There’s a lot to consider when shopping for kids’ sneakers. Your child’s age, for one, as well as comfort — how shoes fit on their feet — and ease of wear, both for you and your little one. (It’s no secret that kids can be very fidgety, and while putting on a pair of shoes may seem like a simple task for adults, it can feel like an entire process when your tot insists on doing it herself.) To find out what parents should look for, we enlisted the help of three kids’-shoe experts who shared their picks for new walkers, elementary schoolers, and budding athletes. We also consulted a panel of stylish parents who gave us the lowdown on the cutest and coolest styles, which we’ve organized by age group, based on general criteria the experts said you should consider when shopping for your kiddo. Some styles are available in multiple age categories, so we’ve noted that where applicable.
Best sneakers for kids 4 years old and younger
For beginning walkers, Jennifer May, a children’s footwear consultant with more than 25 years in the business and founder of Kidshoeology, likes the Jamie sneaker from Stride Rite. She says the rounded edges provide increased stability and reduce stumbles and falls. The simple style that encourages natural movement and is available in three different widths also lines up with the criteria outlined by Shevaun Mackie Doyle, a pediatric orthopedist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, for choosing kids’ shoes. “The best shoes for a growing child stimulate being barefoot,” says Doyle. She advises parents look for a “shoe that fits well, that’s breathable, has flexibility, and just enough support and protection from the elements.”
At Brooklyn kids’ shoe store Runnin’ Wild, Old Soles high-top sneakers are popular for little ones, according to store owner Stacey Fauci. “They have soft leather and nice styles,” she says. The Velcro closure and rubber sole make them easy to put on and move around in. Mika Oakes, the founder of maternity swim brand Moloco, also loves Old Soles shoes for new walkers, too, and recommends this shiny, silvery pair.
Fauci says canvas shoes from the Seattle-based brand See Kai Run are among her best sellers year after year. “They have a functional soft sole and the styles are very nice,” she says. “The colors are more muted and it’s a good first walker shoe. They’re also cut a little wider.” According to May, many children have wide feet so it makes sense that these roomier shoes are comfortable on kids’ feet.