We have one absolute to predict this school year: Wherever your child is getting their education this fall — a classroom, a school building, or roaming free in nature — you will want to get them the best kids sneakers you can. Those feet grow no matter the weather, the political climate, or the transmission rate, and children need to move, indoors and outdoors. So during this very strange back-to-school season, we thought we’d help you choose which will be the best sneakers for that occasion.
You may not be comfortable taking your kids to a shoe store or department store this year, so it’s a relief that the best kids sneakers are also available online. The huge question remains — what size is right for them this time? We highly recommend printing out a measuring guide like this one from Zappos. That’s not foolproof, of course, as shoe sizes aren’t an exact science. That’s why you may want to buy from places with excellent return policies and consider buying the same shoe in two different sizes, so you can return the one that doesn’t fit. Think of yourself as the shoe salesperson who definitely does not love walking back to the storage room 15 times to go up one half size at a time. It’s faster if you try on all possible variations at once, if you have the means. (And man, in writing this, we just started to miss the concept of shoe salespeople from the beforetimes.)
Once you have the estimated size, you still have so many other choices to make. Do you buy them a sneaker featuring their favorite Disney character? Do you get laces they’ll have to tie themselves? Do you buy kids sneakers with lights and wheels and sequins and jet-propulsion packs? Do you dare get anything in white? Are your kids going to play their favorite sport this year, or will they have to consider switching to something outdoors and individual, like track? Should you get them shoes meant for all types of weather? And should you buy more than one pair of kids sneakers now, or just let them wear out one size at a time, since they’re bound to grow yet again?
We sincerely apologize for being unable to make these decisions about the best kids sneakers for your child. All we can do is hunt down a variety of styles and select our favorites — for their aesthetics, their practicality, and their price — from the most reliable retailers we know.
When you have purchased your kids’ sneakers for back to school, consider donating their lightly used outgrown shoes to a program like Soles4Souls, which can then recycle them. Zappos offers free shipping to the program here.
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Here are the best kids shoes we recommend for going back to school.