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Little girl trying on pink shoes

Back-to-Preschool Shoes: The Yay to the Nay

By Ilana Wiles

the yay to the nayThis review of preschool shoes for school is going to be a little different than I normally write for my other reviews of kids’ products.

Why? 1. When it comes to shopping for a preschooler’s shoes, I think it is really important to go to a store and have someone size your child correctly. 2. What works best for my child’s feet, might be different for yours.

But, the criteria for preschool appropriate footwear is basically the same.

We went to a kid’s shoe store in lower Manhattan that is known for its large selection. My five-year old daughter, Mazzy, grew another TWO SIZES over the summer and is now a size 9. Which is crazy because I bought two pairs of shoes a few months ago that I thought she would be able to wear over the winter and they are both a size 8.

A size 9 puts her squarely in the middle of the baby shoes and the kids’ shoes which made finding the right size more difficult. A lot of the baby shoes didn’t run that big and the big kid shoes didn’t run that small. Therefore, the shoes that fit correctly and were appropriate for preschool dwindled quickly into a very small selection.

What makes for Preschool-Appropriate Shoes?

1. No sandals and no laces. For starters, Mazzy’s preschool has two rules about shoes— no sandals (which includes Crocs) and no laces.

2. Shoes with room to grow. In addition, you need to find shoes that are big enough for your child to grow into but not too big that their heel will easily come out. This is why a lot of toddler shoes have a cushioned lip on the heel, so your kid has room to grow but something to prevent their foot from slipping out.

3. Shoes with the right sole. Another thing that is important for toddler shoes is the flexibility, thickness and contour of the sole. You want something that has a lot of cushion, is not too stiff and is good for running around. Personally, I find that flats easily fall off and are not very comfortable for my daughter. Perhaps, you can try one if they have a strap across the front but make sure the sole is contoured in a way that will make it easy for child to run around.

For instance, we tried a variety of shoes by Camper (all adorable, although pretty pricey) but the ones we saw didn’t have a lip on the heel (point #2) and the shoes were too flat and rigid for running (point #3). See below.

Toddler wearing pink socks and red shoes

Preschool shoe brands we tried and like:

1. Stride Rite

One of the best toddler shoe brands I have found is Stride Rite. They have a variety of girly selections (pinks, purples, sparkles, bows, etc.) which is important to my daughter (she kept shouting, “I want the pink ones!”) but their soles are perfectly contoured for active play. Plus most of the Stride Rite shoes have the lip on the heel, a thick sole and fit well. Unfortunately, the pink ones that Mazzy wanted weren’t available in her size but I was able to convince her that a shiny purple pair was just as good.

Toddler in a while tank top with stars and floral leggings trying on a pair of shoes

2. Naturinos

The other shoes we walked out with were a pair of Naturinos. Naturinos are expensive but they are beautifully constructed shoes that have an ideal sole for little kids’ feet, creating a similar feeling to walking on sand. They came highly recommended by the store and fit her perfectly— room to grow without the heel popping out. Plus, the shoe we chose is a low boot that will transition perfectly into the colder weather.

Toddler wearing Red shoes with pink socks

After we had these two shoes squared away, I wanted to get a sneaker. It had to be velcro which knocked out a lot of varieties. We have a pair of Pedipeds from the summer that Mazzy loved but the tongue of the shoe is always hard to maneuver and makes putting the shoes on difficult without it getting bunched up.

3. Converse

I found that the velcro Converse sneakers (very similar here) did the trick. The soft fabric with the large velcro strap made putting the shoes on easy and gives Mazzy’s feet plenty of room to grow, while fitting her feet every step of the way. Plus, they came in a raspberry pink that made Mazzy very happy, and they are very reasonably priced which made me happy.

Red velcro Converse on the feet of a toddler

Interestingly, the day after we went shoe shopping, I got a package in the mail from Zappos. Can you guess what it was? The pink Natives that I had ordered over a month ago for my review on toddler summer shoes. Although they won’t work throughout the year (the air holes aren’t cold weather friendly), they are pretty perfect for the fall in NYC. They look like Crocs in the shape of sneakers, which is a nice way to skirt the “No Crocs” rule.

Small feet wearing pink Crocs

Final Thoughts on Best Shoes for Toddlers and Preschoolers

In summary, I recommend buying shoes in-store as opposed to online so you can test out what works best for your toddler. I would try Stride Rite and Converse first because their shoes seem to have the most attributes that parents should be looking for in a shoe for their preschooler— comfort, fit with room to grow, and soles meant for active play. Plus, one shoe and one sneaker is probably all you need to start the school year. If you are willing to pay a bit more, the Naturinos are a great third option.

What are your favorite shoes for preschoolers?

Back-to-School Ideas from Alpha Mom:

  1. Tips for a Successful School Year 
  2. First Day of School Photos 
  3. DIY Stress Ball for Fidgety Students
About the Author

Ilana Wiles

Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertisin...

Ilana Wiles writes Mommy Shorts, a popular NYC humor blog geared towards new parents. In addition to blogging, Ilana has worked as a creative in advertising for the past 15 years. She lives in the East Village of NYC with her husband, her two-year-old daughter and a rapidly growing pile of stuffed animals.

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