a few clicks, kids can upload favorite photos or original artwork to create their own one-of-a-kind straps. Each set of four costs $20, and orders arrive in one to two weeks.

Plae Designer Tab Customized Kids Sneakers
Plae’s new Designer Tab tool lets kids customize their sneakers.

Girl Powered

To help design her label’s first kids’ styles, Loeffler Randall founder Jessie Randall called in an expert: her daughter, Clementine. The 11-year-old created a cool capsule of girls’ sandals and clothing for summer — plus a few fashion goodies for moms — inspired by favorite pieces from her own closet. The limited-edition looks were sold exclusively through J.Crew’s children’s offshoot, Crewcuts.

Clementine Randall Crewcuts Loeffler Randall
Clementine Randall models sandals from her Crewcuts capsule line.
CREDIT: Loeffler Randall

Golden Girls

Under licensing partner SG Cos., Chinese Laundry will debut a new girls’ collection for spring ’20. The fashion-focused assortment — available in tween sizes 13 to 4 — will include a mix of casual and dress sandals that capture the latest trends (glitter, rainbows, platform heels and more), as well as the essence of the Chinese Laundry aesthetic.

Chinese Laundry Girls Sandal Spring 2020
Chinese Laundry rainbow elastic girls’ sandal for spring 2020.
CREDIT: Chinese Laundry

Royal Flush

Like his equally famous Cambridge cousins, Britain’s newest royal baby, Archie, is poised to give the kids’ industry a major boost. Retail experts predict that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s firstborn son, who arrived in May, will spark an additional $1.5 billion in sales of clothing, shoes and other pint-sized products over the next two years alone. And with Archie set to embark on his first royal tour this fall — he’ll join his parents as they make several stops across Southern Africa — the world could get its first glimpses of his princely wardrobe.

Meghan Markle Prince Harry Archie
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with their son, Archie.
CREDIT: Chris Allerton/Shutterstock

Kidding Around

Aldo made some big moves in the kids’ market this year. After dabbling with limited children’s assortments in the past, the Canadian footwear giant went all in, introducing a full-scale collection offering everything from trendy sneakers and sandals to dress looks and rainboots. The company also tied up a deal with celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe to produce kids’ shoes under her well-known name for 2021.

Aldo Kids Sneaker
Embellished Aldo sneaker for kids.

Foot Notes

Newcomer Baby Says is letting kids’ feet do the talking. Tailor-made for today’s Instagram-obsessed world, the brand’s infant shoes are designed with chalkboard-like bottoms, allowing parents to personalize them with special messages for photo shoots, pregnancy announcements, gender reveals, gift giving, holidays, milestones and other special moments. Each pair comes with a set of liquid chalk markers, and the shoes can be wiped off with soap and water when you’re ready for a clean slate.

Baby Says Infant Shoes
Baby Says shoes feature a chalkboard-like bottom.
CREDIT: Baby Says

Baby Boom

There’s no keeping up with Kylie Jenner. Thanks to a hugely successful cosmetics business, lucrative brand endorsements and a hit reality TV franchise, the 22-year-old reigns as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire. And it seems her empire building is only beginning. Jenner had the internet buzzing in May when news surfaced that she had filed trademarks for “Kylie Baby” and “Kylie Baby by Kylie Jenner” across a range of categories including apparel, shoes, strollers, diapers and home furnishings. So far, details and a launch date for her new venture are being kept under wraps — but her legions of fans are feeling the baby fever.

stormi Webster, baby, purse, nike sneakers, camo outfit, mom, Kylie Jenner and Stormi Webster'Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly' film premiere, Arrivals, Barker Hangar, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Aug 2019
Kylie Jenner holding baby Stormi on the red carpet.
CREDIT: Shutterstock

Natural Selection

Children are the future stewards of our planet — and three shoe brands are helping to make sure they’re ready for the role. Clarks, Geox and Vivobarefoot each created special collections designed to teach kids about conservation and endangered animals. Clarks partnered with National Geographic on a visually striking sneaker capsule made from recycled plastic bottles and inspired by unique creatures such as the harlequin filefish and the golden pheasant. Vivobarefoot linked up with The Aspinall Foundation to design shoes celebrating some of the world’s most critically endangered species, among them the Siberian Tiger and the East African black rhinoceros. Geox, meanwhile, created two charming animal-themed assortments in support of the World Wildlife Fund.

Vivobarefoot Aspinall Foundation Collab
Vivobarefoot Mini Primus Kids x Aspinall
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vivobarefoot

In the Clear

Western Chief is making rainy days a little brighter with a new collaboration with Pals, known for its mismatched sock sets. The Seattle brand created a see-through version of its popular pull-handle rainboot that puts Pals’ colorful hosiery on display. Now, kids can change up their wet-weather look in a flash.

Western Chief
Western Chief debuted a collaboration with sock brand Pals.
CREDIT: Western Chief

Youth Movement

In an age of video games, cell phones and other digital diversions, youth sports participation is plummeting. Last year, only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 took part in team sports on a regular basis, according to research from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. But Dick’s Sporting Goods is stepping up to break down one of the biggest barriers to play — cost — by pledging to provide sports access for a million youth athletes over the next five years. In addition, the retailer will match up to $1 million in donations made by customers to its charitable foundation — talk about a win-win.

Sugar Rush

Saucony teamed up with Dunkin’ again to celebrate the Boston Marathon — and this time, the sneaker brand put a little icing on the cake. In addition to an adult running shoe, the buzzy collaboration included a takedown version for munchkins. The kids’ Kinvara 10 style showcased fun details such as Dunkin’s pink and orange logo on the upper, frosted doughnut charms on the laces and a coffee cup icon on the tongue. The $65 kicks came packaged in a custom box — doughnuts not included.

saucony, dunkin', collaboration, kinvara 10
Saucony’s latest collaboration with Dunkin’ includes both an adult and a kids’ style.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Saucony

Fine Arts

For its first collaboration, Rothy’s turned to the art world, tapping acclaimed illustrator Pete Oswald to create a line of sneakers for kids (unveiled last month). Playing with a mismatched-pairs concept, Oswald let his imagination run wild across a series of animal designs — from a flock of flamingos to a banana-eating orangutan — that look as if they’ve been pulled straight from the pages of a storybook.

Rothy's Pete Oswald Kids Shoes
Illustrator Pete Oswald created a series of cute kids shoes for Rothy’s.
CREDIT: Rothy's

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