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10 best kids' shoe brands that don't sacrifice style for practicality

We all know how fussy children can be, especially about footwear. We tested durability, comfort and design to find shoes that our little testers loved

Children’s shoes play an important part in supporting their physical development ( The Independent/iStock )

We all know how important it is for children’s shoes to fit properly. Children's tootsies grow very quickly, and ill-fitting shoes can do lasting damage to delicate feet and bones.

To ensure the perfect fit, always have your child’s feet professionally measured before you buy new shoes.

Many children’s feet don’t fall into standard fitting when it comes to shoe size, so shop around for a brand that offers half sizes and different width measurements if necessary – not all children’s shoe brands do this.

Resist the temptation to buy your child’s shoes in the next size up – it’s a false economy and your little one’s feet won’t thank you.

Always buy shoes to suit your child’s stage of development. Crawling and cruising shoes offer a different level of support than first walking shoes, for example, and the right type of shoe can make a big difference to how confidently your toddler strides out.

With other children, factor in that kids tend to be harder on their shoes than adults are, so go for durability as well as comfort. We’ve all bought school shoes that barely lasted a term, and with children's shoes often costing as much as a pair of adult’s shoes, that’s not a price you want to pay more than you absolutely have to.

Finally, keep in mind that children’s shoes play an important part in supporting their physical development. They are often expensive but no other item of clothing has the same impact on a child’s growth or comfort. It’s well worth investing in the most reliable brand you can afford.

With all that said, here are our favourite brands for children’s shoes that deliver on style, practicality and durability.

Bobux

Bobux footwear is endorsed by podiatrists and no wonder – this New Zealand based brand is passionate about healthy foot development. But it doesn’t sacrafice style for practicality. Quite the opposite, in fact. These are, hands down, some of the most stylish children's shoes we’ve clapped eyes on, and we’re a bit jealous that they don’t do a range for adults. The brand has been around since 1991 and – claim to fame – the founders designed the world’s first all-leather soft sole shoe for their daughter.

IndyBest pick: Bobux hi dimension fuchsia: £50, Bobux

These futuristic-looking shoes are absolutely stunning and lined with fine merino wool, which helps regulate temperature, draw out moisture and prevent nasty niffs. The high-performance sole is super flexible and our five-year-old tester particularly liked that she can get these on and off without supervision. This is the only shoe we tested which she begged to take to bed with her; that’s how much she loves them.

Buy now

Geox

A pioneering brand, Geox is all about combining innovative solutions and clever tech to create breathable, waterproof footwear for babies, kids and adults. Think contemporary designs that kids love, along with a patented, perforated sole which provides utter breathability plus an excellent grip. The brand reckons its sussed creating the perfect microclimate inside their shoes so that little feet stay dry and comfortable whatever the weather.

IndyBest pick: Geox JR XLED girl: £75, Geox

Talk about shoes for 21st century kids. This breathable trainer is embedded with LED lights in the back of the sole that spell out customisable words. The lights on one shoe blink in sequence or glow steadily, while those on the other shoe spell out a message that you can customise via an app on your smartphone. Get this – you can even recharge the lights with the micro USB cable supplied. Our five-year-old tester thinks shoes don’t come much cooler than this, and her teenage brothers are quietly envious. But the good news is that they go up to a size 41.

Buy now

Clarks

Arguably the most famous children’s shoe brand in the UK, Clarks has been cladding little feet for almost 200 years. Their shoes comes in half sizes and various widths, and their in-store fitting service is second-to-none. From crawling and cruising shoes to classy boots for style-conscious youngsters, this classic brand is the last word in sensible yet stylish footwear for kids.

IndyBest pick: Clarks city oasis hi kid: £39, Clarks

These sporty ankle boots are available in a range of colours, and come in both whole and half sizes and different widths. The leather upper and grippy sole make them smart yet functional, and the inside zip makes them easy for kids to take on and off with minimal supervision.

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Lelli Kelly

Billed as the shoes that every little girl wants, Lelli Kelly is a brand that typifies fun. Launched in 1992 in Italy, they do everything from baseball boots and school shoes to summer sandals and even wellies. They’re arguably best known for their party shoes, though. Think sparkles and embellishments galore, including hand-sewn beads and sequinned flowers.

IndyBest pick: Lelli Kelly princess pumps: £41.90, Lelli Kelly

The new Lelli Kelly princess-themed range are embellished with embroidered butterflies, and come in a host of shimmering pearlescent pastel shades. We like the pumps because they’re just the right mix of style and practicality, with a Mary Jane strap and a grip sole. Oh, and they come with a magic wand and lip gloss included.

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Treads

Treads specialises in sturdy school shoes for boys. The brand’s mission was to apply the materials and technology used in making construction footwear to school shoes – and it shows. These are by far the most robust pair we’ve ever come across. All Treads shoes have dual fit technology so you can get an extra half size for a perfect fit. And they’re branching out into a range for girls, too. Hurrah!

IndyBest pick: Treads madrid shoes: £45, Treads 

 

Designed and built for active girls, these robust school shoes are hand crafted with extra protection on the toe and a soft padded ankle. Made with Permair leather, they’re soft yet seriously durable and allow for easy, flexible movement. Our football-loving little tester put them through their paces in the playground, and she’s happy to report that they more than handled whatever she threw at them.

Buy now

JoJo Maman Bébé

With almost 100 stores across the UK, Ireland and the US, this is a retailer that’s well-known for its nursery products, gifts and toys. But its shoe collection is worthy of note, too. JoJo Maman Bébé stock all kinds of children's footwear from slippers and baby booties to wellies and snow boots, and everything in between.

IndyBest pick: JoJo Maman Bébé lion canvas shoes: £16, JoJo Maman Bébé

With a grippy rubber sole and cool cotton upper, these cute canvas shoes are just the thing for summer. We like the cheery colour and the fact that they’re a doddle to put on, even on the wriggliest of toddlers.

Buy now

Charles Clinkard

Started by a husband and wife duo, Charles Clinkard has been providing high quality footwear for more than 90 years – the first store opened in Middlesbrough in 1924. With 34 retail locations across the UK, this is a family footwear retailer with a serious reputation for quality and customer service.

IndyBest pick: Converse infant oxford classic lace up canvas rubber sole shoes: £27, Charles Clinkard

Our five-year-old tester picked these out for herself – and was quick to note that loads of her mum’s friends have the same shoes. Good taste. The classic baseball shoe might not be the obvious choice for little feet but from the breathable canvas to the sturdy, vulcanised rubber sole, they’re actually pretty much the perfect child's shoe. Unless it rains.

Buy now

ikiki

If you haven’t yet heard of ikiki squeaky shoes, you will soon. Available in a range of cute, characterful designs, these first shoes have squeakers in the soles to encourage little walkers. Best bit? You can turn the squeakers off if it all gets too much, and they can’t be removed so there’s no need to worry about choking hazards. The hi-top design prevents tiptoe walking and the anti-slip grip helps keep early walkers upright.

IndyBest pick: ikiki duchess bubblegum sparkles: £25.95, ikiki

Downright adorable. Our one-year-old tester took to his feet almost immediately, while his proud parents greatly appreciated the off switch on the squeakers.

Buy now

Keen

This brand is as committed to protecting and conserving the earth as it is to creating quality footwear built for outdoor adventures. Keen is an ethical and responsible brand. Their distinctive sandals that protect toes are iconic, and we think it’s hard to find a better shoe for active kids who love outdoor pursuits.

IndyBest pick: Keen younger kids' terradora waterproof low hiking shoes: £54.99, Keen

Our five-year-old tester isn’t ordinarily a fan of ‘sensible’ footwear but she couldn’t get these hiking shoes on fast enough. She said the supportive cushioning felt like “like walking on clouds” and we felt they were noticeably lighter than other walking shoes we’ve tried, so she was inclined to wear them for longer. We like that the waterproof, breathable membrane lets vapour out without letting water in.

Buy now

Step2wo

Launched in 2007 by Nick and Lulu Rayne – part of a British shoe making family spanning four generations – this luxury footwear brand offers an edgy collection designed in London and manufactured in Italy.

IndyBest pick: Step2wo new Lynn bar shoe: £48, Step2wo

This classic, stylish school shoe has a hook and loop strap fastening and comes in black or navy leather, or black patent. Our five-year-old tester chose the latter, and happily donned these for school, having dismissed several similar styles by different brands for being “much too not comfy”. The padded insole seems to offer extra support, compared to cheaper alternatives.

Buy now

The Verdict: Kids' shoe brands

We think the best brand for children's shoes is Bobux. It’s pushing the envelope when it comes to style and design, proving that children's shoes can be both practical and beautiful. We also think Geox is a brand worth buying – we love its innovative designs and the durability of their shoes – while Clarks is still king when it comes to no-nonsense children's footwear at an affordable price.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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