Your little one is officially on the move, and gone are the days when shoes were merely cute accessories. You now have to consider breathability, flexibility, durability, easy on-and-off options and more to help squirmy toddlers explore their great big world safely.
We’ve compiled a list of the Best Sneakers for Babies and what you should know before buying, including how to measure for proper fit and how often you could be replacing their footwear.
The Best Baby Sneakers for Early Walkers
The Adidas Baby Grand Court Sneaker is a traditional and classic baby sneaker that looks like the adult version of these favorite shoes except with velcro straps; whereas the UGG Rennon Ii Sneaker is a combination between a sneaker and a boot lined with Ugg’s customary wool and fur and straps with two velcro hook and loops.
Stride Rite Soft Motion Baby and Toddler asual Sneaker
The Stride Rite Soft Motion Baby and Toddler Casual Sneaker has a lightweight rubber sole that is ideal for babies who are taking their first steps. Stride Rite’s Soft Motion line of shoes also features memory foam footbeds to mold to the unique shape of your child’s foot.
Podiatrists recommend breathable footwear since babies’ feet sweat heavily. Stride Rite soles include antimicrobial lining to reduce odor.
And what parents might find most helpful – these sneakers have an over-sized opening, which makes getting baby’s foot in and out of the shoe a breeze. Many moms say this is a must-have for new walkers.
The Stride Rite Soft Motion design has earned the Seal of Approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association.
See Kai Run Stevie II Sneaker
The See Kai Run Stevie II Sneaker is a favorite among many parents of early walkers. The toe box is roomy enough for proper foot development, and the soles are made of rubber to withstand the nicks and falls that come with toddlerhood.
Tiny feet stay dry and fresh due to the breathable leather sock liner, and the faux laces and hook and loop straps keep chubby feet comfortable and secure.
These sneakers come in a variety of colors, patterns and designs. See Kai Run also offers other well-reviewed and rated styles if you’re in the market to buy shoes with single velcro straps, different fabrics or for special occasions.
The Stevie II sneaker has also gotten the Seal of Approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association.
Fun fact: See Kai Run was a brand created by a fellow mom who was on the hunt for shoes that were best in health and design for her son.
Momo Baby First Walker Sneaker
Momo Baby is another company founded by a mom, who was tired of buying overpriced shoes that lacked quality and durability.
The Momo Baby First Walker Leather Sneaker was developed with both quality and durability in mind.
Made without synthetic materials, the rubber sole of the sneaker is firm and assists shaky beginners distribute their weight from the back of the shoe to the front. The rest of the shoe is made of genuine leather and is soft and pliable to help baby get used to the feeling of “real” shoes.
Also awarded by the American Podiatric Medical Association, the Momo Baby First Walker sneakers have a fan-shaped tow box to allow the big and small toe to move freely.
If you’re looking for simple designs and colors, you won’t find them with Momo Baby. But their styles are kid-friendly, colorful and adorable!
Carter’s Every Step Athletic Sneaker
The Carter’s Every Step Sneaker is a great affordable option designed for early walkers. It offers hook and loop velcro straps to make taking shoes on and off fast and easy. The Every Step Sneaker also has molded outsoles for better traction for wobbly walkers.
Podiatrists often recommend shoes be made of natural materials. While the Carter’s Every Step Sneaker is derived from synthetic materials, the shoes are supportive and durable. For the price point, many parents say they hold up well.
Moms remarked these shoes also worked well for babies who have wider feet.
TSUKIHOSHI Kids Racer
Nothing beats being barefoot to help babies learn to walk and for their feet to develop properly. The TSUKIHOSHI Kids Racer may be the next best option!
The TSUKIOSHI brand boasts what they call “barefoot comfort.” The sneaker features a wide toe box that promotes the natural splaying and separation of toes, which is important for balance. Parents say these sneakers are comfortable for toddlers who are beginning to walk and those who are already running around.
The rubber soles are lightweight, flexible and slip-resistant to maximize your toddler’s stability and comfort. The insoles are infused with natural green tea extracts to help control odor.
These shoes are also machine washable, so you don’t have to worry about them getting dirty when kids are running through the mud!
The Merrell Bare Steps Sneaker aims to mimic just that: bare feet.
The shoe is made of recycled materials and offers an extra wide toe box for plenty of wiggle room. The soles have rounded edges and flexible grooves to follow the natural shape of a toddler’s foot.
The Merrell brand is popular among outdoor enthusiasts, so these sneakers can withstand any playing and exploring your little one does. Parents report they didn’t have to compromise traction for soft support.
The shoes are lightweight and offer a minimalist design. And the dark styles mean you can’t tell if they’re dirty!
pediped Grip ‘N Go Sneaker
The pediped Grip ‘N Go Sneaker has also been recognized by the American Podiatric Medical Association for promoting healthy foot development. This style is a transition shoe from a baby’s first steps to confident walking. The sneakers are geared toward active toddlers, who are walking 20-30 steps on their own without mom and dad’s help and without holding onto furniture.
The sneaker has a flexible, slip-resistant sole and rounded edges that mimic the shape of a baby’s foot.
Some parents reported that the Grip ‘N Go Sneaker ran a bit small, so be sure to size up.
Nike Kids Flex Contact
Your little one will look stylish and cool on the playground in the Nike Kids Flex Contact Sneaker.
The classic design is made of leather, fabric and synthetic materials. The sneaker has elastic laces to keep feet snug and the slip-on feature makes it simple to take on and off.
The soles are flexible and the lightweight foam provides soft cushioning.
adidas Grand Court Tennis Shoe
Another classic name-brand sneaker popular with parents is the adidas Grand Court Tennis Shoe.
This sneaker is a bit of a throwback to the 70s court-style the adidas brand is famous for – made for the tiniest of feet! It has velcro straps for an easy hook and loop closure and regular fit.
Unlike a lot of other kids’ shoe brands that come in bright, flashy colors, adidas keeps it clean and minimal. These shoes are available in black or white.
nerteo Sports Sneaker
The nerteo Sports Sneaker for toddlers is a parent favorite with thousands of 5-star reviews.
Compared to other popular baby sneaker brands, nerteo shoes are more affordable. Parents rave about durability for the price point.
The nerteo sneakers look like adult running shoes with its knit exterior and breathable interior lining to keep soles dry. They are lightweight enough for early walkers to maneuver easily.
And as an added bonus, you can throw them in the wash after a rough day on the playground.
Puma Kids St Runner Sneaker
The Puma Kids St Runner Sneaker provides a good mix of flexibility and support for early walkers. The hook and loop velcro straps adjust to ensure a comfortable fit.
Something to note: the Puma size guide provides measurements in centimeters. Double check that your baby’s “cm” measurement translates to the correct size.
Parents reported that the Puma St Runner Sneaker run a bit on the smaller size.
New Balance 574 V1 Classic Hook and Loop Sneaker
The New Balance 574 V1 Classic Hook and Loop Sneakeris unique in its lightweight foam cushioning. The foam extends from midsole to heel to make sure kids stay comfy.
The rubber soles provide plenty of traction. The sneaker was designed with durability in mind to withstand daily wear-and-tear.
The New Balance 574 V1 Sneaker comes in a variety of classic and trendy colors to fit your baby’s personality!
Converse All Star 2v Leather Low Top Sneaker
Here’s an opportunity to match with baby in classic Chuck Taylors!
The Converse All Star 2V Leather Low Top Sneaker is a timeless style but tailored with soft foam liner for comfort for your early walker.
The version for babies also features velcro hook and loop straps instead of laces for convenience. In addition, the original white canvas is swapped out for leather, which makes the shoes for baby much easier to clean.
PLAE Mimo Sneaker
Have you tried taking baby’s swimsuit or shoes off while wet? It’s not easy. Enter the PLAE Mimo Sneaker.
The Mimo Sneaker is fully waterproof! It comes with straps and the tongue pulls all the way down, making it easy to take on and off. The lower holes are also filled in to keep debris out. The soles also offer great traction for slippery surfaces.
Parents say the shoe is also easy to clean.
For a water sneaker, PLAE thought of everything!
UGG Rennon II Sneaker
Toes will remain toasty in the UGG Rennon II Sneaker.
For a winter shoe, the UGG Rennon II is lightweight and flexible. The exterior is made of leather and suede to withstand the snow and rain.
The shoe is lined with warm wool and fur. But don’t worry about feet getting too sweaty. The insole is lined with antimicrobial microfiber.
Two velcro hook and loop closures ensure you and toddler won’t be in a constant struggle to take these sneakers on and off. And most importantly, the rubber soles provide extra traction for wet, icy conditions.
Comparing Baby Sneakers
The table below compares only the recommended products on this page. A low or high Price means it is low or high compared to the other products listed. The Popularity Score reflects how often readers click on and buy the product. The Quality Score is our assessment of the overall performance and satisfaction with the product compared to others in the table.
FAQs You Need Answered Before You Buy Baby Sneakers
When should my baby start wearing sneakers?
Babies don’t need shoes until they start walking consistently outdoors. Even for early walkers, it’s best to keep them barefoot whenever they are indoors. Putting baby in shoes too early can be restrictive and stunt proper foot growth, no matter how roomy the shoe.
That being said, it’s fine to put pre-walkers in cute crib shoes and other styles for special occasions.
How do I measure my baby’s foot to find the right shoe size?
Ensuring a perfect fit is crucial to make sure baby is comfortable in his/her new sneakers.
Visiting a shoe store is best to get an accurate measurement, but that may not be possible or convenient any time soon with coronavirus restrictions. But the good news is you can obtain measurements at home using items you have around the house.
To measure length, use a ruler from the outside of baby’s heel to the tip of the big toe on both feet. You should also measure the width of baby’s feet. The easiest way to do this is to take a ribbon or string and wrap it around the widest part of the foot. Preferably, record measurements when baby is standing up and putting full weight on those feet. (I know it’s easier said than done!)
And if baby just won’t cooperate, make it a fun activity to do together by tracing baby’s foot with pencil and paper. While you won’t be able to get a measurement on the width of feet, you can still get an accurate reading on length.
Another helpful tip is to measure feet later in the afternoon. Feet tend to swell throughout the day, so it’s best to measure when they are at their largest for comfortable shoe fit.
Keep in mind that sizing is not created equal and often differ from brand to brand. Having both the length and width measurements will help you navigate companies’ sizing charts and guides to make the best decision.
What if my baby has one foot that is slightly larger than the other?
It is completely normal for toddlers’ feet to be different sizes as they grow, so remember to measure both and choose the size based off the bigger foot.
What if my baby is in between sizes?
Unlike clothing sizes, kid shoe sizes don’t often correlate with age. If your baby is in between sizes, always size up. The last thing you or your baby want is cramped toes inside sneakers!
What features are most important when choosing sneakers?
- Flexible: Babies typically have soft, flat feet with no arch. So for first-time sneakers, the soles should be very bendable, yet slip-resistant.
- Breathable: At this age, the muscles in the feet are still developing, so feet and toes need room to move around.
- Supportive: That being said, little feet should not be able to slip in and out, so make sure the sneakers are fastened with velcro straps or ties to adjust to your baby’s foot size. Proper support around the heel and ankles is also important to help babies keep their balance.
- Lightweight: It’s tough enough for early walkers to find their balance barefoot without any extra weight on their feet. Skip the heavy shoes and choose ones made of lightweight canvas, leather or other fabrics. These lighter weight fabrics also help to keep sweat at bay.
My baby can’t use words to tell me if his/her sneakers are comfortable. How will I know?
Just because a baby isn’t complaining doesn’t mean his/her shoes fit the way they are supposed to. Here are some simple visual cues and fit tests that podiatrists recommend.
- Leave about a thumb’s width of wiggle room between the front of the shoe and the longest toe for a comfortable fit. You should also be able to easily slide your index finger down to the second knuckle between the heel and the back of the shoe. If it’s too tight, choose the next size up.
- Put socks on baby’s feet while shopping for shoes if he or she will typically be wearing them while wearing the sneakers. Then do the same fit test above.
- Be on the lookout for signs of irritation. Redness is a telltale sign that shoes are either too tight or too loose. If toddlers are always wanting to take one or both shoes off, that could signal that they are not comfortable.
Keep in mind that unlike adult shoes (ahem, heels!), there should be no “break-in” period for baby shoes. They should be comfortable immediately.
Are baby sneakers machine washable?
Some brands mentioned above, like the TSUKIHOSHI Kids Racer and the nerteo Sports Sneaker, list as their attributes that their shoes can be thrown in the washing machine. Most sneakers can withstand the washer on the delicate cycle and then left to air dry. Be sure to double check the specific style you choose to see if the sneakers can be machine washed.
Should I really turn down hand-me-down sneakers?
Unfortunately, yes. Hand-me-down clothes, toys and other items are great, but when it comes to shoes, podiatrists say it’s a safety issue.
The insoles of shoes, especially those for early walkers, are meant to form to the unique foot of the wearer. So inheriting a worn pair of shoes could force a toddler’s feet into ones that don’t fit them correctly, and that could negatively impact foot health in the future.
And as gross and unpleasant it is to think about, sharing shoes can spread fungi like athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
If you do receive a pair of hand-me-down sneakers, check to see they are gently used. Otherwise, politely say, “no thank you!”
How often do kids outgrow shoes?
With doctors recommending you skip the hand-me-downs, you’re probably wondering how long a pair of shoes will last you. The short answer: not very long.
Babies under 16 months grow more than one-half a foot size in 2 months. Toddlers ranging from 16-24 months grow an average of one-half a foot size every 3 months. From years 2-3, feet grow half a size every 3 to 4 months. And for big kids ages 3-5, you can expect to go up half a size every 4 months. Once kids hit school age, they need about a pair of new shoes a year.
Unlike buying larger clothes that baby can eventually grow into, shoes don’t work the same way. Buying footwear that is too big could lead to baby’s foot slipping out and increase the risk of falls. Not to mention painful blisters – ouch!
Before you splurge on the cutest shoes of the season, just remember your kiddo will likely outgrow them and you’ll be buying new shoes sooner than you think.
What’s really the difference between synthetic and natural materials?
The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends baby shoes made of natural materials, such as leather. But what’s the difference?
Take synthetic versus natural leather. The synthetic option tends to be a bit stiffer than natural leather, making them more uncomfortable on the soft feet of babies who are learning to walk. Natural leather also tends to absorb water, and synthetic leather does not. Since babies’ feet sweat quite a bit, the breathability of a shoe is something to consider.
Both synthetic and natural materials are durable. While that might not hold much weight since you’ll need to replace baby’s shoes every few months, consider how active and rambunctious your toddler is when playing.
Another difference between the two materials is cost. Synthetic options will be more affordable than their natural counterparts.