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While shoes for toddlers may initially come to mind as cute accessories, there are actually very important considerations, like your child’s development, to keep in mind as you look around for the cutest sneakers.
That said, just because form matters, doesn’t mean you have to overlook function all together. In fact, there are lots of legacy footwear brands that have really put a lot of effort and research into creating shoes that are specifically designed for your developing toddler. If you’re wondering exactly what that means, an article in the Lower Extremity Review, which is a trade magazine for movement healthcare professionals, broke down what people should be considering when they’re looking for shoes for tiny growing feet.
The article explains that children’s needs vary as they develop, and this affects how their feet handle load-bearing. This happens as your child learns to walk, and it determines the shape of their foot. The article notes that this is actually why it’s important, especially between the ages of two and four, to avoid shoes with lots of arch support as it can change the way the foot would naturally develop. More practically speaking, if you were thinking that you should avoid flat-soled shoes like Converse sneakers because they don’t offer enough support for your feet, think again. These kinds of options are actually exactly what your child needs.
Another interesting thing that the article addresses is the fact that boys’ feet typically begin to widen during toddlerhood, while girls’ feet become longer and more narrow. This is a plus if you’re considering unisex versus shoes tailored specifically for a certain gender. For both genders, toddlers had one thing in common, and it has to do with their stride. You know that adorable little stride that your child has picked up, the article notes that it’s due to the fact that toddlers tend to walk more vertically with a toe-off motion.
What this means is that footwear for this age group needs a little more flexibility in the forefoot, and a little more cushioning in the rear foot. Another academic journal agrees, saying that toddlers should have shoes as flexible as their feet. This is primarily due to the fact that little feet are forming connective tissue, which actually means that their feet need the freedom to grow naturally.
This should be kept in mind when you’re looking at materials, and it definitely favors softer, more malleable materials like buttery soft leather or simple canvas. While soft materials will allow for the most movement, make sure that, whether you choose fasteners like velcro or shoe strings, you’re not securing the foot all too tightly. And since the feet are growing so quickly, it’s important to note when they start to get a little more snug due to growth instead of tighter laces.
With all of these factors in mind, we rounded up some of our favorite shoes for toddlers. Don’t worry, we kept style in mind (because who can resist tiny little Vans or Pumas?!). That said, we also took developmental considerations into account. Keep scrolling for our seriously cute, seriously supportive toddler shoes.
Vans Sk8-Hi Zip
Highlights of the classic Vans Sk8-Hi Zip style include a plush padded tongue and collar, Vans’ signature waffle rubber outsoles for added traction and zippers at the heel for easy on and off.
While toddlers may dirty the Keds Graham up fast, a canvas upper allows for easy cleaning and a cushioned footbed delivers all-day comfort. They also feature grippy rubber outsoles with extra toe protection.
Skechers Sport Lighted Heart Lights
Little ones will love these playful Skechers Sport Lighted Heart Lights sneakers, featuring shimmering sequin and metallic details, a Skech-Air sole with heart-shaped details and gel-infused memory foam insoles.
Nike Free RN 2018
Just like the big version for grownups, Nike’s Free RN 2018 features a breathable engineered mesh upper designed to deliver a snug fit and a super flexible sole so little feet can move naturally.
Adidas Originals Tubular Shadow
The brand’s signature Tubular outsole gets downsized for toddlers with the stylish Adidas Originals Tubular Shadow. Parents will appreciate the stretchy elastic laces, which make the shoe easy to get on and off.
See Kai Run Stevie II
Little boys won’t be able to resist the casual-cool design of the See Kai Run Stevie II sneaker, which features a soft cotton jersey fabric inspired by a favorite sweatshirt. The shoe is built on a flexible rubber outsole that provides superior traction and durability for new walkers.
Puma Suede Classic
Fifty years since its debut, Puma’s Suede Classic XXI sneaker is still as popular as ever. The toddlers’ version doesn’t miss a detail, from its distinctive Formstrip logo to its etched rubber outsole.
Reebok Classic Leather
Reebok’s Classic Leather not only looks cool but also comes with all the functional elements that active toddlers need. A cushy EVA midsole provides lightweight comfort, and a grippy, super durable gum rubber outsole keeps new walkers steady on their feet.
Stride Rite Artie
Offering a sporty look, Stride Rite’s Artie shoe is a part of the brand’s innovative Soft Motion collection, which scored a Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association. It’s loaded with hard-working features, including a seamless construction that mimics the natural shape of a child’s foot, a memory foam footbed for comfort and a rounded sole to improve balance and grip.
Saucony Originals Jazz Hook & Loop
Another vintage silhouette, these Saucony Originals Jazz Hook & Loop sneakers feature a soft, breathable suede upper, featherlight EVA midsoles and hook-and-loop closures that open wide so tots can get in and out with ease.
Lacoste’s Court-Drive sneakers featuring the brand’s iconic green crocodile logo are crafted with a lightweight stretch-knit mesh upper and injection-molded EVA outsoles for secure lockdown and supported steps.
Ugg Rennon ll
Ugg’s Rennon ll is crafted with a soft suede upper with leather panels, a fluffy, antimicrobial sheep fur lining, and hook-and-loop closures for easy on and off. Underfoot, an EVA foam footbed ensures comfort.
Simple Joys by Carter’s Knit
Not only are Simple Joys by Carter’s knit trainers lightweight and breathable, but they’re also incredibly easy to slip on and off and come in two cute colorway options. Not to mention, they’re budget-friendly.
New Balance KX574v1I
New Balance’s KX574v1l shoe delivers a trendy retro aesthetic, plus plenty of must-have performance features. Among them, mesh panels allow sweaty feet to breathe and a cushioned midsole is designed for all-day comfort. They also come in wide-width sizes for chubby feet.
Robeez Everyday Ethan
Designed to keep kiddo’s feet cool and comfy, Robeez’s Everyday Ethan Sneakers have a supple leather upper with perforations for added breathability, suede details and elastic laces with a stay-put strap. An elastic heel design also helps little ones slip these on.
Sperry Striper II Jr
Delivering a clean, nautical look, Sperry’s Striper ll Jr sneakers have a durable genuine leather upper, plush memory foam footbed and high-traction rubber outsoles for grip on both wet and dry surfaces.
OshKosh B’Gosh Gianni
The OshKosh B’Gosh Gianni also has stretchy elastic laces, dual pull-on tabs, cushioned insoles and a toe bumper to keep little toes protected. You can easily throw these in the machine when they need to be cleaned.
Under Armour Surge 2
Under Armour’s Surge 2 shoe features a breathable upper, full-length EVA sockliner, enhanced cushioning around the ankle and an adjustable hook and loop strap closure for easy adjustments to the fit.
Ten Little Every Original
Available in an array of color options, Ten Little’s Everyday Original boasts two velcro closure straps, a vegan leather upper and a soft, breathable cotton lining. The toe caps are also reinforced and the non-skid, natural soles are made from the milk of the Hevea tree. The simple style also comes in a high-top version.
Native Shoes Jefferson
Perfect for warm weather, Native Shoes’ Jefferson sneaker is designed with a flexible and easy-to-clean EVA upper featuring all-over perforations so little feet can breathe. The odor-resistant and shock-absorbing shoe comes in various styles like this glittery option.