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13 best kids' sandals that are comfortable and supportive

Whether you’re going on holiday or a staycation, make sure your child is kitted out with stylish but sturdy footwear

Martha Alexander
Tuesday 21 July 2020 17:15
Choose from leather gladiators, jelly designs or classic flip flops 
Choose from leather gladiators, jelly designs or classic flip flops 

Here in Blighty we get such a small window in which to wear sandals which is why it makes sense to choose well, especially for children who will only really get one summer’s worth thanks to their ever-growing feet.

Sandals come in different guises and we’ve aimed to provide a broad spectrum of styles, from beachy flip-flops to chic leather beauties.

We were looking for shoes that children would love to wear – sandals that were not only visually exciting but make them feel comfortable, supported and free.

We were mindful of the putting on/taking off process – how pesky were the buckles? – but also how well they fit once a little one is in motion, because an ill-fitting sandal is at best irritating, at worst dangerous.

We have also tried to include a variety of price points with some options under £10.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Bobux tidal sandals

Available in a variety of colours, these are just such joyful sandals. We went for the red because they are a nod to retro summers, but the design is about as modern and progressive as you could wish for.

The leather is fast-drying so while they are not a swim sandal, water needn’t be the enemy. These have the benefit of being closed toe but with enough cut outs to allow feet to breathe. These shoes are part of Bobux's range that's specifically designed to cater to a child's growing foot shape while allowing for frequent and vigrous movement – an important factor for small children.

Our five-year-old tester reported that these made her feet feel “very lovely” which we took to being true as she wore them without so much as a stumble all afternoon – easily putting them on but nearing tantrum territory when she couldn’t try them on the trampoline.

We love the white rubber soles which include a “hive” design for powerful grip and the gold detail on the ankle strap. But what really makes these ideal sandals is that they work beautifully as both active and formal wear.We wish they made them for adults!

JoJo Maman Bebe cat leather sandals

Golden, real leather and with a cat motif embroidered into the upper design? These sandals are ticking so many boxes already, and that’s just their opening gambit. The sole is made from squashy and cushioned leather which feels thick without being heavy or clunky. Our five-year-old tester found these easy to walk in – they are definitely more than just formal sandals and can be worn comfortably all day long. The Velcro straps – both at the toes and ankle – are something of a godsend too!

Teva hurricane

Teva sandals once gave off a little bit of a “Eighties dad on holiday” whiff. Not so today. Teva is the summer shoe of choice for many a fashionista – so any stylish youngsters will be delighted to get themselves a pair of these.

First off – they look comfortable and easy. Soft, webbed straps, a squashy malleable midsole which is then sealed in by a more durable rubber sole. Our little tester said it felt like “walking on marshmallows” which is most definitely a compliment.

One of the best things about these is that they can be worn in water: they won’t float away and yet they’ll dry easily. We love the unicorn print, too.

Crew Clothing flip flops

This is a sweet and simple pair of sandals in pastel shades for summer days. We appreciate flip flops don’t offer the support that other more structured “strap” sandals might provide, but in essence these are meant to be easy, casual shoes that can be put on and taken off easily. Our six-year-old tester adores them – not least because they make her feel “grown up”.

Next jelly sandals

Jelly shoes offer more than a hit of nostalgia for parents who were kids in the Eighties – and today they delight youngsters more than ever. This silver glittery pair is certainly one for mini magpies – they are so sparkly and tactile. They also go with almost anything, are waterproof and have plenty of give in them.

Tu camourflage dinosaur clogs

These are feather light and as a result incredibly popular with our six-year-old tester. They slip onto feet easily and incur no rubbing or blistering. Clogs can get a bad rap, but there’s a reason surgeons and chefs – people on their feet all day – favour them: comfort. We really enjoy the camo print, and that they are rinse clean.

Alex & Alexa ancient Greek Ikaria sandals

Yes, these are pricey but just you wait until you see them in the flesh. The softest leather – the smell of the leather itself is amazing too – and the most painstaking, careful detailing on the stitches and buckles. The wings by the ankle are just so lovely and inventive without being over the top and completely delighted our four-year-old tester. We plumped for the black pair – which might seem unusual for a child’s summer shoe but it actually makes for a really smart accessory for any outfit. These are very special, so perhaps not the best choice for ragging around in grubby playgrounds or sandy beaches. They do come up a little small so if in doubt, size up.

Bisgaard navy Billie sandals

This brand is committed to ensuring its products are as natural and eco-friendly as possible. It uses vegetable (chemical-free) tanning on its leather and all of the shoes are metal-free. This particular pair is understated but undeniably smart, from the strong leather scent to the soft texture and robust but flexible sole. Inside the leather was soft, meaning no blistering on our five-year-old’s feet, and the sandal didn’t require much in the way of breaking in – they were comfortable and made for a natural gait from the off. The outer sole has deep grooves making these the perfect party/playtime crossover sandal.

Kavat Rullsand XCN sandals

One of the most exciting and unusual things about these sandals for babies (up to a UK 7) is that the leather they are made from has been treated so that they are both water and dirt repellent. Yes, you read that correctly, they repel dirt! They are also easy to put on and take off – thanks Velcro – and have toe and heel reinforcements for protection, security and durability. The outer soles are rubber with plenty of grip, while the inner soles are super soft. The lining of the leather is chromium-free, which is better for the environment.

Keen toddler's seacamp II sandal

If your family is the kind to climb mountains, camp in the rain, hike, bike and paddle in the pond, river or sea, chances are you’ll already have heard of Keen, a brand where active, outdoor living and exploring seems to be at the centre of what it does. While it does offer a variety of sandals for children, we homed in on the "seacamp II" version. They are basically the point at which a sandal meets a trainer, but these are specially designed to be a water shoe – allowing feet to be flexible but protected.

This internal support mechanism is engineered to provide arch support – holding the contours of growing feet. The sole is rubber, super grippy and brilliantly, they won’t mark the floor. These are also water-repellent, but using more environmentally friendly solutions than PFC, which is frequently used on clothes and other objects to repel water. We love that these are machine washable – what a dependable, practical sandal.

Havaianas 'Lion King' sandals

Havaianas were the world’s first flip flop – since 1962 they have been a staple part of life in Brazil. These days they are extraordinarily popular around the world – go on a group sun and sea holiday and at least one person will have a pair. They are famous for the durable rubber sole and straps, a footbed that moulds to your feet and for being super comfortable. It is no surprise that the brand's infant range is a hit, especially when in partnership with Disney. The kids' sandals are much the same as the adults, only adorably diminutive with a fabric heel strap to ensure the sole stays in place. We found these true to size and while some children can be resistant to the between toe strap, our tester found them comfortable, easy to put on and a doddle to walk in.

Start Rite enchant sandals

Patent glitter with heart detailing? These sandals are serving major princess power. The sole is flexible and light, complete with a cushioned insole for maximum comfort. Start Rite offers a certain sense of security – quite literally. It has been making safe and sturdy children’s shoes for hundreds of years. The double buckle on these really envelopes little feet and makes movement feel stable and easy.

Liewood bre jelly sandals

One of the best things about these jelly sandals is that they look like leather but behave like rubber. This means that they are perfect for occasions when one must appear smart, neat and formal but have all the positives that leather doesn’t have – being waterproof, wipe clean and super light. We love the rust orange colourway, too.

The verdict: Kids’ sandals

The Bobux sandals are a stand out for us – they’re bright, beautiful and brilliantly nurturing for growing feet.

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