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The best kids shoe brands for every age group, from toddlers to teens

They’ll be putting their best foot forward when wearing one of these labels

Rebecca Moore
Friday 20 August 2021 16:12
<p>Hopping, skipping, jumping: could our mini testers conquer all in these kicks?</p>

Hopping, skipping, jumping: could our mini testers conquer all in these kicks?

As adults we’ve all made a poor shoe choice at one time or another, whether that’s a pair that pinches at the toes, crippling blisters on our ankles or just a downright ugly shoe. Shoes are very much a personal choice, which can make buying the right pair for your offspring a rather tricky task indeed.

“Parents should firstly look for shoes that are designed especially for kids, not mini-me versions of adults’ shoes.” recommends Nicola Williamson, lead designer at kids’ shoe brand Bobux.

“Kids’ feet are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to footwear. To develop naturally, feet need to be free to move and grow as if they were barefoot. In poor footwear, their feet are at risk of conforming to the shape of the shoe rather than their natural shape,” continues Williamson.

Of course, a child’s footwear needs change as they develop and don’t be surprised if your child’s feet have grown several sizes since you last kitted them out with new shoes.

“Look for strap closures that make it easy for kids to put their shoes on themselves, provide an element of adjustability and that won’t come undone,” advises Williamson. “Kids feet sweat twice as much as adults’ so they need shoes made from breathable textiles. They also tend to put their shoes through an extreme level of activity, so durability is key here, too. Look for materials like leather, Merino, cotton canvas or a polyester blend.”

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How we tested

When it came to choosing which brands and shoes to feature, we looked for designs that appealed to our little testers. We roped in a three, five and 14-year-old tester to put a range of shoes to the test over the course of a week.

We didn’t ask them to perform any tricks, just to go about their usual daily business – though skipping, jumping, running and play in general all featured heavily. We looked at comfort, durability and how easy they are to take on and off again.

We also looked at the quality of materials used and how breathable the shoes were. Finally, we reviewed the range to check there was something to appeal to everyone and also took price and value into consideration.

Bobux

This humble brand stocks shoes in more than 40 countries

This year marks 30 years of Bobux, and we salute them. From humble beginnings in New Zealand, Bobux was created out of the need for a pair of shoes for the founder and co-founder’s daughter. Fast forward three decades and the brand is loved and worn by children in over 40 countries around the globe. The brand’s ethos focuses on crafting the best shoes for growing feet, and we can’t fault them.

Creating collections for your baby’s first shoe, through to cool kicks for kids aged eight-years-old, there’s a Bobux shoe to compliment even the fussiest of little feet. We know how hard it is finding a good shoe for an energetic toddler, which is why we’re championing the delight (£47, Bobux.com) from the “I walk” range.

Made from vintage-style premium leather with reduced water absorption properties for longevity, these shoes use child safe materials and dyes and offer the best grip of all those we tested – which is just what you need when enthusiastic play is the order of the day.

Visit Bobux.com now

Clarks

When we think of Clarks, we think of school shoes, but it’s not all about back-to-school necessities. Did you know Clarks has been making shoes since 1825? That’s just shy of 200 years of fine footwear. So it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about crafting credible shoes.

Finding shoes for a teenage boy is no easy feat, which is why we have chosen to showcase the cica youth grey suede (£60, Clarks.co.uk). Rising to the demands of teenage activity, these kicks have been specifically designed for active kids, in particular those with a passion for action sports. Whether it’s breakdancing, football, BMXing or skating, these shoes are up for the challenge.

The biomechanically proven C-SHX cushioning system handles shock absorption through its dual density EVA footbed and sole, while the ankle design and rubberised heel supports impact points. We also can’t fault them on comfort, and you can choose half sizes and two width options too, for the perfect fit.

As a brand Clarks is taking sustainability seriously too, striving to make more planet-friendly shoes. The cica youth grey suedes have been crafted using responsibly sourced suede and recycled content where possible too. Parents will also celebrate the Agion-infused linings which keep feet smelling fresh, well… fresher. A cool, yet comfortable choice which will fill your kid with every confidence.

Visit Clarks.co.uk now

M&S

Totally roarsome: these dino shoes are vegan friendly

M&S has been helping time-short parents out for over 100 years, with the launch of its childrenswear range in the 1920s. And while the days of the reliable St Michael’s label in your child’s favourite jumper may be gone, the same quality and trust is still there, making it a family favourite.

Walk in style with prehistoric pals, as the stegosaurus, triceratops, tyrannosaurus, and pterodactyls all feature on these kids’ dinosaur riptape trainers (£15, Marksandspencer.com). First things first though, these are incredibly comfy underfoot, as they boast a squidgy padded foam for all day comfort.

They also help to keep pongy feet at bay too, as the antibacterial Freshfeet technology is designed to keep feet fresher for longer. The riptape fastenings are brilliant for putting on and taking off at speed, but they also ensure they’re a good fit. These kicks are produced using non-leather materials, making them a vegan friendly choice.

Visit Marksandspencer.com now

Boden

British clothing retailer Boden was founded 30 years ago as a mail order business, but you’ll now find bricks and mortar stores in London, as well as a rather irresistible online store. Specialising in playful clothing with bright colours and distinctive patterns, the brand has a collection for older children and teenagers – aged nine to 16, as well as mini Boden for younger kids.

Everyone should own a pair of chelsea boots at some stage of their life, and there’s a lot to love about these leather chelsea boots – leopard (£55, Boden.co.uk). The iconic leopard print ensures these treads stand out, but we especially love the pink piping and metallic gusset giving them a playful style.

But they don’t just walk the walk – the side zip, pull tab and stretchy sides make them a practical choice for young fashionistas too. There are four fun patterns to choose from.

Visit Boden.co.uk now

Start Rite

A Norwich born company and heritage brand, Start Rite has been proudly focused on children’s feet since 1792. Known for its stylish yet practical shoes – not to mention its royal family approved status – the brand works with biomechanics experts to create shoes that support kids’ physical development. You’ll always find a good fit with Start Rite as they offer whole, half and multi-width fittings for your own little prince and princesses.

Striking the balance between offering enough support for growing feet, and sufficient flexibility to go about a kids’ daily business, the explore shoe (£42.99, Startriteshoes.com) will start your adventurer off on the right foot.

A highlight for us is the chunky double riptape fastening, which are a good size for little hands so they can put on and take off independently. The brand has also updated the sole unit to offer premium comfort as the shoes feel light and nimble, but durable enough to allow kids to be kids.

Visit Startriteshoes.com now

Kidly

These jelly sandals are just made for childhood, aren’t they?

Kidly has become a parent’s best friend; a sustainable online store with beautiful products for little ones aged 0-5 years, stocking only the very best brands from across the world. The business launched in 2016 but soon realised they couldn’t source everything so they set up a label of their own and aptly called it Kidly label.

Pretty and practical, the range is predominantly made up of clothing from pack away puddle suits to super soft pyjamas. The shoe offering is small but mighty, with rain boots and jelly sandals.

Childhood isn’t complete without beach days and your trusty pair of jellies. While the concept is the same, it’s safe to say the comfort and design has come a long way since our jelly shoe days. Kidly’s jelly sandals (£10, Kidly.co.uk) are designed with a removable fast-drying cushioned insole which supports tiny feet.

We love the imitation buckle, which has secretive Velcro hiding underneath meaning they can be taken off, or put on, in seconds – no adult help required. The material is surprisingly soft and practically speaking they’re wipe clean! The sandals certainly have the cute factor, and with nine sunbleached brights to choose from, there’s something for everyone.

Visit Kidly.co.uk now

Poco Nido

Celebrating 10 years of beautiful baby footwear, Sheffield based Poco Nido, has a truly scrumptious range of baby and toddler shoes. With a range of mini, midi and mighty shoes, coming in vegan, leather, patterned design or classic colourways – there’s something to suit every little explorer.

The award-winning brand provide simple and practical shapes for crawlers, those taking their first steps or for when they’re walking independently.

The barefoot friendly leather mighty shoes (£44, Poconido.com) deserve to be celebrated. Made from high quality, chrome free, durable yet super soft leather, these really are small but mighty.

Looking cute as a button, these shoes boast flexible, yet sturdy, TPU soles and when you combine that with the soft leather upper, toddlers are provided with a comfy yet supportive shoe. Plus, adorability overload, you’ll certainly want a snap of your little cherub donning these on your Insta grid.

Visit Poconido.com now

Next

Next – one of the UK’s largest clothing retailers – launched Next childrenswear back in 1987, and parents have been counting their lucky stars ever since. Its baby essentials and footwear and clothing for kids are popular with parents, and for good reason too. Turning to its expansive kids’ shoe collection, you’ll find good quality, at affordable prices.

Showcasing one pair of kids’ shoes from Next isn’t such a breezy task (there are currently almost 4000 options to choose from). But, our mini tester took a walk on the wild side with the Myleene Klass kids’ velcro trainers (£20, Next.co.uk) which are exclusively stocked at Next.

We love the understated style, and who can deny Myleene’s signature leopard print? Available in sizes 4-12, we love the simple rip-tape fastenings, while the soft memory foam insole keeps things comfy.

Visit Next.co.uk now

Voucher codes

For the latest discount on kids essentials, try the links below:

Looking for shoes suitable for going back to school? Check out our round-up of the best kids’ school shoes

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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