We have one absolute to predict this school year: You’ll want your kids to have the best kids sneakers you can find. And we’re guessing the last pair you bought no longer fits because those feet grow no matter what! Plus, children need to move, indoors and outdoors. So for this back-to-school season, we thought we’d help you choose the best sneakers.
If you’re just too busy to hit the stores, you’ll be relieved to know that the best kids sneakers are 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. It’s not foolproof, of course, as shoe sizes aren’t an exact science, so 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.
Once you’ve determined the right size(s), you still have so many other choices to make — but these are more fun! 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? 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.
And when you have purchased your kids’ sneakers for going 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.
Here are the best kids shoes we recommend for going back to school.
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A version of this story was originally published in 2020.