Are you tired of struggling to find the best kids shoes that not only provide comfort and support, but also allow your child's feet to develop naturally? Look no further! In this article, we will delve into the world of barefoot shoes for kids and explore why they may just be the best choice for your little ones. From the benefits of barefoot shoes to our top picks for each age group, we've got all your questions answered. Get ready to discover the secret to finding the best kids shoes that prioritize both style and foot health.
Why Choose Barefoot Shoes for Kids?
After dealing with a chronic foot issue, I learned that the type of shoes we wear has a significant impact on how our bodies feel. To ensure that my children don't experience the same problems, we only select shoes that allow their feet to develop naturally. This means they wear barefoot kids shoes.
By the way, when we say "barefoot" shoes, we are referring to minimalist shoes interchangeably!
What Are Barefoot Kids Shoes?
"Barefoot" shoes are named as such because they allow your feet to move freely, similar to being barefoot. Most shoes, even those for kids, restrict foot movement with rigid soles, narrow toe-boxes, and elevated heels that force the weight into an unnatural position.
In contrast, barefoot kids shoes enable natural foot movement while wearing them. This is especially vital during their growth and development. And don't worry if your child has flat feet - this is a normal condition that usually corrects itself over time with the continued use of foot muscles!
As a general rule, kids barefoot shoes are:
- Shaped like feet, with a wide toe box (to prevent squished toes)
- Have a zero-drop, completely flat sole (for natural alignment)
- Flexible enough to roll into a ball (to keep foot muscles strong and supple)
Learn more about the benefits of barefoot shoes for kids and adults in this article.
Unfortunately, most shoes available in stores do not meet these criteria. However, that doesn't mean there aren't options! There are numerous brands that offer barefoot shoes for kids, suitable for different seasons and budgets.
Are Barefoot Shoes the Best Choice for Children?
Minimalist shoes, also known as "barefoot shoes," have thin soles that allow wearers to feel the ground beneath their feet. While they may be trendy, they aren't usually the ideal choice for children. According to Capobianco, "Kids are so active that minimalist-type shoes simply don't have enough support or cushioning to prevent injury and will wear down faster than a typical shoe."
The only exception is for babies who are learning to walk, as feeling the ground beneath them can aid in balance development, according to pediatrician Gina Song.
What Types of Shoes Should Children Wear?
There is a wide range of shoe options available for kids, from sandals to sneakers. However, experts recommend sneakers as a good choice due to the high level of physical activity most kids engage in. If you need a shoe that can withstand a regular school day, playing with friends, and accompanying parents for afternoon errands, athletic shoes with laces, a sturdy heel counter, and a flexible but firm midsole would be ideal, according to Pinto.
For less active situations, casual shoes like the Crocs Classic Clog are a suitable choice, suggested by Graves.
How We Selected the Best Shoes for Kids
To determine the best shoes for kids, I relied on personal experience, testing, and input from experts. I also sought recommendations from other parents. I considered popular shoes on the market and narrowed down the options based on factors such as durability, materials, style, and value. The shoes had to be appealing to kids, as feedback from real parents was also taken into account to ensure a comprehensive understanding of how these sneakers perform for different kids in various environments.
All Your Questions About Kids Barefoot Shoes Answered!
While we've highlighted our all-time favorite barefoot shoes for kids, you may still have more questions!
If you can't find the information you're looking for in the resources provided or if you have specific requirements, you can find everything else you need to know about kids barefoot shoes in the links below. These resources are particularly helpful if you are outside the US.
In the meantime, here are answers to some commonly asked questions regarding barefoot kids shoes.
Kids Barefoot Sandals and Water Shoes
Summer activities often involve barefoot shoes that can get wet and are easy to put on. Barefoot sandals for kids keep their feet free, protected from hot surfaces and insects, and are practical for summer fun.
Below, you'll find a list of barefoot sandals for kids of all ages, including affordable options from brands worldwide.
Kids Barefoot Winter Boots
Even during freezing temperatures, we can keep our feet comfortable and protected! Thankfully, there are warm barefoot winter boots available that offer warmth, water resistance, flexibility, and a foot-shaped design. Click the link below to discover our tried-and-true favorite barefoot boots for kids.
Barefoot Shoes for Babies & Toddlers
Babies and toddlers require soft and flexible shoes. Below, you'll find a list of my favorite barefoot shoe brands for the tiniest feet!
I also recommend Bernie Landels' book "Finding Their Feet" for new parents.
How to Measure Your Child's Feet
When purchasing kids' barefoot shoes, it's essential to measure your child's feet accurately. Below, you'll find instructions on how to measure your child's feet to ensure you choose the correct size.
Which Barefoot Kids Shoes Are the Widest?
You can be confident that all 10 of the kids' barefoot shoe brands listed in this post meet my requirements for healthy footwear. However, here is a comparison of their shape and width.
When discussing width, it's important to note that it can be measured at any point in the shoe. Some brands are wide throughout, while others have a wide toe box but are narrower in the midfoot. Additionally, there may be variations between different models within a particular brand. Use this comparison as a guide, but keep in mind that the fit may vary based on your child's individual experience.
Best Budget Kids Barefoot Shoes
One challenge in choosing better footwear for your family is the cost. Here are our favorite affordable barefoot shoes for kids:
$42- | Vegan | Sizes US 8C-US Men’s 13 | Ships from the USA
Use code ANYASREVIEWS for an additional 10% off!
- Trendy design
- Wide range of color options
- Laces, slip-on, and velcro options available
- Accessible design
- Color may fade over time
- Canvas material may require breaking in
- Shoes may shrink or fade after washing (recommended to use cold water only!)
Splay Shoes meet all the requirements for a barefoot shoe, are affordable, easy to put on and take off, and lightweight. They offer velcro, lace-up, and slip-on versions. Plus, they are available up to a US men's size 13, so the whole family can wear Splay Shoes! We've been fans of Splay since their debut with a crowdfunding campaign about five years ago.
The only drawbacks are potential color fading with wear and the need for careful washing. Personally, I don't mind these issues considering the affordability of the shoes. All my boys' shoes get worn out regardless.
Keep in mind that Splay Shoes have a roomy toe box that should work for most average to wide feet, but they do narrow at the arch. So, if your child has extra thick or high-volume feet, this brand may not be suitable.
For more detailed information on Splay Shoes, you can read my Splay Freestyle review.
Saguaro Barefoot Shoes
$26-$58 | Vegan | Sizes US 7.5 toddler – W15/M13.5 | Ships from China or other locations via Amazon
Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 15% off!
- Best value for the price
- Wide toe box
- Available in all kids' sizes
- Retailers worldwide
- Not all shoes have the same width
- Material of sneakers is very thin
Saguaro Shoes offers the best value for affordable kids' barefoot shoes. They have a wide anatomical shape and thin, flexible soles. Plus, they are available in a wide range of kids' sizes. However, keep in mind that the upper material is thin and breathable, which means it doesn't provide much protection against cold or scuffing. So, it may not be suitable for all situations. Nevertheless, the outsole is durable.
Aside from the athletic styles, the other Saguaro kids' shoes have a more tapered toe box, which may not be wide enough for some individuals.
$54 | Vegan options | Sizes US 8K-4Y | Ships from the USA
Use code ANYA for 10% off!
- Toe guard for extra durability
- Contemporary style
- Universal fit
- Slightly stiff at first
- Currently only available for shipping to the US and Canada
Origo kids' shoes feature a trendy design and a rubber toe guard to keep them looking nice. The only downside is that the upper material may feel stiff at first and requires some breaking in to soften.
Keep in mind that Origo Shoes have a true-to-size fit, medium to wide width, and high volume. The velcro closure is adjustable, making it suitable for different foot volumes.
$37 | Mesh | Sizes US 11-5 | Ships from the USA via Amazon
- Available on Amazon for convenient shipping and returns
- Easy velcro closure
- Available up to size EU 37/US 5Y
- Lightly reinforced toe
- Toe spring
- Only available with velcro closure, no laces
Whitin, known for its popular and affordable adult barefoot shoe options, now offers a great value in kids' sizes. They have a roomy fit, a grippy outsole, and a soft mesh upper. The padded heel collar ensures comfort, and the double velcro closures provide a secure fit. The only downside is the slight toe spring in the shoe design.
Keep in mind that Whitin Kids' Shoes have a wide to extra wide width, medium to high volume, and a gradual slope in the arch.
For more options on affordable kids' barefoot shoes for families on a budget, you can find them at the link below.
Adidas Cloudfoam Pure Running Shoe
The Adidas Cloudfoam Pure Running Shoe is a popular choice for both football and soccer players. Since its initial release in 1949, Adidas has become a well-known brand in American schools. Vetted describes these shoes as a favorite among teens and tweens who prefer a more mature style. The Cloudfoam Pure Running Shoe comes in sizes as small as 4.5 for girls and offers a lightweight feel that is perfect for everyday wear. There is also a kid's version available for younger children.
Adidas Unisex-Child Cloud Foam-Pure Running Shoe on AmazonThe Adidas Cloudfoam Pure Running Shoe provides excellent comfort and support for children. According to lifestyle blogger and mom Bianca Dottin, these shoes are loved by kids for their comfort. They are also budget-friendly, making them an ideal choice for parents. The Strategist also recommends these shoes for their quality and style.
Insider also highlights the importance of providing small feet with the same support and protection as adult feet. Adidas offers a range of running and training shoes specifically designed for kids, using the same high-quality materials and technology as their adult athletic shoes. The Cloudfoam cushioning in the midsole absorbs shock and provides excellent rebound, ensuring comfort and safety for young athletes.
Best Sneakers for Preschoolers and Kindergartners
1. Nike Little Kids’ Court Borough Low Recraft Shoes
NikeThe Nike Little Kids' Court Borough Low Recraft Shoes are stylish and comfortable options for preschoolers and kindergartners. These shoes are available in various colors and are currently part of Nike's Back to School Sale, offering up to 60% off. Use the code SCHOOL20 at checkout to take advantage of the savings.
2. TOEDNNQI Lightweight Little Kids Running Shoes with Strap
AmazonThe TOEDNNQI Lightweight Little Kids Running Shoes with Strap are highly rated for their comfortable fit and non-slip sole. These shoes provide all-around shock-absorbing technology to protect preschoolers and kindergartners from bone and muscle strains.
3. adidas Grand Court 2.0 Toddler/Kids Sneaker
DSWThe adidas Grand Court 2.0 Toddler/Kids Sneaker is a colorful and affordable option for preschoolers and kindergartners. These sneakers have Cloudfoam cushioning in the midsole, providing exceptional comfort and support.
4. Thereabouts Little & Big Girls Lace-Up Sneakers
JCPenneyThe Thereabouts Little & Big Girls Lace-Up Sneakers are a classic and affordable choice for preschoolers and kindergartners. These sneakers feature a low-profile design with secure laces and a subtle star detail. The memory foam insole adds extra comfort, and they are available in a glittery pink option.
5. Nike Toddler/Kids Court Legacy Stay-Put Closure Casual Sneakers
Macy'sThe Nike Toddler/Kids Court Legacy Stay-Put Closure Casual Sneakers are a classic and versatile option for preschoolers and kindergartners. These sneakers are made with supple leather and feature a plush midsole for extra comfort. They come in a white, brown, and black color combination.
Best Sneakers for Elementary Schoolers
1. Under Armour Unisex Big Kids Assert 9 Running Shoe
AmazonThe Under Armour Unisex Big Kids Assert 9 Running Shoe provides excellent comfort and versatility for elementary schoolers. These shoes are highly rated and praised by customers on Amazon.
2. Burberry Kids Larkhall Icon Stripe Logo Gabardine Sneakers
Neiman MarcusFor those looking for a designer option, the Burberry Kids Larkhall Icon Stripe Logo Gabardine Sneakers are a luxurious choice. These sneakers feature a flat heel, round-cap toe, and a cotton/leather-hybrid lining.
3. Sam Edelman Kids’ Ethyl Low Top Sneaker
Bloomingdale'sThe Sam Edelman Kids' Ethyl Low Top Sneaker is a trendy and versatile option for elementary schoolers. These sneakers are designed with pastel colors and charm bracelet accents, making them fashionable and fun.
4. adidas Racer TR21 Kids Sneaker
DSWThe adidas Racer TR21 Kids Sneaker is a durable and stylish option for elementary schoolers. These sneakers have a breathable exterior and are made from partially recycled materials.
5. New Balance Kids Unisex 515 V1 Lace-Up Sneaker
ZapposThe New Balance Kids Unisex 515 V1 Lace-Up Sneaker offers a balance of style and functionality. These sneakers come in different color pairings and are suitable for everyday wear and physical activities.
Best Sneakers for Middle Schoolers
1. adidas Unisex Child Grand Court Sneaker
AmazonThe adidas Unisex Child Grand Court Sneaker is a popular choice among middle schoolers. These sneakers offer a low-profile design and versatile style. They are also affordable, making them a great option for parents.
2. Reebok Club C Kids Unisex Sneaker
DSWThe Reebok Club C Kids Unisex Sneaker is a classic and timeless option for middle schoolers. These sneakers have a 90s-inspired look that matches well with any outfit.
3. Vans Old Skool Big Kids Sneaker
NordstromThe Vans Old Skool Big Kids Sneaker is a popular choice among middle schoolers. These sneakers are versatile and can be paired with various outfits.
4. On Cloud Sky Kids Sneaker
OnThe On Cloud Sky Kids Sneaker is a performance-grade option for middle schoolers who enjoy running and other athletic activities. These sneakers offer excellent comfort and support.
5. Keds Big Kids Girls’ Triple Step Leather Sneaker
KedsThe Keds Big Kids Girls' Triple Step Leather Sneaker is a stylish and affordable option for middle schoolers. These sneakers feature a platform style and come in a variety of colors. They offer both comfort and aesthetic appeal.
Best Sneakers for High School Students
1. Cariuma Women's Catiba Pro Low Off-White Sneaker
Cariuma is a brand we love and have even written a review about. Their Women's Catiba Pro Low Off-White Sneaker is a step up from other sneakers in your closet. The best part is that they are sustainably made, priced under $100 (which is great for high-quality shoes), and available in various colors to choose from. What's even better is that for every pair purchased, Cariuma will plant two trees.
2. Nike Men's Jordan Jumpman Pro Quick Sneakers
High school boys shouldn't overlook the Nike Men's Jordan Jumpman Pro Quick Sneakers. This sleek all-black pair is perfect for heading back to school, with its classic, court-inspired look and a solid-rubber outsole that provides excellent traction.
3. lululemon Women's Blissfeel Trail Running Shoe
We have reviewed the lululemon Women's Blissfeel Trail Running Shoe, the first trail running shoe from the brand. It is particularly suitable for cross country and track runners, or anyone who wants a top-of-the-line, supportive shoe. Although it may be a bit of an investment, it's worth considering as a back-to-school treat.
4. Reebok Women's Fluxlite Training Shoe
If you're looking for an affordable sneaker to refresh your current collection, we recommend the Reebok Women's Fluxlite Training Shoe. It's lightweight, breathable, perfect for the gym or casual study days, and will last for years.
5. Converse Unisex Adult Chuck Taylor All Star Low Top Sneakers
For classic comfort when heading to class, the Converse Unisex Adult Chuck Taylor All Star Low Top Sneakers are the go-to choice. Plus, they are currently priced under $30, so grab them before your classes start!
Check out the New York Post Shopping section for more content.
Native Shoes Jefferson Kids' Slip-On
These shoes are produced by the Native Shoes Company, founded in 2009 in Vancouver. They are often compared with Crocs and are perfect for hot weather. However, please note that they tend to be narrow. According to Parents, "If your child has wide feet, these may be too tight. Native Shoes are beloved by parents for their durability and versatility. They are great for playing in water, and also work well as everyday shoes."
Native Slip-On Kid Shoes on Amazon: "Whether your little one hasn't learned how to tie their shoes yet or simply prefers a slip-on style, these shoes are the perfect choice. They have a water-friendly design and a lightweight feel thanks to their EVA lining," as stated by Rank & Style.
Crocs Kids' Classic Clog
Crocs, introduced in 2002, have gained popularity for their simple design and protective toe guard. According to Parents, "Crocs have been beloved by healthcare workers and chefs for their comfort. They have become a favorite no-tie shoe for kids too. With supportive cushioning, slip-resistance, and easy cleaning, they are a great option."
Crocs Kids' Classic Clog on Crocs.com: "You can easily clean these shoes by simply hosing them down. They are made of durable and comfortable rubber. Kids can easily slip them on, and they come in a variety of colors," according to Don't Wa$te Your Money.
While Vetted praises Crocs, they offer some critical feedback as well: "While Crocs may not be suitable for gym day, they are a great option for everyday wear and have become trendy among kids and teens."
Under Armour Assert 8 Sneaker
Under Armour is an American company founded in 1996. Although the spelling may differ, they offer a wide range of apparel and shoes. According to Tiny Beans, "A basic sneaker is essential to start your kid off on the right foot. Under Armour's Assert 8 Sneaker comes in over 15 different colors and features durable leather overlays for stability and an EVA liner for comfortable steps."
Under Armour Unisex-Child Grade School Assert 8 Sneaker on Amazon: "These comfortable kids' shoes are available in 14 different color combinations. They are lightweight and breathable, making them perfect for active kids," according to MomLovesBest.
"These shoes are easy to slip on and off, with a hook and loop strap that even preschoolers and kindergarteners can manage on their own. They are also lightweight and breathable, ensuring comfort for even the youngest kids," as stated by Don't Wa$te Your Money.
What Makes a Good Kids' Shoe?
When it comes to choosing the best shoes for kids, there are a few things to consider. Support is crucial, and the shoe should not be easily foldable or too flexible. Proper fit is also important, with enough space for the toes to move comfortably. It's recommended to leave about one child's finger width between the longest toe and the end of the shoe. This can help prevent issues like ingrown toenails. Other factors, such as slip-on design and lights, are more specific to individual preferences.
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What Is the Number 1 Best Shoe for Kids?
It's challenging to determine the absolute best shoe for all kids, as individual needs vary. Some may require slip-on shoes, while others may prefer light-up sneakers. However, the Hoka Clifton 9 is a versatile option that caters to a range of needs. Designed for athletic kids, it features special zones in the outsole and weighs under 6 ounces for a lightweight feel. Additionally, it comes in various color combinations that kids love to show off to their friends.
Who We Are
Bridget Shirvell is an independent journalist based in Connecticut. She specializes in parenting and environmental topics and has been published in Parents, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, and more. She highly recommends durable, comfortable, and affordable slip-on shoes for her own family, especially with a 4-year-old who frequently plays in the yard. Many of the brands mentioned in this article are ones that her daughter or herself wear.
Thanks for your feedback!
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not affiliated with the mentioned brands and does not receive any compensation for its recommendations.
In conclusion, when it comes to choosing the best shoes for kids, it's essential to prioritize their comfort, support, and overall foot health. Barefoot shoes for children offer a range of benefits, including improved balance and stability, strengthened foot muscles, and increased sensory feedback. However, if you prefer more traditional options, there are plenty of excellent sneakers and slip-ons available as well. Just remember to consider factors such as fit, durability, and style when making your choice. Whether you opt for barefoot shoes or other alternatives, the important thing is to ensure that your child's feet are well cared for and supported as they navigate their active, adventurous days.