This is an infant and baby shoe buying guide, with reviews and ratings from focus groups with new moms. There are several things you should be looking for when shopping for shoes for your baby or infant, or when buying them as a gift. If your baby isn't walking yet, most people think the only concern is style. However, it's a bit more complicated than that. Here is a list of considerations to make when shopping for baby shoes. We also provide a list of popular, stylish, and durable shoe options. Here are some things to consider when shopping for baby shoes:
Slip-on versus Lace-up versus Velcro: Nobody likes trying to shove a chubby baby foot into a shoe, only finding that the shoe falls off 3 minutes later. Once your baby starts crawling, slip-on shoes become more and more likely to fall off. Of course it's a nuisance to keep putting the shoes back on, and nobody likes getting home and only then realizing the baby has only one shoe on! So this leads to our suggestion to use the lace-up or velcro options, rather than the slip on, at least once the baby begins crawling. Of course, while the the lace-up shoes can be really cute, they are also time-consuming to put on and take off; at this age, diaper changes require a lot of shoe removal! So the best baby shoes once your little one starts crawling, mostly for convenience sake, are the onces with the fake elastic laces (like these Baby Shoes by Akademiks) or a little velcro strap (like these Pediped Infant Shoes) that you can use to quickly take the shoes on and off, and quickly adjust how tight they are to accomodate a growing foot.
Durability of the Toe: This is something that you don't realize until you're spending way too much money on shoes: with a crawling baby, the top of the toe is the primary point of contact with the ground. If your baby is anything like mine, he or she will be crawling all over the place, everywhere you go: indoors, outdoors, hard surfaces, soft surfaces, rough surfaces, smooth surfaces, wet and dry surfaces, etc. What happens over a few weeks is that the toe of the shoe becomes dragged across so many surfaces that it gets pretty badly ripped apart. So what do we suggest? Well, there are a few options here. One is that you purchase a shoe that has a rubber sole that comes up over the toe area, such as the ones made by Momo Baby or Converse. Even if you don't go that route, we strongly suggest avoiding the shoes that have stiching on the toe area; those stitches will be gone in a few days and the shoe will open up. So if you really like the style of the Robeez or Momo Baby shoes (who doesn't!?) that don't have the rubber toe, just try to get the ones without stitching on the toes. Once the baby begins walking this is much less of an issue, as the primary point of contact with the ground becomes the sole of the shoe rather than the toe.
Support and Stability: Once your baby begins crawling it won't be long until they're pulling up on things to stand. At this point, pediatricians suggest purchasing baby shoes with a bit more support. No more thin-bottom Robeez or Momo Baby shoes at this point, you need to be providing a wide firm base with adequate arch support. Stride Rite, Tsukihoshi, Puma, New Balance, and some other brands provide excellent lateral stability and arch support. The little bones in your baby's feet are developing very quickly at this age, so give them the support they need to develop a well-formed arch, and the better stance, gait, cadence and stability that go along with it. Seems silly to think about these things at such a young age, but some studies show that babies walk sooner and better with supportive footwear.
Comfort: OK this one is difficult to assess when your baby is too little to really tell you how things feel. If they're screaming while you try to squeeze their fat foot into the shoe, it's probably too small. If you're taking more than a minute putting on the shoes, they are probably too small. If you feel the toes hitting the front of the shoe when you feel from the outside, they are probably too small. A baby who is uncomfortable in their shoes will only become more uncomfortable when he or she begins to pull up to stand and even more weight is put on the shoe. So use your best judgment. In our experience, the most comfortable baby shoes are made by Robeez, Momo Baby, Stride Rite, and New Balance. Pumas tend to run narrow and can be too tight for a fat baby foot.
Below are our 2015 top-ranked baby shoes for crawlers and new standers/walkers:
Best baby shoes for crawlers:
1. Pediped Originals for Boys and Pediped Originals for Girls. The Pediped line of shoes got a lot of votes from our moms because they are very cute and stylish, made from quality materials, comfortable, and many of the options use a velcro strap to keep them on. For those reasons, these are #1 according to the moms in our focus group. Here are some of the most popular Pediped options for girls and boys:
2. Stride Rite Infant Shoes for Boys and for Girls. The Stride Rite line of shoes is very well known for their quality, comfort, and support. They don't have as big of a variety in terms of style and cuteness, since they tend to focus on shoes for babies who are walking. But here are a couple cute options for crawlers:
3. Robeez Infant Slip-on Baby Shoes for Boys and for Girls. Sometimes we're all suckers for style and cuteness. So let's ignore all the advice about buying a pair of shoes that will actually stay on the feet, and acknowledge the fact that Robeez baby shoes are some of the most popular on the market. Not because they are supportive or won't fall off, but because they're cute and comfortable. They are also well made, with high quality materials. They are less expensive than the Stride Rite, but tend to be a few dollars more than the Pediped.
Best baby or toddler shoes for new walkers:
1. Stride Rite First Walker Shoes for Boys and Girls. The Stride Rite line of shoes is at the top of our list for good reason. Starting with the first walker shoes and continuing into their toddler lines, these shoes are well made, stylish, comfortable, come in wide and extra wide sizes, and provide excellent support for the growing foot. Though Stride Rite shoes tend to be a bit more expensive than other options, the moms we interviewed thought the shoes were well worth the cost. Here are some of the most popular Stride Rite First Walker and early walker shoes:
2. Puma new walker Shoes for Boys and for Girls. Puma does a nice job making stylish, well constructed, and comfortable shoes for new walkers. They also tend to be a bit less expensive than the Stride Rite options, but they are not quite as well made or have quite as much arch support or lateral stability. They also tend to be a bit narrower and do not come in wide or extra wide sizes like the Stride Rite shoes do. Here are some of the most popular Puma early walker shoes (note that all of these come in multiple colors for both boys and girls):
3. Tsukihoshi Toddler Shoes for Boys and Girls. The name is hard to pronounce, but these are some of the best made, most supportive, and most comfortable toddler shoes on the market. They come in all sorts of stylish colors and patterns, for both boys and girls. Tsukihoshi is relatively new to the U.S. toddler shoe party (they've been in Japan for over 100 years), but they are quickly rising to the top. They also have several shoe options that give proceeds of sales to kids foundations such as Autism Speaks, so these are really great options for the socially conscious parent. They tend to run a bit wide, which is good for most kids, and have gained approval from the American Podiatric Medical Association for promoting healthy foot development. Here are some of the most popular Tsukihoshi baby and toddler shoes (note that all of these come in multiple colors for both boys and girls):