Kids’ clothing is everywhere, but kids’ shoes are a different story. Supermarkets and mall retailers do carry them, but it’s the cute rompers and dresses that are front and center. Kids’ shoes are often tucked away in the back corners.
And while you’ll find an endless selection of dino tees, there are very few footwear options for dress shoes or athletic shoes.
If you want an incredible selection of stylish options for kid shoes, then keep reading. There are plenty of fantastic online styles for your child’s growing feet.
Here’s a list of the best places to buy kids’ shoes, and then some FAQs about how you can get your child the best fit. This is especially important when you are ordering online without the chance to first try on the shoes in store.
Top 14 Brands of Kids Shoes and Toddler Shoes
Adidas, Nike, and Carter’s offer great options for everyday wear, but sometimes you want to change things up. From age infant to big kid to tween, this list has got you covered.
- Ten Little: Sustainable shoes built for play. Unisex styles (baby booties, hightops, sandals, sneakers, and Mary Janes) that are designed by podiatrists. All shoes feature wide toe boxes and soles with excellent grip. And they come with fun stickers! Use this Ten Little referral link to save $5 off your first purchase. Shop Ten Little.
- KEEN: Built for outdoor exploration, KEEN offers easy-on shoes for kids that are roomy, comfortable, waterproof, and washable. Shop Keen.
- See Kai Run: See Kai Run is stylish shoes built for kids who run. Colorful and artistic high-tops, easy-on single-strap sneakers, and Mary Janes with cushy insoles and thick, sneaker type soles. See Kai Run also has adaptive lines of footwear, too. Shop See Kai Run on SeeKaiRun.com, Zappos, Nordstrom, or Nordstrom Rack.
- Stride Rite: Stride Rite shoes are a go-to brand for moms everywhere. They offer a full range of footwear for babies, toddlers, and big kids in all sorts of colors and prints. Stride Rite Shoes are endorsed by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA). Additionally, it’s one of the few brands that offers wide and extra-wide shoe widths for toddlers and kids. If you need extra-wide Mary Janes or jelly sandals, you’ve got a friend in Stride Rite. Shop Stride Rite on StrideRite.com, Nordstrom, or Zappos.
- Mikoleon: Mikoleon is a slow-fashion retailer that sells artisanal leather boots and shoes. Everything is gorgeous, timeless, and heirloom quality. Their unisex boots are especially popular, and can go with just about any style. The shoes can run a bit narrow, so make sure to measure your child’s foot first and size up if they are between sizes. Ship Mikoleon.com.
- Birinit Petit: This exquisite brand from Spain sells Pepito (Mary Jane), ballerina, and espadrille style shoes in a Mediterranean color palette. The style is vintage riviera and the shoes are as playful as they are classy. Shop Birinit Petit on Shan and Toad.
- Livie and Luca: Livie and Luca sells stylish and supportive shoes that are heirloom quality. Their shoes are designed to be durable, whimsical, beautiful, and to support healthy foot development for infant babies, little kids, and big kids too. Livie and Luca even has barefoot styles. Shop Livie and Luca on livieandluca.com or on Zappos.
- Plae: Plae shoes are for kids on the move. They are easy-on shoes made of flexible, breathable, lightweight material that is super high quality. The insoles are removable and machine washable, and the soles have excellent traction. Shop Plae Shoes.
- Hush Puppies: Hush Puppies is a classic, tried-and-true brand of footwear for children. Many parents and grandparents greeted each school year in a new pair of Hush Puppies. The brand carries a full range of footwear including first step sneakers, oxfords, sneakers, and Mary Janes. Shop Hush Puppies.
- Native: Native Shoes (often called “Natives”) have a distinctive flair. They are slip-on style shoes that are vegan, waterproof, and super lightweight. They are shaped like sneakers, but made from EVA foam. The material is washable, odor resistant, and built for play – in or out of the water. Shop Native Shoes.
- Veja Kids: Veja is getting a ton of love from Influencers and celebs – like Meghan Markle who’s been known to rock a pair of Veja lace-ups. Veja was the world’s first sustainable sneaker brand, ethically making shoes from high-quality recycled materials, sustainably-sourced leather, and organic cotton. Veja kids’ low-top and high-top sneakers are pure bliss. You’ll want them in every color. And you can match your mini; there are many kid styles that match their shoes for women. Shop Veja Shoes on Ssense or Farfetch.
- L’Amour: L’Amour is a favorite brand in our household. The shoes are beautiful, timeless, and amazingly comfortable and durable. My daughter’s favorite shoes are a pair of T-strap, tan Mary Janes with soft cushioning and high-grip soles. (She hop-scotches hard.) Use this referral link to save $10 off your first purchase. Shop L’Amour Shoes.
- Vans: Known as a boys’ shoe brand (with the iconic black and white checkered pattern), Vans sells canvas slip-ons and high-tops for fashionable boys and girls. Other patterns and colors include Hawaiian floral, pink and white check, rainbow check, and stripe. Shop Vans on Vans.com or on DSW.
- Converse: Another iconic sneaker brand for boys and girls of all ages. Converse is best known for their classic Chuck Taylor All Star High-Tops (which look adorable on chubby toddler feet). But the brand carries other low-top, slip-on, and mid-top shoe styles too. To cater to their youngest customers (shoe sizes starting at size 1C), Converse offers easy-on shoes with velcro straps (double-loop closure) and a number of little kid prints. What kid wouldn’t want a pair of dinosaur Chuck Taylors? Shop Converse.
How Do I Find My Kid’s Shoe Size?
You can measure your child’s foot at home by tracing the outline of each foot on a piece of paper with a pencil and then comparing it to a kid size chart.
While this method is easy (in theory) to do, it can be tricky. My son was not a happy participant, and flailed and screamed indignantly. I tried patiently, but my tracing was still off by a good 1.5 sizes. My daughter was a willing participant, but the pencil tickled her foot and she could not remain still. I was off by more than a full shoe size.
Go to a Special Children’s Shoe Store for a Fitting
Whenever possible, go to a specialty shoe store to have your kids fitted. After you know their correct measurements, you can shop with confidence online.
In the Minneapolis area where I live, Little Feet Children’s Shoes does expert in-store shoe fittings.
Be prepared to shell out for shoes here then you would at a discount store, but it’s worth it for a proper fitting. Especially if it’s your first time buying a certain brand or style.
Department stores can be hit or miss, because it will depend on the skill of the sales associate helping you. It’s not uncommon to wind up with the wrong size and improper fit.
If you don’t know where to go in your town, ask other moms – neighbors, mom groups online, community groups on Facebook, or even ask your child’s pediatrician.
Are Crocs Good Shoes?
Crocs are certainly popular shoes among young kids and parents alike, but podiatrists say Crocs are not a good option for extended wear. They do have a wide toe box and decent arch support, but they do not adequately support the heel which means you’ll have to grip down with your toes to keep them from slipping off.
I got a pair of magenta clog Crocs for my daughter, age 3, and they repeatedly slip off. They just aren’t sturdy. For her to be able to keep them on her feet, she’d have to shift more of her weight onto her toes which can lend to all sorts of foot and nail problems, including corns, calluses, and malformations.
When the brand first launched in 2002, Crocs were designed to be a waterproof, slip-on shoe for boating. For boating, Crocs are still a decent option. Crocs are fine for short-term wear (i.e. slipping them on to take out the trash) but not a good option for play, walks, or long-term wear.
Can I Buy One Size Too Big for My Child to Grow Into?
As a kid, I remember my mom buying me sneakers nearly an inch and a half too long so I’d have room to grow. All my sneakers had these funny, odd horizontal creases in the toe box area about 2 inches from the end of the shoe. I called them (silently) weird old-person shoe wrinkles.
I wasn’t wrong to be put off.
Turns out that buying shoes too big so kids can grow is a major no-no. The Cleveland Foot Clinic warns parents against this common practice. Parents want to purchase a size or two up so the shoes will last longer, but buying shoes even a half size too large can leave your child more vulnerable to trips and falls. Their ankle is less secure and they are more likely to roll it. This is especially problematic for baby and toddler walkers who are already wobbly walkers.
How Often Do I Need to Size Up?
Size up when your kid’s feet grow, and for young kids, they can grow a half size or more every 2 to 4 months.
According to Stride Rite’s foot facts, this is how often a young child’s foot can grow based on age:
- Age 0-15 months: Feet grow about 1/2 size every 2 months
- Age 15 months – 2 years: Feet grow about 1/2 size every 3 months.
- Age 2 – 3 years: Feet grow about 1/2 size every 3 to 4 months.
- Age 3 – 5 years: Feet grow about 1/2 size every 4 months.
- Age 6 years and up: Measure your child’s feet every two months; a child’s feet can grow a half size or more every 2-4 months. A foot growth spurt, like a height growth spurt, can come on suddenly.
How to Tell if Shoes Are Too Little?
Ideally, your child will tell you their shoes are “too tight” but sometimes they can’t express this to you. They know their shoes don’t feel good when they walk in them, but they can’t articulate why.
Here are some signs that a bigger shoe size is needed:
- Your child doesn’t want to wear the shoes anymore.
- Your child tells you the shoes fit tight. (Many parents just rejoin, “They are supposed to be tight.” Take the time to investigate the fit.)
- There is no extra room in the toe box – your child’s toes are squished against the tip of the tip of the shoe.
- Blisters along the toes, heels, or anywhere else on the foot.
How to Tell if Shoes Are Too Big?
Here are some signs to look for that could indicate your child needs a smaller size shoe:
- Your child’s heel moves up and out, lifting out of the shoe as they walk. This is a big visible warning sign.
- Your child drags their feet. (Think of a toddler wearing dad’s huge oversized shoes and the way they need to drag their feet in order to move in them.)
- Blisters. These can crop up if the shoes are too small or too big. When a shoe is too big, the foot is still going to rub along a part of the shoe.
- Frequently tripping or stumbling. If your child seems to often fall or twist their ankle when walking or playing, that’s a sign that their shoes are too big.
How Do I Know It’s Time to Toss Out the Shoes?
While I love hand-me-downs, sometimes shoes are just shot and they need to be put out to pasture. I’m not just talking about shoes that could use a good scrub; when it’s time to retire shoes, the issues go far beyond cosmetic.
Here are some common signs that it’s time to toss those worn-out shoes:
- The sole has cracks – as in big cracks the width of the shoe.
- Heels are coming loose.
- Holes in the shoe (i.e. you can see the big toe peeking through the canvas).
- Worn out sole – more than half of the sole’s original width has been worn out. Or, the sole has worn out on only one side of the shoe making them fit unevenly.
- Cushioning is worn down – it doesn’t feel as comfortable anymore for the wearer.
- The sole is separating away from the rest of the shoe.
Before you toss a pair of shoes into the garbage, it’s worth seeing whether or not the shoes can be repaired. For some higher-end brands, you can get free repairs or new replacement inserts. You can also bring shoes to a cobbler or shoe repair store. (Shoe repair pricing isn’t that bad. I paid $25 to get two pairs of leather boots, mauled by a new puppy dog, looking good as new.)
And if those old shoes really do need to go, you can recycle them so they don’t fill the landfills with more waste.
What is the Cheapest Place to Buy Shoes?
While I’m leery of the literal aches and pains that can come from buying cheap shoes, I understand the need to save money. Kids are expensive, and if they’re going through two or more sizes a year, that’s a hefty bill.
Here are some places to shop to score the best prices on footwear for your kids.
Once Upon A Child Stores
This is the cheapest retailer I’ve found to buy shoes. The shoes are secondhand, but still have plenty of life left. And frequently, you can find new or like new kids shoes at Once Upon A Child. You can buy gently used, high-end, APMA boots and shoes for less than half of what you’d pay for a pair of new shoes from Target or Amazon.
Local Buy Sell Trade (BST) Groups
These are local groups of parents (primarily moms) who buy and sell their used children’s clothing and shoes. For $5 a pair, I’ve scored like-new Stride Rites, Tom sneakers, and Timberland boots for my son. You can find hundreds of BST groups on Facebook and you can narrow your search down to groups in your area.
Black Friday and Winter Clearance Sales
I’ve found high-end shoes for $10 – $20 a pair by waiting for mid-winter clearance sales for Livie and Luca and See Kai Run. At Stride Rite, I’ve scored deals around 50% off for their Black Friday sales.
Online Flash Sale and Discount Retailers
There are many online only retailers that sell past season goods at substantial markdowns. I’ve found high-end footwear for my kids for $9 to $15 a pair on Zulily, 6pm, Gilt Groupe, Saks Off Fifth Avenue, and Nordstrom Rack. For the latter two retailers, you can actually shop for deals in-store.
Any large retailer featured on a cash back site like Swagbucks or Rakuten
You can earn cash back for shopping online at Vans, Converse, Nike, Stride Rite, DSW, Kohl’s, or thousands of other stores. Cash back amounts generally range from 2% to 12% cash back, but can run higher. For example, at the date of this article’s publication, Swagbucks offered 25% cash back for purchases at Carters.com. Cash back rewards sites offer other savings and promotions, exclusive coupon codes and promo codes.
Ask other moms if they have a referral or coupon code you can use
I belong to a number of online groups related to kids clothing: forums themed around specific brands or broader off-topic chat groups.
It’s a great place to connect with other stylish, deal loving moms and to ask around coupon codes. Nine times out of ten, other members will have a referral code or promo code to share.
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