You never realize how little patience you have until you’re running out the door and your toddler insists on tying his or her own shoes. As if dressing themselves isn’t trying enough, they must put on their shoes as well.
Then, before you know it, that adorably stubborn little toddler grows into a young child who’s old enough to put their shoes on but doesn’t want to wear them. And then you blink and all of a sudden they’ve morphed into a trendy teenager who wants sneakers that are so ridiculously expensive that you wish they’d go back to being that kid who didn’t want to wear shoes.
It can be expensive having to shoe shop for kids; their feet seem to grow every three months! Whether your kids are stubborn toddlers or tastemaking (and still stubborn) teenagers, there are all kinds of sneakers available for kids today. Read on to find the best fit for your little (or not so little!) ones.
I remember when I was in grade school, super loose-laced, oversized sneakers were THE trend. The puffier the tongue of the shoe, the better. I didn’t even know how to ride a skateboard, but you better believe I begged my mom for a pair anyway.
I can still remember re-lacing my shoes with extra-wide laces the night before the first day of seventh grade. Ah, to be a 90s kid again.
My point is, for school sneakers, kids want the ones that look the coolest. Kids will tell you to forget comfort, it’s all about style and keeping up with the latest trend. Obviously, you want them to be comfortable enough that they can wear them for the entirety of the school year, but consider yourself warned that for them, looks will matter!
And, not to mention, they’ll probably want at least a couple of pairs of sneakers to make sure they’re fully covered in the shoe department.
Luckily for us parents, there are brands that have stylish sneakers that are still (at least somewhat) comfortable. In my opinion, durability is probably even more important than comfort, because they’re sitting so much of the day that comfort may not be the top priority.
If I were buying sneakers for a week at Disney World, then yes, comfort would be #1 on my list. But for sitting in classrooms all day, I’m more willing to allow them to pick a less comfortable, more durable (and of course stylish) shoe. If you have the budget, you could even compromise on one more-stylish pair and one more-comfortable pair.
And then, of course, don’t forget to smile to yourself when they end up wearing the comfortable but not-so-stylish pair 24/7!
For durability, you’re going to want leather and canvas shoes. The thicker the fabric and sole, the more likely the sneaker will last. The really thin-material shoes will not.
Sneakers for Infants and Toddlers
I could count on one hand the shoes my baby wore before she walked. I probably bought half a dozen pairs at least, and only ever used one or two of them for outfits. I could say the same for most items in my baby’s wardrobe, but this rang especially true for sneakers.
Sneakers for infants are more for looks until they start walking. The biggest thing to look for in sneakers for infants is the grip/enclosure around the ankle to make sure they stay on their wiggly feet.
There’s nothing worse than a shoe slipping off while you’re in the middle of Target or transporting your baby from the stroller to the car seat. You want sneakers that will really stay above their ankle.
For those of you with toddlers who can’t get enough of walking and running around, make sure they are easy to wash. Toddlers are the best little explorers, and you had better believe those shoes will be spared no mercy in their adventures!
You’ll also want to make sure sneakers for your toddlers are easy to put on. As I said at the beginning, they are usually adamant about doing everything themselves, including putting on their shoes. Velcro or slip-ons will be your best bet for letting them embrace a little independence.
Sneakers for Travel and Play
Sneakers meant for travel and play share a lot of the same features. You’ll be able to use these sneakers for both purposes and kill two birds with one stone!
If you have an upcoming trip or flight, you’ll want to invest in sneakers that are comfortable and lightweight for your little ones. Luckily, kids don’t usually have to take off their shoes through airport security, but all the walking will be much easier if their feet are well supported without being weighed down.
In addition to being comfortable and lightweight, sneakers that are good for travel and play should also stay on well and be easy to wash. All the walking during traveling (and running/jumping/climbing during play) will require a shoe that won’t come off easily, so maybe skip the slip-ons if you’re looking for a sneaker for travel or play.
I mention the washability factor because airports and public places, especially in big cities or theme parks, have plenty of germs and dirt. The same thing goes for rec centers and playgrounds. You’ll be washing those sneakers often, so choose wisely.
Sport and Athletic Sneakers
Once my siblings and I got into sports, my poor parents’ shoe budget must have tripled. It can be overwhelming how many different kinds of sports shoes there are for kids–basketball, volleyball, soccer, football, track, running, baseball, and it goes on. What hurts your wallet, even more, is how often kids change their minds about which sport they want to do.
Add in their ever-growing feet, and you may as well buy stock in Foot Locker.
Obviously, there are different features for each sport’s shoe, but for any good sports sneaker, you’ll want to make sure it has excellent traction (preferably something like a herringbone pattern) to provide stability and balance for their ankles.
You’ll also want the shoe to be breathable and anti-odor. You’ll thank yourself when you do their laundry after a long week of practices and games, trust me.
For kids’ athletic sneakers, you’ll also probably need some extra laces just in case. Luckily, most sports sneakers on the market today are all excellent options that include these features, so it will probably come down to a matter of preference and fit.
Cold Weather Sneakers
I grew up at the beach in southern California, so I never knew waterproof or insulated sneakers were “a thing” until I moved to a mountain town for college. If your family lives in a seasonal place, you’ll definitely want to consider investing in some warmer sneakers for your little ones.
Cold weather sneakers could possibly serve as your kids’ school pair if they’re not too picky about style, and their feet don’t overheat with the insulation.
In addition to finding a pair that’s well-insulated and preferably waterproof, double-check that they have good traction. We don’t need any accidental falls while running to the bus stop or slipping on an icy playground.
As a mom, no-tie sneakers are my favorite, for my kids and for me. I especially appreciate slip-ons when I’ve got my hands full with the diaper bag and car seat. For little toddlers who can’t quite tie their shoes yet, velcro and slip-on sneakers are a great option.
Keep in mind that slip-on shoes will probably not be as comfortable because they’re a bit more casual, so if you need a well-cushioned sneaker, velcro may be preferable to slip-ons for your kids.
No tie sneakers are also fantastic for differently-abled kids who still want the independence of putting their sneakers on alone. These hands-free shoes from Nike do just that. They were specifically designed to not require any hand assistance at all. You can put them on and take them off with just your feet. It’s incredible!
How do I find my child’s shoe size?
Just like all other children’s sizes, it really depends on the brand. I know that’s not a super helpful answer, but unfortunately, some shoes are just going to fit differently than others. They do give a measurement/age range, but you won’t know exactly which ones work until your kid tries them on in person.
I remember with my daughter and her clothes as a baby, there were some 3-6 month brands that she stopped wearing at three months, and there were 3-month outfits she fit into as an 8-month-old. It’s not fair, I know!
If you buy shoes on Amazon, it’ll make returns much easier. You could also consider buying from a few different brands, picking which ones fit the best, and then just going with the brands that work for your kids.
What are some popular brands for kids’ sneakers?
With Instagram and Amazon stores popping up daily, I usually ignore the brand and instead focus on what the shoe looks like, what it costs, and what the online reviews say. Until your kids get to be pre-teens and teenagers, they probably won’t care quite as much about the brand.
That being said, there are a few tried-and-true brands that I’d be remiss not to mention: Ugg, Sketchers, Tom’s, Adidas, Stride Rite, Nike, Freshly Picked, See Kai Run, and Momo Baby. I’m sure there are knock-offs of these on Amazon, since some of these brands are not very budget-friendly, so just be sure to read through customer reviews and your kids will be kickin’ it in no time!