Choosing the right footwear for your kids is crucial for promoting optimal development of gait patterns, spinal curves, deep body stabilization, proper alignment of bones and efficient control of the body by the nervous system. There are more than 33 joints in your feet; In the wrong shoes, many of them (sometimes all) can’t move properly. You need healthy kids shoes!
Healthy Kids Shoes
Give your kids as much barefoot time as possible. Even a shoe that fits all of my “shoe rules” can’t replace barefoot time – a shoe threshold between the foot and the ground prevents foot nerves from sensing important information like temperature, ground texture, and other environmental factors. Nerves are meant to feel stuff, so they aren’t as healthy when they’re deprived of information (stimulus). In fact, neurologists often recommend wearing water shoes (on my list of good shoes) year round for kids with developmental delays. If your babies/kids can’t be barefoot then consider a double layer of socks. If that won’t work, then find kids barefoot shoes that fit the following parameters:
1. “Foldable” – you should be able to fold it in half from front to back.
2. Thin soled – as thin as possible. You’l’l notice that thick soles interfere with the “foldable” factor, too.
3. Flush from front to back – no heels!! – the toes should sit on the same level as the heels, with no rising or dipping in the sole at any point.
4. Plenty of room for all the toes – no squishing and regularly check the fit.
5. Attached to the heel and the toe – unlike flip flops, which are just attached the toe. Shoes fixed at the toe cause a pattern of tension throughout the foot and lower leg. Ultimately, they can lead to bunions.
6. Fits snugly without constricting the foot – some shoes can become cast-like when they fit too snugly, preventing proper muscular function.
OPTIONS OF BRANDS/STYLES FOR TODDLERS, KIDS AND YOUTH
Check out our “Store” link for the direct link to the shoes that are available at Amazon.com
Robeez (Baby & Toddler)
My all time favorite. Robeez are a great brand because they combine an exceptional shoe with an unparalleled cute-factor. Unfortunately, they stop making shoes after 24 months. Not all the shoes have rubber soles and are no-slip, so check the description. My favorite style is the Ethan Minishoefollow.
Skidderz are a very mainstream brand – you can find them at Target, Big Lots and Babies R Us. There are a lot of similar brands on the market, sold as non-skid socks or shoe socks. Like the name implies, they’re more like socks with a grippy rubber sole. Sometimes they’re so grippy that they get “stuck” on things and come off of little feet. Occasionally, I do get concerned about the grips holding the foot in one direction while the knee goes another – however, we’ve never experienced any injuries. These are affordable, ranging in price between $6.99 and $12.99 per pair. I’ve seen sizes for older kids at Big Lots, where the prices are also the lowest, but they’re most widely available for babies and toddlers through size 18-24 months.
PediPed (Infant, Toddler & Little Kid)
I’ve gotten great shoes from Pediped. Many of them don’t look like they have a flat sole from the outside, but the appearance is actually an illusion meant to make the shoe more fashion-y. The shoes are flat on the inside. We got a great pair of waterproof boots from Pediped – they weren’t as flexible as I would like, but they are the best I have found so far.
See Kai Run (Infant, Toddler & Little Kid)
Similar to my PediPed review, mmany of them don’t look like they have a flat sole from the outside, but the appearance is actually an illusion meant to make the shoe more fashion-y. The shoes are flat on the inside. I’ve only purchased one shoe from See Kai Run, so I’m not sure if all the shoes are the same quality and meet my “shoe rules.”
ShoesZoo (Infant, Toddler & Little Kids)
ShoesZoo is like Robeez in bigger sizes. They are also extraordinarily affordable because they make the shoes themselves and there is no middle man. They are a Canadian company with reasonable shipping charge to the US. However, the don’t make rubber soled or grippy shoes – only soft suede, moccasin-style shoes. The ShoesZoo line has hundreds of adorable patterns.
Soft Star(Toddler & Child)
Soft star makes leather and sheepskin shoes in moccasin and slipper styles. Many people I know love them and they may be a good option for your family. I didn’t like the construction of the shoes because they have a thick lip around the outside of the shoe, beyond the point where the top fabric is sewn into the sole. My son kept tripping when he was wearing them and the lip would get caught on tree roots, etc, when we were in the woods. I contacted SoftStar about it and received great customer service – they believe that a child will adapt their movement to the shape of the shoe and tripping shouldn’t be a problem after they get used to wearing the shoes. They are right, but I prefer a shoe that my child doesn’t have to adapt to – to me, the whole point of a minimalist shoe is “minimizing” adjustments the body must make for the shoe.
Water Shoes (Toddler and Child)
Water shoes make great every day shoes for toddlers and children. However, not all water shoes meet the six roles above – and some tend to wear out quickly because they’re made of fabric. Avoid using them on concrete or gravel if you want to prolong their life. I love them for warm rainy days or morning playground trips when everything is still wet – they’re so easy to wash and dry that I don’t worry about ruining shoes from wet grass.
We’ve yet to try VivoBarefoot, but I hear good things about the brand – however, they’re expensive.
Vibram Five Fingers (Child)
They don’t sell shoes for toddlers, but the famous five finger shoes are available for kids. Smallest size is a toddler 11.5.
Minnetonka (Toddler and Child)
We haven’t used these, personally: Minnetonka makes a variety of moccasin products for kids and toddlers. Not all of them meet my requirements because some have padded insoles or thick soles, but a great many do – includingthe Minnetonka Back Flap Booties follow and Minnetonka Classic Fringe Bootfollowie. I have a more extensive list of Minnetonkas under the shoe section of the store (click on the menu bar).
Mostly for infants. Sizes stop at 18-24 Months.
See the “Specific Product Links” below for good shoes that come from manufacturers that make traditional shoes, too.
WEB SITES FOR BROWSING BAREFOOT KIDS’ SHOES
1. Happy Little Soles
I just made my first purchase from Happy Little Soles – they are a web site and store that stocks products from several different shoe companies, like Bobux, Vivobarefoot, See Kai Run & Livie and Luca. The company is in the UK, so expect the price to reflect the difference in the American Dollar v. the UK Pound AND the price of shipping via Royal Air Mail. Shamless Plug: Use my name at check out (Lauren Saglimbene) to help me work towards rewards points and free shoes!
SPECIFIC PRODUCT LINKS
Some companies have select shoes that fit my “shoe rules.”
1. Bogs Kids Baby Dots Rain Boot for Toddlers: Girls
2. Bogs Kids Baby Zoo Rain Boot for Toddlers: Boys
follow3. Stonz Rain Bootz
follow3. Barefoot Merrell Trailglove
4. Barefoot Merrell Flux
followI wear the adult version of this shoe and it’s my favorite on the market. I haven’t been able to purchase these shoes for my son because they don’t make his size anymore. Merrell sells some infant shoes and other models on their web site, but I find that they have too much structure in the shoe for my taste – particularly where the arch of the foot is concerned.
5. Haflinger Kids’s Slippers for Toddler/Little Kid: My Star
These are intended to be slippers but they have a rubber sole, so I don’t see why they couldn’t be used as shoes. I don’t believe they have any cushioning or arch support but I can’t guarantee it.
6. New Balance Minimus for Kids
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