When it comes to packing for a summer trip, shoes are often a head-scratcher. Especially with toddlers and earlier walkers, parents are still getting a feel for the types of shoes that work best. On top of that, trips often introduce new environments or circumstances — longer walks, warmer weather, less routine.
After nearly a year on the road with very limited luggage, we’ve gone through quite a few pairs of shoes (both from pairs wearing down, and from losing 1 or 2 on the go). And through all that testing, we’ve come across a few clear winners, and some general features we love.
What we look for
Above all, we’ve sought out toddler shoes that are durable and multi-purpose. My son has 1 pair of shoes at a time on our travels (as does my husband, and I break the rules with 2 pairs), and we aim for products that can really “do it all.” Here are a few specific traits we care about.
Truly, nothing matters more. I want my son to love walking and to be able to get exercise and explore unencumbered. The most important thing to me is that his shoes don’t cause blisters and that they comfortably stay on his feet while walking, running, and climbing.
For us, a good multi-purpose shoe can handle city strolling, rocky trails, and seaside splashing. We’ve looked for waterproof or quick drying options that have enough support to also last all day. We also size the shoes to be comfy with socks on for the majority of days, but also not too loose for water play or extreme heat without socks.
Easy on and off
My toddler craves autonomy and independence, and seeking shoes he can put on and off by himself is an easy win for all of us.
With those features in mind, here are three options we love:
Our current favorite shoe brand for our toddler is Native. These are an affordable, durable option that’s great for dry and wet environments, and are cute enough for any situation. My son comfortably puts them on and takes them off by himself, and he loves boasting that they’re waterproof.
The first runner up
Crocs are a kid classic, and there’s plenty of reasons why: they’re wildly comfortable, waterproof, and easy to get on and off. They have fun customizations and really can be worn through anything.
The real drawback for us was that our son seemed a little less coordinated in his Crocs. While he runs totally comfortably in his Native shoes, he always looked slightly clunky in the thicker Crocs. They also very often slipped off in muddier environments.
The second runner up
For a long while, our son lived in standard Velcro Nikes. What we loved: these fit and stayed on well, and dried faster than expected after wet days. They were easy to get on and off, and our little guy really liked playing with the Velcro while we were in transit.
The downside, perhaps obviously, is that they aren’t built for water, dirt, or sand, and socks are basically required. For an urban trip, we loved these shoes, but they were a bit of a stretch for anything more rural or rustic.
Our next to try
We inherited a pair of kids’ Keen sandals when our son was younger, and we’re excited to get back to them. Families rave about these sandals for all-weather adventuring, and as a Keen customer myself, I can see why. The brand is famously durable and comfortable, and pairs safe, stable shoes with breathability and water-resistance.
Inevitably, a shoe will get lost on our next round of travel, and we’re excited to keep testing and discovering new options as the opportunities arise! Why brands would you add to this list?