Best Toddler Sandals

The 5 Best Toddler Sandals under 50$ on Amazon

With summer fast approaching I decided to spend a few minutes ordering the best pair of sandals I could find for my toddler. Let’s just say the search did not take a few minutes. Hours later I was super frustrated but had finally found a decent pair of summer shoes. 

As an Occupational therapist I know that not all toddler sandals are made equally. In fact, the wrong sandals can do damage to your toddlers development of walking, feet muscles and balance. 

Looking for the best toddler sandals? Check out my 5 favorites below.

CONTENTS:

  • My 5 best toddler sandals picks
  • Why using only the best toddler summer shoes is super important
  • Qualities of the best toddler sandals
  • What a bad shoe can do for toddler development
  • Red flags that sandals are not good for your toddlers feet
  • Some common concerns when it comes to toddler feet
  • How to measure toddler feet
  • We need to let our toddlers go barefoot too

OTHolly is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate I earn a few pennies when you purchase from my links at no extra cost to you. You can find more in my disclosure policy. 

 My 5 best toddler sandals picks 

The Best Unisex SandalsBobux Kids Unisex Step Up Zap
Best Toddler Girl SandalsBobux Girl’s Step Up Jump Sandal 
Boy Toddler SandalsDADAWEN Leather Sandals
Machine Washable Toddler SandalsSee Kai Run Sport Sandal
Best toddler Sandals from Small Business Wobbly Wanderers Toddler Sandals

Bobux Kids Unisex Step Up Zap

These shoes are great because they are uni-sex (which means you can use them for the next toddler). They are very good quality, and meet 6 out of 7 of the criteria for toddler shoes. They may not be the first pick if you are looking for shoes for your toddler with a wide foot.

Flexible and flat soles Yes
Good foot support Yes
Velcro straps Yes
Soft and rounded toe box shape Yes
Soft material Yes
Affordably priced Yes

Bobux Girl’s Step Up Jump Sandal 

Another great option for toddler summer shoes from Bobux. These girls fisherman sandals are beautiful and support toddler development.

Flexible and flat soles Yes
Good foot support Yes
Velcro straps Yes
Soft and rounded toe box shape Yes
Soft material Yes
Affordably priced Yes

DADAWEN Leather Sandals 

These toddler sandals are good quality leather and breathable. I love that they have supportive with flexible soles and that they are gender neutral.

Flexible and flat soles Yes
Good foot support Yes
Velcro straps Yes
Soft and rounded toe box shape Yes
Soft material Yes
Affordably priced Yes

See Kai Run Sport Sandal

I love these sandals because of the flexible, lightweight sole and versatile design. They also have the American Podiatric seal of approval. Bonus: they are machine washable.

Flexible and flat soles Yes
Good foot support Yes
Velcro straps Yes
Soft and rounded toe box shape Yes
Soft material Yes
Affordably priced Yes

Wobbly Wanderers Toddler Sandals

Wobbly wanderers is a great mom-owner business with sandals that are specifically designed for toddlers. They have a selection of different boy and girl sandals in this toddler range.

Flexible and flat soles Yes
Good foot support Yes
Velcro straps Yes
Soft and rounded toe box shape Yes
Soft material Yes
Affordably priced Yes

Why using only the Best Toddler Summer Shoes is Super Important 

x ray of toddler foot compared to adult foot
Toddler Foot x-ray (left) compared to adult foot x-ray (right)
Left: case courtesy of Dr Andrew Dixon from the case
Right: case courtesy of Dr Aneta Kecler-Pietrzyk from the case

Take a look at these two x-rays. The first is of a 2 year old’s foot. The second is on an adults foot

As you can see there are some pretty big differences to the structural makeup of a toddler vs. adult foot. 

The adult foot is made up of 28 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments (source). These are connected by many ligaments, muscles and nerves. 

However we are not born like that. A baby’s foot is made up of mainly flesh and cartilage. The process of this becoming bone, and strong muscles that support the entire weight of the body is only finished around age 16 (source). 

During the toddler years the bones and muscles within the feet are still forming and therefore need to be matured in the right way. 

Yip, that means the wrong pair of shoes for your toddler can actually cause harm to arch, bone, muscle and ankle development for the rest of their life. 

But how wrong can you really go? I mean surely if the shoe is labeled “for toddlers” and is in a toddler size it should be fine, right? 

Wrong! 

But more on the bad shoes later. First let’s delve more into what to look out for in the best toddler sandals. 

Qualities of the best toddler sandals 

When it comes to looking for the best toddler sandals I consider the following points really important. Each aspect plays a big role in supporting walking and toddler development. You would be surprised at just how few shoes on the market actually meet these requirements. 

  1. Flexible and flat soles that aren’t too thick
  2. Good ankle and foot support (also in the front of the foot)
  3. Velcro straps for toddler independence
  4. Soft and rounded toe box shape that mimics the shape of toddler foot
  5. Soft material that won’t cause blisters
  6. Affordably priced
  7. An option for wider fit (to fit those chubby feet)

 Flexible and flat soles that aren’t too thick 

A sole that has some flexibility is really important because it allows free movement. The best sandals enable our toddlers to run, jump, spin around and practice all those gross motor skills that they are developing. 

We also want the sole to be flat and as close to the ground as possible. For reasons of: 

  • Safety: Thick soles of shoes with a heel cause early walkers to bounce and tip forward
  • Allow movement: If the sole is too thick it is also too heavy. This limits toddler movement
  • Sensory development: Our feet play a crucial sensory role in sending information back to the brain about our balance. At times we balance by gripping down with our baby toes, at times we press into our heels and at other times we use the big toes to steady ourselves. This sensory development is critical for balance. 

How long should wear soft soled shoes: 

When babies are first learning to walk it is recommended that they wear fabric shoes or soft soled shoes. However, once your toddler is an established walker you will need to get shoes that provide some foot protection. Depending on your toddlers development this could be anytime between 1 year to 18 months

Good ankle and foot support 

Because toddlers are still developing their balance skills and their bones are still developing, toddler sandals need to have adequate support

Joint damage or fractures in toddlers are often blamed on ill fitting shoes. 

The best toddler sandals cover the majority of the foot and hold the shoe firmly on the ankle. 

This means sandals without a front panel or a t-bar are a no-no. As well as flip flops. 

Photo of toddlers flat feet
Photo courtesy of Michelle Flowers

Soft and rounded toe box shape that mimics the shape of toddler foot 

This is again because of the bone and joint growth. As well as the critical role toe movements have in balance skills. 

Sandals that have a small toe area or pointy shaped toe box can also cause increased falling and ingrown toe nails

Soft material 

Once our toddlers are active, independent walkers (normally between 1 year to around 18 months) there shoes don’t have to be only made up of fabric. The best toddler sandals do provide protection for those active feet. 

However you also don’t want the shoe to resemble a hiking boot in any shape or form. 

Think rubber, leather and other soft materials. These will allow the movement and flexibility that your toddler needs. While also providing protection. 

Velcro straps to encourage independence 

The toddler years are the time we should be teaching our toddlers to take off and put on shoes. Generally speaking summer is the best time to do this because toddler sandals are easier to put on than boots or sneakers. 

I start training my toddlers to put on their shoes from around 2 years.

There are a few things that make sandals easier for learning to put on. Velcro straps are probably the most important one. 

I know- I love those cute mary janes with the buckle too. But I also LOVE the 

  • Time I have to put on my own shoes once my toddler can put theirs on alone. 
  • That getting out the door has 98% less chance of inciting an epic tantrum. This being because I am not trying to put my toddlers summer shoes on for him, while he is trying to do it himself. At the same time. 
  • How much quicker the “put on your shoes” saga is because my toddler is not peeling off his sandals as soon as I turn around. 

Price

The truth of the matter is that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. However, I do think price is an important point to consider when buying the best toddler sandals. 

If you are looking at buying an over-budget pair of toddler summer shoes are saying to yourself: 

  • It’s an investment 
  • They will have endless hours of wearing these shoes
  • But look how cute they are 
  • They’ll be wearing them for spring, summer and autumn

You my friend, are lying to yourself. 

Toddler’s are said to grow 2 full sizes a year and most of that growth happens in summer. We shouldn’t be putting our toddlers in glass slipper “investment” pieces

Toddlers NEED to play outdoors in ways that, sorry to say, scratch their shoes. 

Consider toddler sandals as a safety and functional need that fits within your budget.

Your toddler doesn’t need a 150$ pair of designer sandals. They need sandals that they can play in. 

An option for wider fit 

The best toddler sandals have an option for you to order a wider shaped shoe. Because of the bone and joint growth that is happening in these years it is really important that shoes fit correctly. 

Also, if you have ever ordered shoes and not had them fit over those chubby little feet you understand how important having a wilder sized toddler shoe is. 

photo of several pairs of toddler summer shoes

What a bad shoe can do for toddler development

As I mentioned before, we SERIOUSLY need to be cautious about putting our toddlers in bad sandals.  Even if it’s just for a short time each day. A bad pair of summer shoes can:

  •  Abnormally shape your toddlers toes
  • Cause pain when walking
  • Inflammation and vein restrictions
  • Cause shortening of foot muscles and therefore limited movement
  • Ingrown toenails 
  • Bunions or other deformities
  • Stiffness of the foot which again leads to less movement and play 

Red flags that sandals are not good for your toddlers feet

  1. Too small or too big: I know it can be so tempting to just buy 1 size bigger or accept the hand-me-downs that are a size small. Be warned, this is a bad idea!   
  2. Flapping: Any shoe that is flapping off your toddlers foot, is not giving enough support. 
  3. Difficult clasps: They may look cute but clasps and laces on sandals are going to set your toddler back from learning how to put on their own shoes. While also causing much frustration in the process of getting out the door in the morning. 
  4. Thick soles: These are unsafe and cause toddlers to bounce forward and tip over. They also restrict movement because they are heavy. And (if that wasn’t enough) cause problems in the development of balance because of decreased sensory feedback in the foot. 
  5. Price: If you are paying an amount that will make you freak out if the sandals get scuffed from riding a bike- rather find another pair. Sandals need to be enablers of play for our toddlers. 

Some common concerns when it comes to toddler feet

Flat feet: 

All babies are born with some degree of flatness in their feet. The arch normally begins showing in the 2nd or 3rd year of life. But is only fully developed in junior school. Genetics seem to play a role in how arched the arch of the foot is. 

When to be concerned: If your toddlers feet seem inflexible. If it’s hard to stretch the foot in different positions. And if you can’t see any arch by age 5 and up. 

Does that mean the best toddler sandals need arch support? 

No. The arch needs to develop by the movement and interactions of all of the muscles in the foot. 

It does mean that toddler shoes need a flexible, lightweight sole that allows movement. 

In-toeing or pigeon-toed 

This is somewhat common in toddlers. The vast majority of kids outgrow pigeon-toe by the time they are at least 8.  

The reason for intoeing could be a rotation of the hip, shin or ankle bones or joints. But in simple terms, your toddlers muscles are still learning how to work. How they should position each join and how to move together in harmony. 

The question I always ask if there is intoeing is: How do they sit and how much do they move? 

  • W sitting (sitting with feet pointed behind the body and knees forward- making a W shape) often comes hand in hand with pigeon toes. If your toddler is sitting frequently in a W position it could be contributing towards that in-toeing. Try transitioning them into a better sitting position- like legs forward or criss cross, apple sauce. 
  • A toddler who isn’t moving enough (this is actually really common in our modern world) may show some in-toeing or outward facing feet. Why? Because they have not been given enough opportunity to test out those muscles. What is enough? It’s recommended that toddlers have 4 hours of active, physical play a day
Photot of toddler sitting in W sitting position
W sitting position

Outward facing feet

This can be completely normal and should pass away by kindergarten. 

However, if outward facing feet come with wide open legs during walking and some mild delays in gross motor milestones – we need to dig deeper. 

Kids that have issues in balance may walk with a wider stance and feet outward facing. 

Because balance is such a foundational skill in gross motor development, higher learning and even mental health later in life, this needs to be addressed. Speak to our pediatrician or occupational therapist about further evaluation. 

Toe walking 

Toe walking, as it sounds, means walking on the toes persistently. The amount of time that your toddler walks on their whole foot as opposed to just on the toes is key. 

It’s normal for toddlers to do some amount of toe walking as they test out movement, balance and walking. However if your toddler seems to be more on their toes than full-foot walking, it’s worth speaking to your pediatrician or Occupational therapist. 

Toe-walking could be related to some muscular conditions as well as toddler sensory issues

Frequent falling 

In the toddler years it is expected that you will have some bruises and bumps. Falling is part of learning to walk and balance

Often during growth spurts or leaps toddlers seem to overnight fall more frequently. 

However, if falling is constant, your toddlers seems confused after falling or they are falling frequently on purpose- seek advice from your pediatrician. 

Frequent toddler tripping could also be caused by too heavy or too big shoes.

Toddler doesn’t want to walk or gets tired easily 

It can happen so easily that our young toddlers move from one container to the next throughout the day. From crib to car seat, to stroller, to high chair, to couch. Without noticing it, or planning it that way, our kids can miss the physical play they need. 

If your toddler doesn’t seem to want to walk- consider their physical endurance for movement. 

You might also want to look at the comfort of your toddlers sandals

Feet in the mud representing Toddlers need to go barefoot for longer than wearing the best toddler sandals

Toddler hates being without shoes or socks 

Toddlers sense a lot with their feet, which is why it is important that your child is given the opportunity to feel different types of surfaces on the skin of their feet. 

You probably shouldn’t start with prickly grass but it’s important to get your toddler barefoot for a large portion of the day

How to measure toddler feet

It’s best to go according to actual measurements and not age estimated. You can use a measuring tape or ruler to measure from the outside of the heel to the tip of the big toe on both feet.

It’s best to measure in afternoon or evening. This is because feet swell during the day. So your morning measurements might feel abit tight by the afternoon.

You can use this size chart to figure out what the best size is before you order your toddler sandals.

US size45678910
UK size3456789
Europe size19202223242527
Length in inches4.54.85.15.55.86.26.5
Length in cm11.412.1131414.615.616.5

We need to let our kids go barefoot too 

It might seem a little out of place in a toddler sandal review. But it has to be said. Toddlers NEED to spend the majority of their day barefoot. 

Remember those x-rays in the beginning? That maturation of the bones and muscles happens when our toddler’s feet are unrestricted. Of course we want to buy only the best toddler sandals. But we also need to recognise the importance of being barefoot. 

Being barefoot also plays a huge role in toddlers’ balance and sensory development. 

Our toddlers NEED to feel mud in between their toes, practice walking on slippery surfaces or running through beach sand. 

Summary

My 5 picks for the 5 best toddler sandals that support early child development are:

The Best Unisex SandalsBobux Kids Unisex Step Up Zap
Best Toddler Girl SandalsBobux Girl’s Step Up Jump Sandal 
Boy Toddler SandalsDADAWEN Leather Sandals
Machine Washable Toddler SandalsSee Kai Run Sport Sandal
Best toddler Sandals from Small Business Wobbly Wanderers Toddler Sandals
pin of the 5 best sandals for toddlers from amazon

Here are some great options for water shoes to prevent falling when running on slippery surfaces, like around the pool:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *