As any parent will lament, the “baby stage” passes quickly. That teary-eyed pride felt as your little one learns to put one foot in front of the other soon gives way to that wide-eyed realization that everything is different now that the baby can walk. Whether they are 9 months old or well past their first birthday, when your little one is ready to get going, you better be ready to keep up.
With any new adventure, you need the right gear for the journey. You cannot prevent every tumble your little walker takes, but you can protect their feet as they teeter around by selecting baby shoes that are comfortable, durable, and supportive—fortunately, Truly Mama has you covered with these best baby shoes made for walking, because that’s just what they’ll do. And yes, that toddler of yours will be walking all over you.
If you’re determined to find the best toddler shoes for your kids, we’re here to help. Here’s what you need to know.
In this article:
- Do babies need shoes?
- What to look for in a toddler shoe
- How to choose a toddler shoe
- The best toddler shoe for wide feet: Stride Rite Soft Motion Mason Sneaker
- Best running shoe for kids: Nike Flex Runner
- Best water shoes for toddlers: Toddlers’ Knotch River Open-Toe Sandal
- Best hiking shoe for kids: L.L. Bean Toddlers’ Waterproof Trail Model Hikers
- Best easy-on off toddler shoe: Freshly Picked moccasins
- Best pull-on shoes for toddlers: Ro + Me by Robeez Kids’ Alex Athletic Sneaker crib shoe
- Best summer shoes for toddlers: Classic Crocs
- Best rain boots for toddlers: Kids’ Crocband rain boot
- Best toddler snow boots: Sorel Snow Commander boots
- Best crib shoe: New Balance shoe
Do Babies Really Need Baby Walking Shoes?
They sure look cute, but does your two-month-old really need those baby walking shoes? No. In fact, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against putting shoes on your baby until they can walk. Socks can provide sufficient warmth until then.
So, if you’re wondering when to buy baby shoes, there is no magical one time that’s right for every child. You may decide your little one needs them if you’re a family who spends a lot of time outdoors or maybe your toddler is ready to hit the playground in full force. Once they get the hang of walking, the AAP says baby shoes are good to go. When you’re ready to make the leap into the world of footwear, here’s how to buy toddler shoes and what to look for in a shoe for your baby:
- Choose a soft, flexible sole. Your little one’s feet are new to walking and they need to be able to get a feel for the surface they traverse. Chunky, thick soles will feel awkward on your child’s foot and can make it hard for them to get a sense of balance. Look for something soft with a low heel when searching for an everyday toddler shoe.
- Find the right fit. It’s tempting to buy shoes bigger than your toddler’s foot so they can “grow into” them, but it’s important to buy shoes that provide a snug fit without being too tight. There should be about a finger’s width of room in your little one’s shoe once their foot is inside. Don’t force their precious foot into something too small and confining.
- Consider adjustable clasps. It’s important that the shoes you pick for your little one are comfortable on their feet and not too complicated for you to put on them. Closures that use Velcro, zippers, or snaps to ensure a snug fit are a great option for early walkers with ever-growing feet. Save yourself some frustration and hold off on the laces for now.
- Stick with non-slip soles. When transitioning from baby slippers to toddler shoes, look for options that provide your walker with some traction. Many soft sole shoes will slide and glide easily, so it’s important to find some shoes with nonslip soles to ensure your toddler doesn’t get into a slippery situation where they could get hurt.
What to Look for in a Toddler Shoe
Wondering where to even start with buying toddler shoes, especially if your little one has gone barefoot up until now? (Also if your toddler is shoe-averse, rest easy knowing that barefoot babies are actually a good thing—the best development happens with barefoot babies!)
Here are some features to look for in toddler shoes:
First things first: let’s talk sizing. Toddler shoes have their own sizing guide and stretch from size 0 to 13. Typically, those sizes should actually cover kids from infancy to about Kindergarten.
Toddlers seem to have two settings: asleep or running. Despite their zeal for moving fast, they’re still unstable, so a sturdy, functional shoe with plenty of grip helps keep them on their feet.
(Confession time: I’ve watched both of my girls wipe out more times than I can count because of ill-fitting and bulky rain boots, so I personally know this one is true as well!)
Easy on and off fit
Next, for everyone’s sanity, it’s a good idea to find a shoe that is easy to take on and off. Toddlers love to be independent. Features like Velcro buckles and wide openings can make it easy for your child to put their shoes on themselves, saving your valuable time in the morning.
Just be sure that slip-ons or boots are tight enough that they won’t fall off while your little one runs, causing the type of wipe-outs that I’m all too familiar with.
A proper fit
Speaking of fit, it’s tempting to buy a size bigger so that shoes will last a longer time. Unfortunately, that can just lead to frustration if the shoes don’t fit your child well to start.
Most shoe brands recommend leaving — at maximum — a thumb’s width of space between your child’s toes and the front of the shoe. That will leave them room to grow, but provide a snug enough fit to keep them safe.
Other than ensuring the proper fit, you don’t have to go fancy for toddler shoes. Most toddlers are flat-footed, since kids don’t fully develop an arch until they’re 6-8 years old.
Since little feet grow so quickly, toddler shoes will only last a few months. Instead of choosing something expensive, it’s fine to buy a functional, lightweight and breathable shoe in whatever pattern catches your toddler’s eye.
How to Choose a Toddler Shoe
Considering your toddler’s lifestyle will give you a good indication for where to start looking for a shoe. Is your little explorer spending a lot of time outside, or do they prefer indoor terrain? Are you concerned about keeping up with the latest footwear styles, or will a basic tennis shoe work just fine? What season are they wandering into? Will they need waterproof shoes or snow boots?
Budget considerations are also important in shoe selection. Your child grows quickly, so don’t expect shoes to last more than a few months at a time until your toddler gets a bit older. Setting your shoe budget with their growth in mind can help you avoid wasting money and time trying to squeeze an ill-fitting shoe on a fit-throwing toddler. Here are some toddler shoe options to explore with these considerations in mind.
The Best Toddler Shoes
Let’s be honest, the best toddler shoes are the ones that your child will wear without argument. Offering them a choice of prints or colors can make your toddler more willing to keep their shoes on.
Here are some great options to get you started.
The Best Toddler Shoes for Wide Feet
Sometimes with kids, less is more. That’s the idea behind the The Stride Rite Soft Motion Mason Sneaker. This shoe has a classic shape and fit, with tons of grip on the sole to keep your little one moving. Hidden behind the cute facade are modern comfort features, including breathable mesh details, suede construction and memory-foam soles.
The bottoms of the shoes are made from recycled materials, so you never need to feel guilty about buying another pair. This sneaker comes in three width options including wide and extra-wide, so you can find a fit that’s perfect for your little Fred Flintstone. Of course, your child will be looking much cuter than a caveman in these kicks.
- Suede construction
- Mesh decorations
- Grippy soles
- Wide and extra-wide sizes
- Velcro close
“I like the light feel of the shoes and how flexible they are; bright and colorful and shimmery too.” –Stride Rite review.
Keep in mind:
With only two different prints available, these sneakers have fewer options than many other toddler shoes in terms of pattern and style.
The Best Running Shoes for Toddlers
A Slam Dunk Shoe
If you’re a committed sports family, seeing your little one in these tiny Nikes will be irresistible. These pint-sized Nikes back all the fashion into a light-weight package that’s perfect for new walkers.
We particularly love the slip-on design. Loops at the front and back of the shoe make it easy to pull on, while still providing a secure fit. The shoes are constructed from breathable fabric, with leather portions on the sides providing support and structure. With ten color combinations to choose from, your toddler can have Nikes to match every outfit.
- Fabric construction with leather panels
- Slip-on design with two loops to make pulling on easy
- Colorful design
- Reinforced toe
- Soft-cushion insoles
- Ten colorful designs
“Easy to slip on and my baby has no issue walking in them. Best shoes I’ve invested in yet.” –Nike review.
Keep in mind:
There’s only one width for the Nike Flex Runners. That, along with the pull-on design, can make these shoes tricky for toddlers with wide feet.
The Best Water Shoes for Toddlers
Any baby products that do double duty help you save money and space, while minimizing your impact on the environment. That’s what we love about these Keen Toddlers’ Knotch River Open-Toe Sandal.
The rubber bottoms are grippy enough to be used on the playground or a boat, but the nylon sides of the shoes are quick-drying and water proof. That lets these sandals do double duty as water shoes and every-day wearers. The full front portion of the shoe Velcros open and closed, allowing you to takes these shoes on or off your child with no fuss, even when they’re wet.
- Nylon upper and rubber soles
- Quick-dry lining
- Moulded outsoles for comfort and grip
- Ergonomic toe notch for balance
- Natural odor control
“These are GREAT for my active, outdoorsy kiddo. She’s in and out of creeks/streams, climbing on rocks, to the beach, on the playground, and on sidewalks with these Keens.” –Keen review.
Keep in mind:
These shoes are open-toed, which means that the occasional pebble or stick might get caught in then. We think that’s a fair-trade for the easy on-and-off design, but if you want more toe protection Keen has other closed-toe waterproof shoe options.
The Best Hiking Shoes for Kids
Explore the Great Outdoors
Having a good pair of hiking boots can help get your toddler’s relationship with the great outdoors started on the right foot. And, it’s always a tough transition when your baby decides they’re ready to go from a hiking backpack to walking on their own. The L.L. Bean Toddlers’ Waterproof Trail Model Hikers will make that change a little easier, by giving you peace-of-mind while your toddler scales rocks or crosses a river.
These boots have a water-proof lining to keep your child warm and dry, while the high-tops keep little ankles stable. The Velcro closures means that you don’t have to stop again and again to tie these boots, so you may actually make some progress with your new hiking buddy.
- Reinforced heel and toe
- Mesh nylon fabric and suede construction
- L. Bean’s exclusive Trail Trac rubber outsole for added grip
“My daughter is 2.5 and loves when we go hiking. Last year she had a pair of Merrell hiking shoes, but I wanted to get her a more sturdy boot this year. My daughter is typically in a size 8 shoe right now, but I went ahead and got the size 9 with thick socks so that she could wear them longer. I would say they are true to size. I love that these boots are waterproof because she loves going into creeks on hikes. The boots are great quality, a great color, and very easy to get on and off because they have velcro straps. I would highly recommend.” –L.L. Bean review.
Keep in mind:
These boots can be a bit pricy compared to the competition, but if you’re on the trail frequently they’re a good purchase.
The Best Easy On/Off Toddler Shoe
I somehow didn’t discover the magic that is baby moccasins until well into parenthood, but let me tell you what: you just can’t go wrong with these shoes. They’re the easiest shoes ever to get on and off, they can stretch to accommodate even wider toddler’s feet, and they are the perfect go-anywhere shoe.
Your toddler can easily wear them for both “dressed up” occasions, as well as use them to hit the playground. I am 100% a fan of the toddler moccasin and I also love that they’re as close to barefoot as you can be, so they’re ideal for new walkers too.
- 4 diferent sizes
- 100% leather
- Wipe-clean only
- 4 colors
- Elastic closure
- Made in the USA
“Very easy to take on and off but difficult for a baby to pull off by themself. Good quality leather can be dressed up or worn casually. IMO, they’re unisex.”–Buy Buy Baby review
Keep in mind:
These are moccasins, so they don’t offer a ton of support for your toddler. If your tot will be doing a lot of walking, especially over uneven surfaces, a more sturdy shoe might be more appropriate.
Best Pull-On Shoes
One of the great things about this shoe is its pull-on, stay-on power; these shoes are made to easily pull on with an elastic ankle and pull tab on the back of the shoe. But even though they’re easy to pull on, they still won’t slip off.
- Unisex design
- 6-12 month size
- Rubber sole
“Easy to put on, does not slip off easily which I hate with shoes that are too soft, not too stiff either. Just perfect!”–Macy’s.com review
Keep in mind:
These shoes are a bit on the pricier side, so you’ll want to be sure you can use them for a while.
Best Summer Shoes for Toddlers
Listen, Crocs may never be a fashion choice, but they’re the ultimate shoe for toddlers: they’re lightweight, practically indestructible, they can go equally from a mud puddle to a splashpad to the park, and your toddler can even learn to put them on all by themselves. I’m a Croc lover 4 life and that’s just the way it’s going to be.
- Sizes from 1 year to 7 years
- Multiple colors
- The heel strap “pivots” from front to back, so your child can wear them secured or more like a slip-on
“I bought 2 pair of the Kids’ Classic in Volt Green and Sunshine for my almost 5-year-old son. The colors arrived exactly like shown in the picture and fit him how I was expecting – a little wide, just like they say it is (which for us is perfect). He loves them, and I love that he can wear them for his daycare’s water activities or in a rainstorm and I don’t have to worry about them getting ruined when wet. They rinse off and dry easily if they need to be cleaned. I have bought Crocs for my son before and they are very durable…we pass them on to his younger brother and then to our friends’ younger kids when they no longer fit! Well done!”–Crocs.com review
Keep in mind:
Crocs can get pretty sweaty in hot-weather months, so you’ll want to be sure your little one’s feet don’t blister. Pairing socks with your Crocs can also help keep blisters at bay.
Best Rain Boots for Toddlers
Croc it Like It’s Hot
What’s better than a classic croc clog? These Crocs rain boots, of course! They feature an extra-wide, generous handle to help little hands pull on the boots (great for the independent stage when your toddler will want to do everything themselves).
- Reflective logo on the back of the boot
- 11″ circumference
- Boot shaft length: 6.8 inches
“This is the second pair that I bought for my 2 year old who loves to be outside and run through puddles. He loves them and they hold up to a lot of scrapes and falls everyday. We wash them and sit them out to dry ever night. He did out grow his first pair before he outgrew the same size in normal crocs but I think that is just because you have to pull them up. We will buy the next size up when the time comes.”–Crocs.com review
Keep in mind:
These rain boots are lined, so they may not be appropriate for very cold weather.
Best Snow Boot for Toddlers
Snow Long, Cold Toes
If you’re a family that loves spending time in the great outdoors during cold-weather months, you need these Sorel boots in your life. There really isn’t a better snow boot you can buy and this one has it all: super-warm insulation, traction soles to prevent slips, and multiple sizes.
- Synthetic textile upper fleece lining
- 200 grams of insulation
- Felt frost plug
- Injection molded waterproof thermal rubber shell (aka major traction on the outside)
- 1.5 inch heel height
- 1 inch height
“The beat part about this boot is how easy it is to get on and off my kid. Nice quality and keeps her feet warm.”–Sorel.com review
Keep in mind:
These are heavy-duty boots, so they’re most appropriate for serious snow play.
Best Crib Shoe
If you need a shoe that can go from crib to hitting the toddler streets, this New Balance sneaker is where it’s at. These shoes are dubbed “crib” shoes, because they do come in sizes small enough for tiny toes. And as your baby grows, don’t worry: there are multiple sizes so they can stay in style as they transition from crib to well, everywhere. Toddlers are fun.
- Absorbs impact
- Lightweight cushioning
- Materials: suede and mesh upper
- Rubber outsole
- Reflective accents
- Regular and wide sizes
- Sizes 2-10
“My son likes to get dirty outside and these tolerate it well and always look clean. Great fit and stable for walking.”–New Balance.com review
Keep in mind:
The reviews for this shoe are decidedly positive, so our only suggestion is to pick up a matching pair of New Balances for yourself too. Can’t let the dads have all the fun now, can we?
Frequently Asked Questions
When should babies start wearing shoes?
Babies should wear shoes when they start taking their first steps to protect their feet. Before that, bare feet and socks are just fine.
Does wearing shoes help a baby to learn to walk?
No. Babies need to feel the ground with their bare feet to learn to balance on it and shoes can get in the way of that.
Should babies wear socks?
Babies can wear socks! Keeping their little feet warm is a good idea, especially before they start wearing sturdier shoes. If you have a baby in cold weather, it’s also important to keep them warm with the right winter essentials.
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