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Best shoes for toddlers

Girl wearing Start-Rite shoes running through a garden on a gravel path

We know that it’s good for babies to spend as much time as possible barefoot when they’re learning to walk so that they can have that all-important contact between the soles of their feet and the ground they walk on. It helps them to learn the right amount of pressure to exert, how and when to flex their muscles, as well as allowing them to develop better stability as they grow.

But once your little one is toddling around on their own head of steam, shoes are often necessary to keep their feet clean, warm and protected on their adventures. No shoe is perfect for every occasion, though, so here we’ll explore the best shoes for toddlers in various situations throughout the year. We’ll also give some top tips on finding the right shoes for your little one.

Best summer shoes for toddlers

Although British summers can be exceedingly unpredictable at times, it’s likely that you and your children will be dressing for warmer weather during the summer months. Part of that means switching over to footwear that reflects the activities of the season, whether you’re heading down to the beach, racing over to the local park or simply going out for a walk to enjoy the weather.

1. Sandals

Start-Rite Coastal tan leather T-bar rip-tape sandals

Sandals are a great choice for the summer months as open designs allow plenty of ventilation during hot weather, helping to keep your little one’s feet cool and dry while they play. Opt for a pair that has quality ankle support and a padded insole to support your toddler’s feet - just because the design is open, don’t be fooled into allowing your child’s feet to have subpar support in sandals.

2. Trainers

Start-Rite Roundabout French navy leather rip-tape pre-school casual shoes.

Trainer styles are the perfect choice of shoe for a toddler who loves to be active while out and about. A flexible sole will help them to learn how to navigate uneven surfaces like grassy fields and verges, while riptape fastenings make it easy to get them into their shoes when they’re eager to get out and play.

3. Canvas shoes

Start-Rite Blossom Bees cream floral girls canvas single bar shoes.

For summer days out when you want the extra protection of a closed shoe, canvas is the way to go. Canvas shoes are a great middle ground between sandals and trainers, as they’re better for rough and tumble than sandals while still being highly breathable to keep little feel cool and dry.

Like other types, canvas shoes come in a number of designs, patterns and colours so you can be sure your little one looks their cutest while getting the support they need from their shoes.

Best winter shoes for toddlers

In the winter months, the focus shifts from keeping cool to staying warm - but it’s still just as important to keep your little one’s feet clean and dry throughout the day. Like adults, that means switching from lightweight, airy shoes to sturdy, insulating alternatives.

1. Wellies

Start-Rite Puddle navy floral waterproof wellies.

If the weather is wet or snowy, as it so often is in winter, then wellies are the order of the day. But don’t just opt for any old waterproof boot. Try to choose a pair that has useful features such as a fleece lining to keep feet warm and comfy, elasticated tops to reduce the risk of water getting in over the tops of the boots, and an added heel spur to help little ones kick off their boots after a splash about.

2. Boots

Start-Rite Totter tan leather rip-tape first ankle boots.

Last but not least, boots are the ideal choice for winter days when you want a touch more coverage, but don’t need the full waterproof capability of a pair of wellies. Choose a pair that have a durable, yet flexible sole that will allow your little one’s feet to develop as they should while also supporting them on harder ground.

What to look for when buying toddler shoes

We’ve taken a look at specific types of shoes to look for when buying for your toddler, but what are some general tips to make shoe shopping that much easier?

Firstly, it pays to always measure your child’s feet before shopping for shoes, particularly at this young age. Kids really do grow in the blink of an eye when they’re very little, so by measuring their foot size every time you go shoe shopping, you can be sure you’re buying the right size for them to help their feet stay comfortable.

Once you’re at the browsing stage, there are a few key things to look for in toddler shoes. These are:

  • Flexible soles - these help your little one to develop a natural foot movement, informing the way they’ll walk as they grow up.

  • Traction - your toddler is by no means an expert at walking, so slips and trips are more likely than they are in older children. A non-slip sole will help to combat this and keep your child as safe as possible.

  • Wide, rounded toe boxes - as opposed to narrow or pointy toe boxes, these wider designs ensure your child has plenty of space to move and splay their toes. This is really important for developing their balance, as well as ensuring their growth isn’t stunted by cramped toe spaces.

  • Lightweight designs - although all baby and toddler shoes probably seem light as a feather to you, it’s important to remember that your little one’s muscles are nowhere near as well developed as an older child’s. While they’re getting to grips with walking and building those leg muscles, a lightweight shoe is the best choice for them to improve their strength and endurance.

We hope these tips and suggestions help to make shoe shopping for toddlers that much easier. Remember, as simple as a shoe may seem, it can have a big impact on your child’s growth and development for years to come.