Shoe Recommendations for Children

shoe recommendations for childrenExcited to welcome back Dr. Sneha Gosalia, Pediatric Physical Therapist and co-Founder of Big Leaps Pediatric Therapy in Stanford, CT.  In her latest post she offers some great information for families and therapists alike on the important topic of Shoe Recommendations for Children:

Once your baby starts cruising along furniture to taking their first few steps, it is important to think about what shoes to buy for your little walker. The foot is a complex structure comprised of 26 bones. These bones are designed to support the entire body, adapt to uneven surfaces and absorb shock with each step. A baby’s foot contains more cartilage than bone. Although the structure of the foot develops fully by 2 years of age, the bones themselves do not fully develop and harden until around 18 years of age.

shoe recommendations for children

A child’s arch does not typically develop until puberty. With babies, the arch will usually not be visible or developed for the first 2 years and even then it is not fully developed. In the early years of childhood, there is a “fat” pad in the arch area of the foot, which gives the appearance of a flat foot, but this is not the case as it offers a natural arch support.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has developed shoe recommendations for children to help you find shoes that are helpful and not harmful as your little one continues learning to walk. Flexible, non-skid or skid-resistant soles are one of the most important features to look for in a baby shoe. Children should be wearing shoes that are flexible and allow the foot to bend and move as though the child is barefoot. You also want to make sure your baby’s shoes fit correctly and are not too small.

Children learn to walk by gripping their toes on the ground, as they build intrinsic strength of their foot and arch. So at home, it is advised to leave your child barefoot to promote natural foot development. However, when surfaces are uneven, shoes should be worn to protect their feet.

The AAP recommends the following when considering shoe recommendations for children:

  1. Shoes should be lightweight and flexible to support natural foot movement with a stable base of support.
  2. Shoes should be made of leather or mesh to allow your baby’s feet to breathe comfortably.
  3. Shoes should have rubber soles for traction to prevent slipping or sliding.
  4. Stiff and compressive footwear may cause deformity, weakness, and loss of mobility.
  5. Base your shoe selection for children on the barefoot model.
  6. Shoes should have good shock absorption with durable soles as children participate in more high impact activities.

The Make of a Shoe

shoe recommendations for children

The shoe is constructed of four parts: the upper part, the insole, the outer sole, and the heel.

  • The Upper Part: should be made of leather, canvas, or the newer mesh materials. Children’s feet perspire a lot and the upper part of their shoes should be made of breathable materials. Leather or canvas allows the foot to breathe.
  • The Insole: should be made of absorbent material. Padded insoles are fine but most children do not need a special arch support. All toddlers younger than 16 months have flat feet and fully develop an arch by the age of 6–8 years.
  • The Outer Sole: provides traction, cushioning, and flexibility to the shoe.  Flat outer soles make it easier to begin walking.
  • The Heel: are not necessary for toddlers. Older children can wear shoes with heels but they should not be bigger than one inch as this can cause the foot to slide forward, cramping the toes against the shoe.

Shoe Recommendations for Children

  • Pre-Walking Shoe: Certain types of shoes are appropriate for your child’s age. Babies and crawlers do not need shoes. They need booties or pre-walking shoes that do not bind their feet. The shoe should be flexible rather than providing a rigid support, and it’s very important that the shoe be shaped like the child’s foot. The function of a shoe at this age is warmth and protection.
  • Toddler Shoes: Choose a lightweight shoe as children at this age, tend to use a lot of energy walking. A leather or canvas tie shoe is more secure, will stay on the foot, and will fit fat little feet better. Toddlers can go barefoot in a protected environment such as indoors. Toddlers should have flat heels on their shoes.
  • School-Age Children’s Shoes: Style and shoe fit is important for school-age children. Their main function is shock absorption and protection. At this age, they can choose from a variety of options including athletic shoes, sandals, hiking shoes, etc. It is very important to wear the right shoes for the right activity to prevent injury. Look for reasonably priced, flexible, well-ventilated shoes that allow plenty of room for growth.

Let’s explore which shoe brands are best for your children! 

Sneaker/Sandal Recommendations

best shoes for children

Robeez: The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) recommends Robeez because the company’s shoes promote natural foot function. These shoes are made of high-quality leather, are flexible and support healthy foot development for infants and toddlers.

best shoes for children

Momobaby: These shoes offers a wide variety of rubber-soled shoes made of genuine leather. The APMA also recommends Momobaby for infants and toddlers as they are lightweight, breathable, comfortable and flexible.

best shoes for children

Pediped: APMA recognized Pediped shoes as beneficial for a child’s growing feet.  Our top PediPed picks are: PediPed Mars Flex is a great athletic shoe option. The PediPed Flex Boulder is a supportive boot option for the colder weather, and the PediPed Flex Dakota is a cute and supportive Mary Jane option!

best shoes for children

Stride Rite: Stride Rite offers shoes for baby’s first steps that are adjustable, durable and flexible. They are built to encourage natural movement. Our top Stride Rite picks are: Stride Rite Propel 2Made 2 Play IanJasper Sneaker and the Made 2 Play Sandal!

best shoes for children Keen: Keen makes great shoe and sandal options with cushioning and support! Our favorite Keen picks are: Keen Newport H2 Sandal, Keen Seacamp Sandal and the Keen Pagosa!

best shoes for children

BrooksBrooks makes some of the best supportive shoes for adults and children too! Our top Brooks picks are: Brooks Kids Pureflow 3, Brooks Adrenaline GTS and Brooks Defyance!

best shoes for children

ASICS: Offers some great choices with Toddler sizes as well! ASICS Pre Contend Running Shoe and ASICS Gel Noosa both offer support and style! The ASICS GT 1000 is another great option!
best shoes for children

New Balance: Our favorite New Balance options include: New Balance 574New Balance KV890 and New Balance KV790V6 are great options for toddlers, New Balance KV690P offers nice support for pre-school/school age kids as well as the New Balance KV990 Velcro!

best shoes for children

Saucony: Makes some great options like the Saucony Cohesion and the Saucony Excursion. We also love the Saucony Zealot! For smaller sizes, the Saucony Baby Ride is a nice option!

For more information about shoe recommendations for children with common Pediatric gait presentations (such as Flat Feet, Idiopathic Toe Walking, and In-Toeing) check out What a Difference a Shoe Makes!

best shoes for children

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  • Thanks for providing this list of shoes for both adults and children, there are so many choices on the market that it can be very difficult to choose one appropriate pair. Choosing the right shoe will now be much easier.

  • Choosing the right shoes for young children is surprisingly important. The AAP’s recommendations sound spot on, I will have to pay more attention to what shoes I buy for my kids. When children’s bodies are still developing, it’s extra important to get them the right equipment.

  • We loved keens for summer water play but had to hold them out the windows on the way home from school because they smelled SOOOOOO bad. Even after washing & sunshine air drying. Several parents in our school had the same complaint. This brand was common because delicate toes were covered but could still get wet. Any fixes, suggestions? Would love to go back to this brand.

    • We have not had that experience with the KEENs and my little guy gets them quite wet and dirty! Every few days I put them in the washing machine and then let them air dry. PediPed also makes a similar style sandal if you want to try: Best of luck in your sandal adventures!

    • I have not worked with them directly, but on first glance they look like they offer very little in the way of support and stability. Depending on your child’s age and specific needs I am happy to recommend shoe options that might suit your needs! Feel free to email me directly at to speak further!

  • I am a pediatric physical therapist and encounter many students with physical disabilities whose shoes do not FIT properly. In addition to the recommendations you have given for the type of shoe, could you offer suggestions and the need for proper fitting shoes? For example, I have had several children who toe-walk and they are wearing shoes that are simply too big for their feet. The shoes then tend to ‘slip’ off and I have found that they will often stay up on their toes as a way to help keep the shoe on their foot. I really feel that a proper fit is just as important (if not more importantt) than the material the shoes are made of. Thank you for this post.