As a parent of young children, I understand the importance of giving them the best possible start in life, especially when it comes to their physical health. That's why I'm so passionate about barefoot shoes—they are the perfect way to encourage natural movement and support kids' foot development. I'm extremely experienced when it comes to the topic, and I've seen the benefits firsthand: improved foot health, mobility, and plenty of natural movement! I aim to bring my own specific advice (and experiential knowledge/mistakes 😅) when it comes to barefoot shoes and kids to this guide for parents.
Let's dive into what this guide is all about: barefoot shoes for kids. In this in-depth guide, I'll provide you with essential knowledge and practical tips on the topic of barefoot shoes and their many benefits for our kids. We'll discuss more about why barefoot shoes are so great for children, detail the different types of shoes available for kids, and explore the pros and cons of each style and much much more.
At the end of this guide, you should have a complete understanding of barefoot shoe and be armed with the information you need so you can make an informed, informed purchase that meets your family's individual needs. Thanks for being here and I look forward to helping you and your family on their barefoot journey!
What is a Barefoot Shoe
When it comes to finding the right footwear for kids, parents are increasingly turning to minimalist and barefoot shoes to keep their little ones feet safe, functional and protected. Healthy foot development can be the foundation of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle, especially during the early years.
What are kids barefoot shoes? Put simply, a kids barefoot shoe is a kind of minimalist shoe that is intended to mimic the feel of being barefoot. It is designed to replicate the natural flex and movements of the foot, while also providing some level of protection from terrain and the elements.
The ‘barefoot’ element of these shoes is that they do not have any extra structure or padding, nor a raised heel. Kids barefoot shoes may have a thin, flexible sole that is shaped like the foot, such as in a wide toe-box, but overall the aim of these shoes is to maximize tactile feedback to the feet and promote natural balance and posture.
Kids barefoot shoes provide a number of benefits, from foot health to overall stability, and are fast becoming the preferred shoe for many parents who are concerned about their children's health and overall foot health and development. We’ll be diving deep into the benefits of children’s barefoot shoes and how minimalist shoes can provide the right foundation for healthy development.
So, if you are looking for a shoe that allows your kids the movement and protection they need while they are growing up, read on.
Key Features of a Kids Barefoot Shoe
When looking for the perfect pair of kids’ barefoot shoes, there are some important features to look for that set barefoot and minimalist shoes apart from regular sneakers.
At first glance, barefoot shoes may not appear much different than traditional shoes. However, looking into the features more closely will reveal certain key features that make barefoot shoes particularly well-suited your child’s growing feet.
- Flexible sole 🤸: A flexible sole is key in a barefoot shoe. Children need a shoe that can respond and flex with their active feet as they run and play. The sole should have a good grip on whatever terrain they encounter, while at the same time not be overly rigid. Look for flexible soles made of leather, textiles, fabrics, rubber or even a combination of materials.
- Breathable material 🌬️: Children spend a lot of energy and as such, their feet can get hot and sweaty. Be sure to look for shoes constructed of breathable material so their feet can stay comfortably cool and dry. Natural materials like leather and canvas are great choices for this.
- Lightweight 🪶: Lightweight is a key factor when selecting a kids’ barefoot shoe. Materials should be lightweight and minimal, while still offering protection and durability. Children need shoes that won’t weigh them down so they can move freely and naturally.
- Zero drop construction 📐: Look for shoes with a zero-heel lift low stack height and a wide toe box to allow the child’s feet to move naturally while running and playing.
- Minimal supportive features 🏋️: The best type of barefoot shoe for kids should have a minimal construction and design. Too much structure or support can actually restrict a child’s movements, rather than aiding it. Avoid arch support and thick, cushiony soles.
- Wide toe box 🦶: Kids’ feet should be able to spread out naturally as they move. Many traditional shoes have rigid and restrictive toe boxes, so make sure to look for shoes with a wide toe box to give your child’s feet room to spread out. This also helps promote proper alignment and balance throughout the foot.
- Natural materials 🪴: Look for natural materials when buying a kids’ barefoot shoe. Natural materials are soft and flexible yet still durable. Leather, canvas, rubber and textile all make for great kids’ barefoot shoes.
- Durable construction 💪:Last but not least, look for a shoe with a durable construction, as kids can be quite active and tough on their shoes! Look for shoes with reinforced stitching that run in multiple directions, and double stitching around the toe box and heel. These details will ensure the shoe will last until the child outgrows it.
I'll be giving specific recommendations for barefoot shoe brands later in the guide, all of which make kids barefoot shoes that fit most (if not all) the above criteria. When doing your own research keep these key features in mind.
Benefits of Kids Wearing Barefoot Shoes
Barefoot shoes for kids protect and promote natural movement of the foot, making them an ideal choice for growing feet. While some parents may be hesitant to put their children in minimalist shoes, research continues to uncover the many positive effects barefoot shoes have on children’s foot development and health.
What makes barefoot shoes so beneficial? Let’s dive briefly into some of the different aspects and why they are important.
First, wearing barefoot shoes allows children’s feet to move freely, unlike most traditional shoes. This encourages their feet to develop and strengthen naturally, building the muscles and ligaments that are needed for balance, stability and mobility. When we suppress our feet’s natural movement in traditional shoes, we limit how our feet develop and our ability to move efficiently.
Additionally, barefoot shoes allow our feet to function as they are designed to. Our feet are designed to act as a sensory organ, picking up information from the ground and sending it to our brains via the nerves. But the thick, cushiony sole of traditional shoes prevents the feet from feeling, leaving a disconnect between the body and the ground. This can cause our feet to become weaker, less agile and more prone to injury.
Can Barefoot Shoes Improve Posture, Balance and Foot Development for Kids?
As we covered already, barefoot shoes are designed to replicate the natural act of walking barefoot. They are essentially the closest you can get to wearing nothing on your feet, but with the added benefit of protection. Whether we’re engaging in physical activity or just walking around, barefoot shoes can make all the difference in the way our feet interact with the ground. For kids, this can have many positive effects on their overall posture and balance.
When it comes to posture improvement, barefoot shoes encourage the natural act of walking properly by ensuring the foot is free to move as it would when walking barefoot. This helps to properly articulate the foot, use the arch of the foot, and promote correct posture, balance, and gait. Kids wearing barefoot shoes will find it easier to get into a good posture, as they have no heel lift (zero drop) and a wide toe box they allow them to maintain an upright position, rather than sliding down into a slumped posture. Less heel cushioning means they're not able to be too ''heel-heavy' when walking.
For balance, barefoot shoes help kids to improve their sense of proprioception, so that they’re more aware of their body in space. Barefoot shoes are consciously designed to help children build up the muscles of their feet, as well as the muscles of the ankle and lower leg which contribute to balance and posture. Kids can also benefit from the improved 'ground feel' that barefoot shoes provide.
Foot development is another important element of the benefits of barefoot shoes. The flexible, lightweight sole encourages foot muscles to develop properly and strengthens the feet, reducing the risk of problems later on.
Traditional shoes can be heavy and uncomfortable, barefoot shoes are lightweight and responsive. This allows kids to move more swiftly and become more aware of their surroundings. Along with improved coordination and balance, this can help prevent trips and falls.
Barefoot Shoes Improve Self-Esteem and Confidence in Kids
As we’ve spoken about barefoot shoes are a great way to nurture foot health, encourage natural foot development, encouraging better posture, balance and foot development. They also have psychological benefits.
In my experience, the extra demands and development that come from being barefoot and wearing barefoot shoes helps kids feel confident, secure and grounded. This in turn provides them with a sense of 'being ready' and empowerment to jump into new things.
I’ve seen these effects in action with my kids, they approach new skills and activities with physical confidence and I believe a part of that is down to their natural movement patterns that barefoot footwear has contributed too over the years.
Barefoot Shoes Help Prevent Foot Injuries
The thick soles found on typical shoes seen today can wreak havoc on all of our feet. But by allowing feet to move as they would naturally and encouraging kids to run, jump, and explore freely, barefoot shoes that fit properly help protect against injury. In many cases, kids who have experienced foot pain have found relief when they transition to barefoot shoes.
Zero drop, or zero heel elevation, is one of the most important aspects as it promotes the foot's natural arches and improves body alignment. A zero heel drop is especially important for developing feet, as it allows kids to develop tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
When it comes to cushioning, it's actually best if barefoot shoes provide minimal support, allowing more movement and allowing the foot to do more of the absorbing. As opposed to shock absorbing, barefoot shoes encourage proprioception, which is the awareness of one's body. In barefoot shoes, kids learn to adapt to their environment and use their body's natural reflexes and muscles. This in turn makes tripping, falling and stumbling less likely.
Flexible, lightweight materials also help kids avoid injuries. Many models are made of natural materials, such as leather, canvas, or even wool, help promote airflow, keeping feet cool and dry. This can help reduce the risk of fungal or bacterial growth, as well as skin irritations, blisters, and athlete's foot.
It’s important to say that barefoot is even better than barefoot shoes, so pay attention to the amount of time kids are spending in their barefoot shoes. When possible, let them go without shoes, or alternate between wearing shoes and going barefoot. This can help maximize the benefits and keep feet healthy.
Kids Barefoot Shoes: Benefits vs Risks
Despite all of their positives, barefoot shoes do have their limitations to consider when making the decision on whether or not they’re the right choice for your kids. It’s important that parents are aware of the pros and cons and safety risks of having their kids wear barefoot shoes, so they can make an informed decision that takes their child’s individual needs into account.
The most important thing is not to confuse barefoot with minimalism. That is, it’s not simply about finding a thinner sole or a less bulky shoe; after all, minimalist shoes will still have some kind of padding on the sole of the shoe and provide them with a degree of protection.
With that in mind, consider the type of activities your kids are participating in when choosing a pair of shoes. Barefoot shoes, just like regular ones, will have their performance limits. If your kids are frequently participating in outdoor activities, they may need a less ‘minimal ’ pair of shoes. For example a fully barefoot minimalist shoes may not be the best option for more intense physical activity such as some team sports or hiking in cold weather.
Additionally, barefoot shoes may not be suitable for some kids, especially those with pre-existing foot conditions such as flat feet, bunions, or other orthopaedic deformities. The lack of cushion and traditional arch support could exacerbate their existing condition, so it’s important to talk to a medical professional to ensure their feet are healthy enough to wear barefoot shoes. We’ll cover this in more detail later in the guide.
Whatever your decision is, the most important thing is to ensure your kids’ health and comfort. With proper guidance and the right pair of shoes, kids can safely enjoy the benefits of a barefoot lifestyle while keeping their feet healthy and strong.
Barefoot Shoes Vs. Traditional Shoes
It's our responsibility to make sure our children have healthy feet and good foot development for the future. Traditional western footwear, with its popular raised heel, can have a negative influence on foot health and development, impairing the development of strong feet in our kids.
Kids traditional shoe design is often stiff, structured and bulky, making it difficult for the foot to move and flex naturally. They can sometimes lead to muscle and joint pain, as well as causing the feet to sweat in humid weather. The lack of flexibility can also cause foot problems, such as bunions and ingrown toenails. The sole typically contains thick amounts of materials like rubber and foam, which can be difficult to break-in, and unhealthy for the feet over time. In addition, the thick sole with a raised heel is designed to lift the heel up off the ground. This adds extra strain to the back, hips, and even the knees and can lead to foot problems.
So what are the long-term effects of wearing traditional shoes on our children's feet? The American Academy of Pediatrics states that wearing traditional shoes with a heel lift or arch support can cause prolonged deformity or muscle imbalance over time, as well as increased risk for heel pain, knee pain, low back pain, and bunions. They suggest instead to choose shoes that fit properly, allowing toes to move freely and be flexible, and to avoid shoes with big toe boxes, high heels, excessive cushioning and arch supports.
Barefoot shoe design is typically sleeker, more lightweight, and more flexible than traditional shoes. They promote natural movement by creating a wider platform around the foot and enable children to maintain balance and stability. These shoes typically feature a flat, zero-drop profile that allows the foot to move and flex naturally, as well as a toe-box that allows toes to splay naturally. The wide sole and combination of soft layers create a cushioning effect that helps absorb shock and allows for even weight distribution.
When it comes to material, kids barefoot shoes are typically made of breathable, lightweight fabrics like leather and mesh. They are designed to allow the foot to move, flex, and breathe and are also many brands that use sustainable materials, as well as non-toxic adhesives and dye. They also typically come with replaceable insoles and removable liners, so they can be kept clean and help protect the foot better. Traditional shoes, on the other hand, are often constructed with the materials like rubber, foam, and plastic that can be less breathable and sometimes stiff and heavy and hard to replace.
Ultimately, when it comes to finding the right footwear for your kids, it’s important to weigh up the benefits of each option and refine the choice to one that best suits your needs and values. Barefoot shoes provide the natural foot motion, balance, and motion that traditional shoes cannot and the benefits for your children are numerous. However, traditional shoes can provide the support and protection that barefoot shoes cannot, so it’s all about balance.
It's important to say that it's not "barefoot or nothing'. There is a lot of middle ground and we'll discuss the considerations further in the guide, as well as tips on how to transition your kids to barefoot/minimalist shoes, which brands are best and shoes reviews so that you can make an informed decision.
Comparing the Environmental Impact
The environmental impact of barefoot shoes compared to traditional shoes is an important topic to consider if you’re as eco conscious as I am. Barefoot shoes have the potential to be more sustainable and eco-friendly than traditional shoes, which contain a large amount of petroleum-based materials and can end up in landfill or polluting the environment.
Barefoot shoes offer solutions to many of the problems associated with traditional footwear. There are several brands of barefoot shoe manufacturers who environmental sustainability in their production. Many make a point to only use 100% natural materials, such as leather, hemp, wool and cotton, meaning they are better for the environment than synthetic materials. These materials often require less energy to manufacture and require less natural resources.
In addition, they are often made with minimal construction, meaning they don't often contain any, or use less, petrochemical-based adhesives or beading. This also helps reduce the impact on the environment.
The minimalist design of barefoot shoes also means that there is less material used in their construction, which in turn means less waste at the end of their life cycle. This is especially important because traditional shoes are often made with a lot of material and a lot of extra production steps.
Moreover, many barefoot shoes are designed to be flexible, wide and foot-shaped, making them fit for a longer period of time, especially with growing feet of our kids. This helps reduce the amount of new shoes manufactured, since parents may not need to buy new shoes every time their child's feet grow.
Comparing traditional shoes with barefoot shoes highlights the advantages barefoot shoes can have on the environment. Although many traditional shoes are made with longer-lasting materials, the materials used in barefoot shoes offer a much more sustainable solution. Making the conscious decision to invest in a pair of barefoot shoes can help reduce your own environmental footprint.
It’s also important for me to say that not all traditional shoes or brands are bad for the environment and many are looking to make their products more eco-friendly. And many of the downsides of shipping and manufacturing are shared by barefoot shoe and traditional shoe makers alike.
Overall, whether to opt for traditional or barefoot shoes is a decision that each parent needs to make for themselves. But with many parents seeing the potential health benefits going barefoot can bring combined with a potentially positive (or less negative) environmental impact, barefoot shoes can become a compelling option.
Transitioning Your Kids to Barefoot Shoes
I know first-hand how important it is to help kids adjust to barefoot shoes. Wearing barefoot shoes can be quite different to regular footwear and it's essential to help kids adjust to the new sensation. Here are three key takeaways from my own experience:
1. Get the size right 📐
We’ve covered this already, but it really is one of the most important steps to getting your kid into barefoot shoes. Once you have the right shoes, it's much easier to help kids adjust to them.
2. Transition slowly 🗓️
Start the transition gradually. Start by wearing the shoes around the house and gradually let your kids adjust to the new shoes. Take time to explain why the shoes feel different, since kids can often feel uncertain about unfamiliar situations. Encourage your kids to try barefoot shoes first, rather than simply changing their shoes without warning. It can be helpful to start with kids' barefoot sandals or indoor slippers, as they can be easier to adjust to in the house. Another option is to rotate between traditional and barefoot shoes, slowly phasing them in/out.
3. Explain the benefits of barefoot shoes 💬
Kids are smarter than we often give them credit for. I've found open communication and understanding can go along way. Make sure to emphasize the benefits of barefoot shoes and explain how it can help them naturally strengthen their foot and leg muscles and ultimately be healthier overall.
When teaching your kids to wear barefoot shoes, encourage them to take their time and re-adjust. Talk to them about how differently their feet feel in the new shoes and encourage them to slowly adjust to the feeling through different activities. Show patience and understanding and make sure to keep the atmosphere relaxed and lighthearted. Also, explain that the shoes may feel different at first, but will still be comfortable and enjoyable to wear once they get used to them.
Give your kids plenty of time to get used to the change and let them decide how often they want to wear the shoes. This will not only help them adapt to the feeling of the shoes, but it will also help build a positive association with the shoes.
By taking these steps, you'll be helping to eliminate any discomfort your child may feel, while still guaranteeing that they benefit from the advantages of walking in barefoot shoes. Remember to check their feet regularly and consult a podiatrist or specialist if you have any concerns, and of course, listen to your child and respect their decision if they don't enjoy the feeling of walking in barefoot shoes.
Barefoot Shoe Advice for Kids with Foot, Ankle Problems or Other Medical Conditions
Barefoot shoes can be a great option for children who have foot or ankle problems due to their flexibility and natural design. However, some medical conditions may mean that certain types of shoes are not suitable for certain children. This means that consultation from a doctor or physical therapist is essential.
When it comes to specific medical conditions for which barefoot shoes may be prescribed, these include plantar fasciitis, ligament laxity, juvenile arthritis, and pronated feet. In cases for children with special needs, such as muscular dystrophy, doctors may also suggest barefoot shoes as a solution.
The pros and cons of barefoot shoes for children with special needs depend on the specific medical condition and the individual child. The pros generally include the natural design of the footwear, as well as improved control over foot movements, improved balance and mobility, and improved posture and gait pattern.
When doctors recommend barefoot shoes for a child, they should discuss the advantages and disadvantages of wearing the shoes, as well as provide advice on choosing the right pair. It is important to select shoes which have the right amount of flexibility and cushioning, the ideal fit, the best level of arch and heel support, the appropriate sole, and the right level of breathability. There are a number of brands and styles of minimalist shoes for kids which can be chosen from, depending on the child's needs.
It is also important to note that barefoot shoes are not appropriate for all medical conditions. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted and any advice from the doctor should be followed. For example, if a child has—or could develop—foot deformities, wearing barefoot shoes can be contraindicated.
In conclusion, barefoot shoes can be great for some children with medical conditions. When considering the use of barefoot shoes for a child, healthcare professional advice should be sought. By doing this, parents can ensure that their children have the best possible experience and are able to benefit from the positive effects of minimalist and barefoot shoes.
Kids with Flat Feet or Low Arches: Can Barefoot Shoe Help?
Flat feet is a common and usually painless condition where the inside arch of the foot is flat instead of arched, and the whole sole of the foot touches the ground when standing. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, injury, and lifestyle factors such as sitting in a chair for long periods of time or wearing shoes with poor arch support.
In babies and younger children it’s normal to have flat feet, and it often corrects itself over time. Typically children don’t usually develop an arch until around age 6 or 7. It can also come from hypermobility, which is when the joints are more flexible than normal. Again, this often corrects itself your kids muscles, tendons and joints grow stronger.
That said, walking or running in barefoot shoes encourages a more efficient stride and landing on the mid-to-forefoot instead of the heels. This helps keep strides shorter and feet under the hips, ultimately leading to stronger foot muscles. Studies have demonstrated the benefits of barefoot activity.
In a study of 2,300 children, those who were unshod had wider feet, showing less instances of flat feet. A study from the University of Delaware and Harvard Medical School showed that increasing barefoot activity can make arches stronger and higher. A study from Corban University found that barefoot running reduced pronation, which people with flat feet tend to experience more.
Orthotic insoles may not always strengthen the foot muscles and should be approached with caution. They should be used only if recommended by a podiatrist or physical therapist, and used only as needed.
Finding the Perfect Fit for Kids Barefoot Shoes
Finding the right size of barefoot shoes for your child is possibly the most important steps in finding the perfect barefoot shoe for them. Barefoot shoes come in different sizes and shapes, meaning the perfect fit can sometimes be hard to pick out. It is really important that you get the size and fit of the shoe perfect, not just for comfort, but for their long-term foot health and development.
The main aim of barefoot shoes is to ensure that your child has maximum flexibility and freedom in terms of movement. For this reason, you will want to make sure that the shoes fit properly on their feet. A properly fitted barefoot shoe should cover their foot, but not be too tight, restrictive or uncomfortable. If the shoe is too tight, it will constrict the foot and be uncomfortable or lead to problems in the future.
We’ll discuss measuring kids feet in more detail below, but briefly you will want to take into account the length and width of their feet. These measurements will act as a guide to find the right size of shoe for them.
Overall, taking the time to measure your child's feet and find the right size of barefoot shoe is essential to ensure their foot health and comfort. It is a time-consuming process and it results in better fitting shoes that perform better, provide more support and comfort, and help prevent foot problems in the future.
How to Measure Your Kids Feet for Barefoot Shoes
As I've mentioned, understanding the right fit for them is not only critical in making sure that they are comfortable, but also in ensuring their health across the board. As a busy mom, I know how hard it can be to try to gauge their size while they’re running around and growing faster than you can keep up.
The good news is, it doesn’t have to be such a guessing game. With the right resources and a few easy-to-follow tips, you can make sure your child is wearing shoes that fit correctly and comfortable. It’s important to note that barefoot shoes will generally fit differently from conventional kids’ shoes, even ones that have a similar “look”.
Method 1: Wall Method - Most Accurate 🎯
The wall method yields the most accurate length and width of your child's foot by measuring it against a wall.
- On a flat surface, place a piece of paper under your child's foot and have them slide their heel lightly against a wall, without applying backwards pressure.
- Measure foot length by placing a heavy book where your child's longest toe ends.Remove their foot, mark the position of the book and then measure the distance from the mark to the edge of the page.
- Measure foot width the same way but instead of sliding the heel back against the wall, have your child slide the outside of their foot there.
- Place a heavy book along the inside of their foot.
- Remove their foot, mark the position of the book and then measure the distance from the mark to the edge of the page.
- We don’t want a shoe that’s the same length as your child's foot. We need to add some extra space. Research has shown that we should add 0.4 - 0.7 inches (10 to 18mm) to their actual foot size.
- Measure both feet. If they are different, use the bigger foot size for the measurement. It's important to remember that children's feet can grow quickly, so it's a good idea to re-measure their feet every few months to ensure a proper fit.
Method 2: Foot Tracing - Less Accurate 🖌️
Another way to measure your child's feet is by tracing them. This method is the most common but also the least accurate.
- Place a piece of paper under your child's foot and have them put their weight down on the foot you are tracing so it's at its widest.Draw around their foot with a pencil, aiming to keep the pencil upright and against their foot the entire time.
- It's important to note that the thickness of the pencil or pen you use matters here. Its thickness will be added to the measurement, but you can simply subtract it from the overall measurement if you’re using a thick marker pen.
- Measure both feet. If they are different, use the bigger foot size for the measurement.
- Take the measurements of both width and length using a rular.
- Again, make sure to add some extra space just like in method 1.
Measuring your child's feet for a pair of shoes can be a simple and easy process with the right resources and tips. With the wall method or foot tracing method, you can ensure that your child is wearing shoes that fit correctly and comfortably.
Extra Tips for that Perfect Fit
Here are a few extra tips I’ve found to be helpful from measuring my own children's feet:
- Make sure to use the longest toe as your baseline measurement. The longest toe doesn’t necessarily have to be the big toe, it may be the second toe, so be sure to double-check.
- Keep in mind that it’s important to measure their feet at least every other month, as their feet will continue to grow until they reach adulthood.
- Make sure that your child is wearing the correct sock or stocking when measuring foot size.
- It's important to consider their foot shape as well when choosing the right shoe size. Most kids have wide, flat feet and thus require a wider shoe than narrow, pointy feet that may need a more narrow shoe. Knowing your kids’ exact foot shape can help you narrow down your choice of shoes to make sure it fits properly.
- Make sure to measure both feet as they may differ in size, as your kid may have one foot that is bigger than the other. Use the bigger foot size.
- Try to measure your kids feet at the end of the day when their feet tend to be a bit swollen, as this is when their feet are at their largest. You may also want to try to measure their feet after walking or running, or take multiple measurements at different times.
- It’s important to measure both width and length when purchasing barefoot shoes, as wider shoes may be necessary.
Finding the right sneakers for your kids is a daunting but necessary task. With the help of these tips, you can make sure that you are confidently making decisions about the size of your kids’ shoes, and that their feet stay healthy and protected.
Take your time to find the shoe that’s best for your child and will allow them to experience the freedom of natural movement, while also keeping their feet safe from any potential injuries. In the next section we’ll share with you how to find a barefoot shoe brand that is perfect for your child.
Choosing a Barefoot Brand and Shoe
Now that you’ve measured your kids feet, next on the list is finding a brand and model of barefoot shoe that fits.
I make specific brand and barefoot shoe recommendations below, but here are some tips for figuring out if a brand or shoe is right for your kids foot measurements when doing your own research:
- Brand Size Guides 📐: Every barefoot shoe brand normally provides a detailed size and width guide on their website which show the measurements based on specific shoe models.
- Reviews 🤩: Taking a look at reviews online is another great way to get an idea of the fit of a specific shoe model. If a particular brand has lots of positive reviews related to fit and sizing, that can be an indication that their shoes run true to size or slightly large, or small. If a shoe model has a lot of negative sizing reviews, it can give you an idea of the fit of the shoe model before you purchase.
- Shoe Width 📏: 'Width' often refers to the width of the toebox rather than the entire shoe, so bear this in mind when researching.
- Foot Shape 🦶: Different brands accommodate different foot shapes, choose a brand, model and size that matches your children’s individual foot shape and size. Size guides and reviews help you find this out.
- Measurement Units 🇺🇸:Brands often use different measurement units so keep that in mind when looking.
- Shipping & Returns 📦: Check the brands shipping and returns policy in case you need to return them.
- Local Retailers 🏬: Look for local retailers/stores that stock that brand, trying them on in-person is always better. You can find a list of retailers selling barefoot shoes near you here.
- Check Fit Properly 👟: Check for proper fit and make sure the shoe is not too tight or too loose and have your child try on both the right and left shoe, since they may fit slightly differently.
- Custom Barefoot Shoes ⚒️: If you're struggling to find well-fitted barefoot shoes, consider custom-fitted barefoot shoes for your child. Although slightly more expensive, custom-fitted shoes are made-to-order and will fit like a glove.
- Barefoot Features 👣: As we’ve already mentioned, it’s important to pay attention to ‘heel height.’ Barefoot shoes should have a zero drop heel, that mean no difference in height between the heels and toes. This is a good indicator that the shoe provides minimal interference with natural foot movement. Zero drop, toe box room, flexibility and no arch support are all key features to look out for. Check the list above for all of the criteria to look out for.
Where to Buy Barefoot Shoes
Barefoot shoes, in general, are expensive. Here are the the different ways you can get your hands on them for cheaper:
- Brand Websites (most brands have regular sales - we keep a track and have a live list of barefoot brands on sale here)
- Online Retailers
- Local Retailers
- Second hand marketplaces (Facebook, E-bay, etc)
Barefoot Brand Recommendations
Below I make recommendations for barefoot shoe brands for most of the different activities, styles and groups that you'll need. I've deliberately avoided recommending specific kids barefoot shoe models as they are often seasonal and I want this guide to stay relevant all year round.
I've linked to some of my other, more specific kids barefoot shoe reviews where I can.
Best Barefoot Shoe Brands for 0-6 Year Olds
When it comes to barefoot shoes for young children between the ages of 0 and 6, the key goal is to ensure that the shoes are lightweight, flexible and with zero heel. At this age, kids are starting to learn how to walk, run and jump, transitioning from a crawling to a walking position. It is important to prioritize flexibility and support for their growing feet during this time.
Babies aged 0-9 months should wear lightweight, flexible shoes that are lightweight and provide plenty of room for their growing feet. As babies will mainly be crawling, the sole is less important than providing plenty of room and flexibility. In terms of fit, it is important to ensure a snug fit around the heel and ankle to prevent the shoes from slipping off.
Here's my top picks for barefoot shoe brands for little feet:
Softstar Shoes - Minimal shoes handmade in Oregon.
Wildling Shoes - Wildling makes every effort to keep minimizing its ecological footprint. The materials used are valuable resources.
Zutano Booties - Soft, cozy, and perfect for wiggly feet.
Zeazoo Kids - Aim to provide comfort, freedom of movement, warmth and beauty, offer custom pairs.
Tikki Shoes - Barefoot shoes for toddlers, kids & adults.
PaperKrane - blending fun with functionality. With a rebellious side erring on the best of individuality. Some of the most cool designs in kids barefoot shoes.
Jack & Lily - high-quality and comfortable shoes for infants, babies and toddlers that feature protection and flexibility for your little one’s feet. Make moccasins, mary-janes, sneakers, slip ons, sandals and boots that support healthy growing feet.
Duchess & Fox - Soft sole baby shoes for optimal development from the start.
Posh Panda - soft, quality handmade genuine leather shoes & boots.
Robeez -playful and practical baby products.
Magical Shoes - handmade, flexible barefoot shoes.
Starry Knight Design - 100% Leather Baby & Toddler Shoes
Looking for something a little more winter friendly for your kids? Check out these brands specifically:
Wildling Shoes - Wildling makes every effort to keep minimizing its ecological footprint. The materials used are valuable resources.
Stonz - makes it easy for kids to play outside safely, in any situation. Have a wide range to of kids barefoot shoes to solve pretty much all problems.
Jan & Jul - high-quality clothing and footwear designed in Vancouver, Canada. Good range of winter barefoot footwear for kids.
Jack & Lily - high-quality and comfortable shoes for infants, babies and toddlers that feature protection and flexibility for your little one’s feet. Make moccasins, mary-janes, sneakers, slip ons, sandals and boots that support healthy growing feet.
Best Overall Barefoot Shoe Brands for Kids
- Probably the most prominent brand in barefoot shoes
- Huge range for pretty much every occasion.
- Has barefoot footwear for all types of activities: waterproof, sports, hiking, water shoes, etc.
- Vegan shoes available.
- 100 day money back guarantee.
- Repair service offered with Revivo.
- Can be pricier than other barefoot shoe brands.
- Mostly true to size.
- Wide for toddlers/kids | medium for juniors | low to medium volume overall.
- Very wide toe box.
- Durable outsoles.
- Colorful options available.
- Returns only accepted on EU or US purchases.
- Limited selection. No barefoot sandals, sports shoes or dressy options.
- Shoe fit true to size, wide toe box, medium to high volume.
- Big focus on sustainability.
- Very high in terms of 'barefoot feel'.
- Extremely light and comfortable.
- Water resistant shoes available.
- Made from wool so are less durable and can be more tricky to dry when wet.
- Limited selection. No barefoot sandals and sports shoes.
- Shoes fit deliberately long (on purpose), width varies by model, fits high volume feet.
- Full line of toddler barefoot shoes, launches new styles each season.
- All footwear is vegan.
- Great flexibility and soft.
- Easy on and off with velcro.
- Winter, summer, and everyday options.
- True to size (adult shoes run small), extra wide and fit high volume feet.
- Vegan and waterproof options.
- Ships from Poland worldwide.
- Available on PedTerra in US.
- Focus on sustainably.
- Very flexible with an extra wide toe box.
- Colorful and waterproof options available.
- Can be less durable than some other brands.
- True to size, extra wide, and fit high volume feet.
- Vegan options.
- Ships from EU worldwide.
- Handmade in Oregon.
- Customizable with a lot of options for colors.
- Free US shipping and returns.
- Resoleable and repair service.
- True to size in general.
- Extra wide, fits high volume feet, options for all feet sizes and shapes.
- Fits almost all foot types.
- Vegan footwear.
- Machine washable and very durable.
- Only casual sneakers available.
- Limited selection. No barefoot sandals or dressy shoes.
- True to size
- Free shipping and returns in the US. Available only in the US
Bisgaard Baby Shoes
- Available from online retailer PedTerra.
- Easy on and off with velcro.
- Known for fun, brightly colored designs.
- Well made and durable.
- Available from US retailer PedTerra.
See a full list of all the brands making barefoot shoes for babies and toddlers here.
Most Affordable Barefoot Shoe Brands
- Colorful options.
- Easy on and off with velcro and slip on, laces also available.
- Made from canvas so have a short break in period.
- Run on the smaller side in terms of size.
- Medium to low volume fit. Wide toe box.
- Timeless styles.
- Have a toe guard for extra durability.
- Have a short break-in time.
- True to size.
- Medium to wide width and fit high volume feet.
- Only ships to US & Canada
Saguaro Barefoot Shoes
- Very affordable.
- Extremely flexible.
- Wide toe box.
- Machine washable.
- Not as durable as other brands.
Widest Barefoot Shoe Brands For Kids
Medium Width Kids Barefoot Brands
Wide Kids Barefoot Brands
Extra Wide Kids Barefoot Brands
Best Kids Barefoot Winter Boots Brands
Best Kids Barefoot Sandals Brands
Barefoot-Friendly Socks, Toe Spacers and Balance Beams
Toe Spacers, Sensory Mats, Balance Beams and Boards, and Barefoot-friendly Socks are all items that can further help your kids (and you!) with their development and improve foot health.
Toe Spacers are made of soft, flexible silicone that encourage the toes to move back to their natural alignment. This helps improve balance, posture, gait, proprioception, and the use of muscles in the feet and lower legs.
Sensory Mats provide the variation that our feet need to stimulate the nervous system and strengthen the smaller muscles in our feet.
Balance Beams and Boards are a fun way to build stability and improve body awareness, balance, and mobility.
Finally, Barefoot-friendly Socks play a crucial role in barefoot health by providing comfort, wicking moisture, and supporting the shape of the foot. Different materials such as Merino wool, Synthetics, and Ingeo offer different pros and cons, but all provide a comfortable, supportive sock to wear with barefoot shoes.
Caring for Kids Barefoot Shoes
When it comes to keeping your kids' feet in top condition whilst also making your money go further, proper care and maintenance is key. Barefoot shoes can be an integral part of your kids' overall health and development, not just aesthetically, but functionally. Just like any other piece of apparel, barefoot shoes require regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure the highest quality performance, longevity, and hygiene.
Caring for barefoot shoes is not difficult or time-consuming, but requires basic care and attention to ensure optimal performance and long-term durability. The following tips and advice provide everything you need in terms of proper care for achieving the best results with your kids' barefoot shoes.
Cleaning and Maintaining Kids Leather Barefoot Shoes
Caring for kids' leather shoes doesn't have to be complicated. With some simple steps and ongoing maintenance, plus the right tools, you can help make your kids' leather shoes last longer – keeping their feet healthy and protected.
When it comes to caring for kids' leather shoes, focus on keeping them clean, checking for potential damage, protecting them from elements that can harm the leather, and properly storing them. Here are some tips to help you do just that:
- Cleaning Leather Shoes Regularly 🧼 - Keeping the shoes clean is the easiest way to extend their life. A quick wipe down after each wear, with a clean, damp cloth and mild soap, can help keep dirt and grime away that can cause damage to leather if it's allowed to build up over time. Another option is to use a specific leather shoe cleaner/conditioner, available in most shoe stores, designed specifically to care for leather.
- Checking for Damage 🏚️- Before and after each wear, check all areas of the leather shoes, such as the seams and tongue, for signs of wear and tear. This includes checking the sole of the shoe for any separation, cracking, peeling or discoloration. If you notice any of these signs, it's best to have the leather shoes professionally repaired or replaced.
- Protecting from the Elements 🍃- Another way to extend the life of kids' leather shoes is to protect them from the elements, including water, salt and dirt. If your kids will be playing in water or wet conditions, use a waterproofing product specifically designed for leather shoes. This can help protect the leather from water damage and keep them looking great for a longer period of time.
- Proper Storage 🗄️- Proper storage is also key to protecting leather shoes. When storing, always keep leather shoes in a cool, dry place – definitely not in direct sunlight. If you don't have the room at home, consider getting a shoe cabinet or storage box specifically designed to store shoes. Additionally, stuff the shoes with newspaper or place cedar shoe inserts to absorb moisture.
- Rotating Shoes 🔄- It's recommended to rotate your child's shoes, allowing them to air out and dry completely before wearing them again. This can help prevent odors, bacteria and fungus growth, and prolong the life of the shoes.
- Repairing Damaged Shoes 🧵- If a pair of your kids' leather shoes becomes damaged beyond repair, regular repair services are available at most shoe repair stores. They can often repair the shoes or replace damaged parts, saving money while still keeping the shoes in usable condition.
- Properly Fitting Shoes 📐- Make sure the shoes fit properly. A shoe that is too tight can cause blisters, while a shoe that is too loose can cause slips and falls.
Caring for kids' leather shoes isn't difficult once you know the steps to take. With regular cleaning and maintenance, plus protection from the elements, you'll be able to extend the life of kids' leather shoes – giving them the best protection for their developing feet. Plus, with proper care, you can ensure that the leather shoes you buy for your kids last longer, which in turn can save you money.
Cleaning and Maintaining Kids Canvas Barefoot Shoes
Most of the steps above are also appropriate for canvas kids barefoot shoes with some small differences:
- Cleaning Canvas Shoes Regularly 🧼- Keeping the shoes clean is the easiest way to extend their life. A quick wipe down after each wear, with a clean, damp cloth and mild soap, can help keep dirt and grime away that can cause damage to canvas if it's allowed to build up over time. Another option is to use a specific canvas shoe cleaner, available in most shoe stores, designed specifically to care for canvas.
- Checking for Damage 🏚️- Before and after each wear, check all areas of the barefoot shoes, such as the seams and tongue, for signs of wear and tear. This includes checking the sole of the shoe for any separation, cracking, peeling or discoloration. If you notice any of these signs, it's best to have the barefoot shoes professionally repaired or replaced.
- Protecting from the Elements 🍃- Another way to extend the life of kids' barefoot shoes is to protect them from the elements, including water, salt and dirt. If your kids will be playing in water or wet conditions, use a waterproofing product specifically designed for canvas shoes. This can help protect the canvas from water damage and keep them looking great for a longer period of time.
- Proper Storage 🗄️- Proper storage is also key to protecting barefoot shoes. When storing, always keep canvas barefoot shoes in a cool, dry place – definitely not in direct sunlight. If you don't have the room at home, consider getting a shoe cabinet or storage box specifically designed to store shoes.
- Repairing Damaged Shoes 🧵- If a pair of your kids' barefoot shoes becomes damaged beyond repair, regular repair services are available at most shoe repair stores. They can often repair the shoes or replace damaged parts, saving money while still keeping the shoes in usable condition.
- Air it out 🌬️- Make sure to air out the shoes between wears, this will help prevent odors and moisture buildup. Place them in a well-ventilated area or stuff them with newspaper to help absorb moisture.
- Use a stain repellent - Applying a stain repellent can help protect canvas shoes from dirt and stains. This can make cleaning much easier and help to extend the life of the shoes.
- Be mindful of the environment 🌿- canvas shoes are often machine washable, but if you are looking to be more eco-friendly, consider handwashing or spot cleaning the shoes instead.
XVI. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Common questions or concerns parents may have about barefoot shoes for kids
How do I know if a pair of barefoot shoes is the right fit for my child?
To ensure a proper fit, it's best to measure your child's foot and compare it to the size chart provided by the manufacturer. You should also check for adequate space in the toe box, as well as a snug fit around the heel. It's important to note that barefoot shoes should fit differently than traditional shoes, as they should allow for natural movement and flexibility.
Can barefoot shoes be worn in all weather conditions?
Barefoot shoes are designed to mimic the sensation of going barefoot, allowing for natural movement and flexibility. However, they do not offer the same level of protection as traditional shoes, and may not be suitable for extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow. Some brands offer waterproof or insulated options, but it's best to check the manufacturer's recommendations before purchasing.
How long do barefoot shoes for kids last?
The lifespan of barefoot shoes will depend on the quality of the materials used, as well as the amount of wear and tear they receive. On average, a well-made pair of barefoot shoes for kids can last anywhere from 6 months to 1 year, but it's important to monitor their wear and replace them when necessary.
Should I be concerned about my child's arch and heel development while they wear barefoot shoes?
Barefoot shoes are designed to allow for natural foot movement and development, and can be beneficial for children with flat feet or other foot conditions. However, it's always best to consult with a pediatrician or podiatrist before making any decisions about your child's footwear.
Is it necessary to wear socks with barefoot shoes?
It's not necessary to wear socks with barefoot shoes, but some children may prefer the added comfort and protection. It's important to note that barefoot shoes should fit snugly and not require socks for a proper fit.
Are barefoot shoes suitable for both boys and girls?
Yes, barefoot shoes are suitable for both boys and girls, as they are designed to mimic the sensation of going barefoot, allowing for natural movement and flexibility.
Can barefoot shoes be worn with orthotics?
It depends on the design of the barefoot shoe and the type of orthotic. Some barefoot shoes have a removable insole, which would allow for the use of an orthotic. However, it's important to check with the manufacturer before purchasing and to consult with a pediatrician or podiatrist.
Are barefoot shoes suitable for children with special needs?
Barefoot shoes can be beneficial for children with special needs as they allow for natural foot movement and development. However, it's important to consult with a pediatrician or therapist who specializes in the child's specific needs before making any decisions about their footwear.
Is there a best time of year to buy barefoot shoes for kids?
The best time to buy barefoot shoes for kids will depend on the child's current shoe size and the climate they live in. It's best to measure their feet and check for proper fit. Consider the weather and the activities your child will be doing when deciding when to buy new shoes.
How do I know when it's time to replace my child's barefoot shoes?
It's important to monitor the wear and tear of your child's barefoot shoes, and replace them when necessary. Signs that it's time for a new pair include holes or tears in the upper or sole, worn out tread, or a snug fit that's no longer comfortable.
Are There Foot-Friendly Socks For Kids?
Yes, there are foot-friendly socks for kids that are designed to mimic the sensation of being barefoot while still providing protection and warmth. These types of socks often have a minimal amount of cushioning and may have a seam-free design to prevent irritation.
When Do I Need to Buy My Child New Shoes?
You will need to buy your child new shoes when their current shoes no longer fit properly or show signs of wear and tear. It is generally recommended to have your child's feet measured every 6-12 months, as their feet can grow quickly during periods of rapid growth.
Can My Child Wear Hand-Me-Down Barefoot Shoes?
It is not recommended to have your child wear hand-me-down barefoot shoes as the shoes may not fit properly and may not provide the same level of support as a new pair. Additionally, the shoes may have worn down and no longer provide the same level of protection and support.
Are There Barefoot Sandals For Kids?
Yes, there are barefoot sandals for kids that are designed to mimic the sensation of being barefoot while still providing protection and style. These types of sandals often have minimal straps or no straps at all and may have a flexible sole to allow for natural movement of the foot.
Barefoot Shoes In Big Kids Sizes?
Yes, barefoot shoes are available in big kids sizes, typically up to a US youth size 6 or 7. These shoes are designed to mimic the sensation of being barefoot while still providing protection and support for the growing feet of big kids.
Are There Barefoot Rubber Rain Boots For Kids?
Yes, there are barefoot rubber rain boots for kids that are designed to mimic the sensation of being barefoot while still providing protection and warmth in wet weather. These boots typically have a minimal amount of cushioning and a flexible sole to allow for natural movement of the foot.
Where Can I Find Barefoot School Uniform Shoes?
You can find barefoot school uniform shoes online from retailers that specialize in barefoot shoes for kids, or from some department stores that carry a small selection of barefoot shoes. Some schools may also have specific requirements for uniform shoes, so it is best to check with your school for guidance on what type of shoes are allowed.
Baby & Toddler Barefoot Shoes?
Yes, there are barefoot shoes for babies and toddlers that are designed to mimic the sensation of being barefoot while still providing protection and support for their developing feet. These shoes often have a flexible sole and minimal straps to allow for natural movement of the foot. It is important to ensure that the shoes fit properly and are comfortable for the child to wear.
Barefoot shoes provide children with a number of benefits. After years of research, study, and personal experience, it has become clear that barefoot shoes provide more than just comfort: they promote healthy foot development, offer improved proprioception, enhance natural movement, and much more.
When shopping for barefoot shoes for your children, remember to consider the following factors: fit, durability, and quality. Fit really is essential when it comes to allowing the foot to move naturally, while durability and quality will determine how long the shoes will last. Looking for shoes with zero drop or "minimalist" styling is also important, as this will provide the barefoot movement and sensation that many parents seek.
Once you’ve found a shoe that fits properly, the rest of the long-term benefits come into play. Hopefully you will also find that your child's foot posture, mobility, and stability improve, as well as their balance, better control over their body, improved coordination, and a greater sense of body awareness.
And because barefoot shoes can prevent the common foot problems that children often face, parents can rest easy knowing that their child is experiencing the best possible foot-health while remaining active.
Here at Minimal-list, we aim to empower you with multiple resources in order to help you research, find and purchase the right shoes for you and your children. You can find reviews, discounts, information on upcoming sales, guides on how to choose the right shoe and more. Additionally, our sales page is updated regularly with discounted items.
It’s important to be armed with the right information and to advocate for your child’s foot health. Consider reading all our content and checking our directory of minimalist shoes for kids and reviews. And don’t forget to check back often to see what new deals and discounts we have, to help save you money.
Having the right footwear for your kids is absolutely essential and something that as a parent you can’t afford to take a chance on. Let us help you to make the most out of your barefoot lifestyle and provide you with the best advice and resources for choosing the right shoes for your children.