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11 Baby Walking Shoes to Support Your Child’s First Steps

Looking for baby’s first walking shoes? Use our tips and shop our favorites to find the perfect pair.
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profile picture of Martina Garvey
Associate Editor
Updated
September 21, 2022
best baby walking shoes 2022
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Almost every parent will tell you their world is flipped upside down once their baby starts walking. After all, it’s one of the most monumental milestones in your child’s life—and once they start toddling around, they can be hard to keep up with. Although it’s fashionable and fun to dress baby in matching outfits and shoes right from the get-go, finding the best walking shoes for your little one isn’t necessary until they actually start walking. Many professionals (including those associated with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that you allow your child to practice walking barefoot first. Their tiny feet aren’t fully developed yet, and learning to grip the floors and coordinate their steps with little or no support helps with balance and coordination.

Once your child has mastered the art of balancing, and you feel comfortable enough to go outside for a walk, shopping for baby’s first walking shoes is your next step. Making the walking experience safe but exciting should be every parent’s top priority. The best baby walking shoes should protect your kiddo’s feet from any hard or unsafe terrain outside.

With so many choices on the market, it can be daunting to find the best baby shoes. That’s why we’ve put together a shoppable guide and some great tips to read before your precious little one takes their first steps.

How to Fit Baby Walking Shoes

The first baby walking shoes you buy should protect your little one’s developing toes with comfort and flexibility. Babies have lots of fatty padding on the bottoms of their feet that makes them relatively flat-footed; so unlike slip-on baby shoes, walking shoes should be tested for fit before purchase. We recommend spending some time shopping at an actual shoe store to get assistance from trained staff who will take measurements for the right fit. However, here are two tests you can try yourself:

  • Thumb test. Once you get the shoe on your little one’s foot, press your thumb sideways at the very tip of the shoe. There should be roughly half an inch—or a thumb’s width—of space between the tip of the shoe and your child’s longest toe.

  • Heel test. A comfortable but snug fit is what you should be looking for. The heel should fit perfectly against the back of the shoe. If the heel pinches, it means the shoe is too small, while a heel that easily slides out means the shoe may be a size too big. You can confirm the right fit for the best baby walking shoes by inserting your pinkie into the heel; it should just squeeze in when baby’s toes are pushed to the front of the shoe.

What to Look for in Baby Walking Shoes

The best walking shoes for babies should be snug, meaning they won’t slip around too much, even if baby is in the beginning stages of perfecting their stride. Once you take the shoe off, keep an eye out for any red marks—these mean the shoe is too tight. Below, some more dos and don’ts—as well as some pointers from the American Academy of Pediatrics on what to look for in the best baby walking shoes.

Image: The Bump

Do’s and don’ts

  • Do pick something comfortable, as this is the most important aspect of finding baby’s first walking shoes. If your child is limping or on their tippy toes, that may mean the shoe is uncomfortable. After all, a young baby can’t tell you whether their shoes are fitting correctly, so observing physical cues is your best bet.

  • Don’t buy used walking shoes for babies; they’ve likely molded to the feet of their original owner. It can be harmful to the development of baby’s feet to wear hand-me-down shoes. Form and fit are critical when it comes to baby’s first walking shoes, and footwear fits every child differently.

  • Do pick an ankle-cut or high-top first baby walking shoe secured with laces, snaps or Velcro. Low-cut or slip-on shoes make it easier for a rambunctious tot to kick off or remove the shoes. You want to look for good baby walking shoes that are easy to put on but hard to slip off—not only for your sanity’s sake, but for the safety of your child, who may be prone to tripping for a while.

  • Don’t shop early in the morning. Try to shop later in the day when baby’s feet swell and are at their biggest. Parents have found that baby walking shoes purchased in the morning have a tighter fit later in the evening.

What to look for in baby walking shoes

  • Mesh or leather material for breathability. Find a good-quality, soft-leather or cloth-topped first walking shoe for baby that allows airflow for your child’s sweaty little toes. Stiff materials hinder the growth and development of baby’s feet.

  • Lightweight, flexible design to allow natural movement. Pinch the top of baby’s walking shoes while the shoe is on; if you can’t grab any material it may be too tight. Flexible materials mimic baby’s bare feet to allow natural movement during their walk.

  • Traction to prevent sliding or slipping. Baby’s first shoes should have grooves on the bottom to help your little one learn to walk more proficiently. Many hard-bottom baby walking shoes have rubber non-skid soles with ridges that give great traction to your wobbly walker.

Overall Best Baby Walking Shoes

Stride Rite SRT SM Artie
Stride Rite SRT SM Artie
Image: Stride Rite

Awarded the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) seal of acceptance, these baby walking shoes are proven to promote foot health in little kids. The rounded, flexible soles improve balance and encourage natural movement, while the plush, memory foam footbeds provide supreme comfort. The best part? These shoes are easy to slip on and secure, thanks to the supportive fit and hook-and-loop closures. Plus, this style is available in a variety of colors for little girls and boys.

Canvas Baby Walking Shoes

Keds Little Kid's Graham Sneaker
Keds Little Kid's Graham Sneaker
Image: Keds

Keds combine the look of an original sneaker with the practicality of a baby walking shoe—with great results. A memory foam sole makes them comfortable enough for all-day wear, while the lace-up closure ensures a snug fit. Plus, the cushy padded collar and rubber tread sole allow for natural movements as your munchkin explores their world. Better yet, this pair is APMA approved to boot. Looking for something with a little extra sparkle? Check out the Keds x Kate Spade collection.

Sporty Baby Walking Shoes

Nike Flex Advance FlyEase Sneaker
Nike Flex Advance FlyEase Sneaker
Image: Nike

Is your kiddo really on the go? These Nike baby walking shoes (or should we say running shoes?) are ultra-flexible with a stretchy upper sole and a padded heel to promote natural movement in a comfy way. Better yet, this design has an extra-wide opening for little feet to slip into and adjustable criss-cross straps to keep them securely in place.

Buster Brown Baby Walking Shoes

Angel Shoes Baby James Nubuck Leather Lace Up Shoe
Angel Shoes Baby James Nubuck Leather Lace Up Shoe
Image: Angel Shoes
Buying Options
Maisonette | $38

Traditional Buster Brown baby walking shoes were designed to be tough enough to last any energetic kiddo for an entire year. Although the Brown Shoe Company no longer offers the classic style baby walking shoe, these leather brogues from Angel Shoes are a great choice. The lace-up design, complete with classic perforated detailing, is made with comfort and longevity in mind. Plus, the round-toe style allows plenty of room for wiggly toes.

Mary Jane Baby Walking Shoes

Stride Rite Soft Motion Lucianne Mary Jane
Stride Rite Soft Motion Lucianne Mary Jane
Image: Stride Rite

These pretty baby girl walking shoes will step up your child’s style game (check out that super-sweet cut-out pattern). The APMA-approved pair are designed with Ortholite memory foam soles to stabilize baby’s initial steps. And, like most of the best first walking shoes, they boast flexible, rounded toes and adjustable—but not easily undoable—straps. Bonus: These Mary Jane style shoes are lined with an antimicrobial material to keep smelly feet at bay.

White Baby Walking Shoes

Nike Air Force 1 Sneaker
Nike Air Force 1 baby Sneaker
Image: Nike

Is there anything better than a pair of box-fresh white sneakers? We don’t think so. Although light-colored shoes aren’t the most practical pick (hello, dirt stains!), they go with pretty much everything. So before your tot develops a penchant for puddle jumping—and inevitably gets their footwear mucky—pick up a pair of Nike Air Force 1 Sneakers. Not only is this style ultra-cool, they also have outstanding durability for wear, a wide base that’ll promote balance, lightweight cushioning and a high-top leather design for comfort and support.

Leather Baby Walking Shoes

Zutano Black Leather Baby Shoe
Zutano Black Leather Baby Shoe
Image: Zutano

Avoid sweaty toes with a pair of leather baby walking shoes. The material promotes more air circulation than synthetic or plastic options. Made from 100 percent leather, these flexible boots have a super-soft upper and flexible treaded soles for added slip-protection. Plus, an adjustable hook-and-loop strap on each side allows the shoe to be tightened or loosened for the perfect fit, keeping them securely in place. Go for the classic black pair, or opt for rose-gold leather, dusty pink or tan suede.

Washable Baby Walking Shoes

Smallbirds Wool Runners Little Kids
Smallbirds Wool Runners Little Kids
Image: Allbirds
Buying Options
Allbirds | $60

The best shoes for babies learning to walk are those that can withstand scuffs and scrapes. Introducing Smallbird’s Wool Runners. The slip-on style has elasticated laces to keep the shoe firmly in place, plus a Merino-wool upper that’s naturally breathable and soft. And because little kids can be a magnet for messes, this pair is machine-washable. How great is that?

Waterproof Baby Walking Shoes

Geox Trottola Toddler Waterproof Sneakers
Geox Trottola Toddler Waterproof Sneakers
Image: Geox
Buying Options
Geox | $80

Once your kid has found their balance and stride, you may want to invest in some outdoor baby walking shoes. Geox footwear is as durable as they come, and this pair will keep little feet dry and warm during strolls outside. The high-top shoe has a waterproof upper, a flexible treaded sole and a cozy wool lining for added insulation. Plus, they’re easy to put on and fasten, thanks to a single Velcro strap.

Moccasin Baby Walking Shoes

Carter's Fringe Bootie Baby Shoes
Carter's Fringe Bootie Baby Shoes
Image: Carter's
Buying Options
Carter's | $20

Mini moccasins make our heart melt every time—and these fringed baby shoes by Carter’s are no exception. Designed for growing feet, this pair has a padded insole and a stretchy ankle cuff. And at only $20, these baby walking shoes are a steal.

Winter Baby Walking Shoes

Merrel Little Kid's Bare Steps Cocoa Jr. Boot
Merrel Little Kid's Bare Steps Cocoa Jr. Boot
Image: Merrel

Another good option for slightly older tots, are these winter boots by Merrel. Equipped with a memory-foam footbed, a grooved sole for traction and a roomy rounded toe, these shoes are sturdy enough for short hikes, but flexible enough for developing feet. Adjust the double fasteners (strap closure and elasticated laces) to give feet a little extra wriggle room as they grow.

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