11 Baby Walking Shoes to Support Your Child’s First Steps
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 are those that protect your kiddo’s feet from any hard or unsafe terrain outside, while also keep their teeny tiny feet supported.
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 advice to read before your precious little one takes their first steps. Below, check out our top tips, then shop our favorite baby walking shoes in an array of styles.
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.
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 AAP on what to look for in the best baby walking shoes.
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.
Feeling overwhelmed when stepping foot in the infant footwear aisle, or scrolling through hundreds of options from online retailers? Don’t fret—we’ve got you covered. Keep the following aspects in mind when shopping for baby’s first 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. Some options also have antimicrobial footbeds to keep kicks fresh and smelly odors at bay.
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.
Now that you know exactly what to look for, picking out cute, supportive baby walking shoes will be a breeze. Check out our top picks for every season and style below.
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.
Sizes: 3 to 6 | Material: Leather and memory foam | Width options: 3 | Color options: 5
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.
Sizes: 4 to 10 | Material: Canvas, rubber and memory foam | Width options: 2 | Color options: 4
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.
Sizes: 2C to 10C | Material: Leather, foam and rubber | Width options: 1 | Color options: 2
Is your kiddo really on the go? Then these Nike baby walking shoes (or should we say running shoes?) are a must-have. We love how they’re 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.
Sizes: 2C to 10C | Material: Rubber and foam | Width options: 1 | Color options: 6
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 wiggle room as they grow.
Sizes: 4 to 10 | Material: Leather, memory foam, faux shearling and rubber | Width options: 2 | Color options: 3
The best shoes for babies learning to walk are those that can withstand scuffs and scrapes. That’s why you can’t go wrong with 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?
Sizes: 5T to 10T | Material: Wool and foam | Width options: 1 | Color options: 13
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.
Sizes: 3 to 6 | Material: Leather and memory foam | Width options: 2 | Color options: 3
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, gray suede or tan suede.
Sizes: 6M to 24M | Material: Leather and rubber | Width options: 1 | Color options: 4
Searching for a vegan leather footwear option for your little mover and shaker? Look no further than these baby walking shoes from Ten Little. Stand-out features include the non-skid soles, no-slip tongue and reinforced toe caps, resulting in a durable, supportive shoe. Plus, the versatile design works just as well for a special occasion, a playground playdate, preschool or anything else that may be on your family’s schedule. Now comes the hard part: Choosing which of the 14 cool colorways you (and your discerning tot, of course) like best.
Sizes: 4 to 13 | Material: Vegan leather, cotton and rubber | Width options: 1 | Color options: 14
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.
Sizes: 1 to 7 | Material: Leather and rubber | Width options: 1 | Color options: 1
Once your kid has found their balance and stride (or discovered the joys of puddle jumping), 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 retro-inspired shoe has a waterproof upper, an antibacterial footbed and a flexible treaded sole. Plus, they’re easy to put on and fasten, thanks to a single Velcro strap.
Sizes: 3 to 9 | Material: Leather and rubber | Width options: 1 | Color options: 2
As your infant reaches new milestones, they’ll need the right footwear to support their many steps to come. To help you pick out the best baby walking shoes, we leveraged our familiarity with leading brands and retailers and browsed an array of pint-sized footwear options. When sourcing each product, we considered several aspects, including quality and durability, fit, material, traction, flexibility and, of course, style. We also read user reviews to understand how these baby walking shoes worked for real families, and didn’t consider anything with less than an average four-star rating. Lastly, to make sure we’re highlighting infant footwear that’s safe and effective, we followed guidelines from the AAP and looked for seals of acceptance from the APMA.
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
AAP, Shoes for Active Toddlers, June 2015