The Best Barefoot Shoes for Babies & Toddlers

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The Best Barefoot Shoes for Babies and Toddlers by Anya's Reviews featuring a baby selecting softstar Shoes from among a group of options
The Best Barefoot Shoes for Babies & Toddlers

Wondering which baby shoes are best for their development? Being barefoot as often as possible is best for babies and toddlers; they don’t often need shoes! But for the times you do want them in shoes, the best barefoot shoes for babies and toddlers are completely unrestrictive in every way.

This is your guide to the best shoes for the littlest feet.

The Best Shoes for Babies Are… No Shoes!

bottom View of a 1 year old's bare feet

Watching your baby take their first steps is such a precious moment. But you might be asking yourself “Does my child need shoes now?” The answer is usually NO!

Humans have thousands of nerve endings in their feet that promote good posture and proprioception. Babies are actively establishing all those neural connections and should be allowed to sense the world through their feet. It’s important to a baby’s development to be able to feel the ground they’re walking on.

Bernie Landels, infant development expert and author of Finding Their Feet, has this to say about it.

“The very fact that feet do not fully mature until the teenage years should be reason enough to care about what little feet do and wear. 

Young feet are soft, flat, durable, pliable and adaptable. They have sensory soles hungry for information. With the brain being so far away they need to develop strong neural connections, and they do this by exploring the world, being free to move and grow. The journey from womb to walking is key to establishing body-wide connections as well as optimal posture and movement potential. 

If you look at the xray of a 6 month old you will see the potential for squashing a foot inside a shoe as the bones have not fully grown or hardened. 

So, until your child is on the move ask yourself – do they need a shoe? If you would like them in a shoe then a soft sole one is perfect. When they need more protection choose a foot shaped shoe that has the qualities of the foot. 

What About Socks?

We aren’t a big fan of socks for babies, as they can restrict foot development and inhibit the nerves on the soles of their feet. Most baby barefoot shoes can be worn without socks, and when not in shoes just be barefoot! Older children might want socks for warmth, comfort, or to prevent stinky shoes. Here are the foot friendly socks we recommend for older kids.

As parents and caretakers we worry about our child’s comfort, but the truth is our own feet are probably a lot more sensitive than our children’s. So even if your feet feel a little cold inside the house, most likely your child would still prefer being barefoot over having socks on.

Why Babies Have Flat Feet

1 year old flat foot (left), 3 year old foot with arch becoming visible (middle), and 8 year old with formed arch (right)
1 year old flat foot (left), 3 year old foot with arch becoming visible (middle), and 8 year old with formed arch (right)

Babies are born with soft bones that shift around as they grow and develop. Because babies begin to put weight on their feet as infants, you will usually find a thick fat pad in the middle of their foot. This protects the forming bones of the midfoot so they can walk and stand without doing damage!

You might have noticed your child has a chubby flat foot – this is why. Most kids lose this fat pad around the age of 5 and have visible arches by around 6 or 7, so it’s perfectly normal for small children to have flat feet.

What To Look For In a Baby Shoe

These guidelines are similar to what we want in a barefoot shoe for kids and adults, but for babies they should be even less structured. Look for the softest, most unrestrictive shoe possible.

An ideal baby shoe is:

  • Flat – no heel, no arch support, and no toe spring.
  • As thin and flexible as possible so baby can sense the ground.
  • Wide enough not to squish any part of the foot.
  • Unstructured – babies don’t need walled outsoles, rubber toe caps, or cushioning.
  • Lightweight.

Fortunately you can find plenty of great options from many baby shoe brands if you know what to look for! Don’t be afraid to pass on anything that doesn’t crumple easily in your hands or that looks too narrow.

As your child grows you can start looking at these best barefoot shoes for kids with a little more durability and protection. But for your infant today, the following are our top picks for the best barefoot baby shoes!

The Best Barefoot Shoes for Babies

Without further ado, here are our top picks for barefoot shoes for your baby, crawler, or new walker!

*Sizing can vary a lot in baby shoes so make sure you measure your child’s feet first and refer to each brand’s size chart before you order!*

Softstar Roo Moccasins

$65 | Sizes infant 2 to adult | Leather + Sheepskin insole | 3 width options | Ships worldwide from USA

Softstar Roo Moccasins are our top pick for barefoot baby shoes because they come in 3 widths, and are buttery soft. We also love that they’re sustainably made in Oregon, USA. The moccs above are Wide width and they are a great fit on my 1 year old with thick chubby feet. You can also find Buttercup Moccasins for brand new babies from Softstar.

Most children will fit into the standard and wide widths, but for those with very wide feet, the XWIDE option is available for sizes 4-12. There’s even the option to customize your shoes with whatever color combos you want (not available for xwide).

The Roo and Buttercup models both have genuine sheepskin insoles which is temperature regulating without compromising balance, but might be too warm if you’re in a hot climate. We recommend avoiding the rubber sole options from Softstar until your child is a confident walker/runner and needs more shoe for playing outside.


Zutano

$22 | Knit or Fleece (vegan) | Sizes NB-24mo | Washable | Ships from USA

Zutano booties have been a go-to for my babies and toddlers for years, even before I knew about barefoot shoes! I love them because they are easy to put on, they STAY on, and they come in a knit or fleece option (not to mention a bunch of different colors and prints).

Sizes 12 months and up have grippy dots on the bottom so they are a great option for public indoor places when you don’t want you child going barefoot, or for dry weather outside. Since they’re just fabric, they can be tossed in your regular laundry too. They are essentially an upgraded sock that doesn’t squish your baby’s feet.


Authentic Native Made Custom Moccs

$44+ | Sizes 0-4 |Leather | Ships to USA & Canada from USA

These Native Made moccasins are hand crafted in Kettle Fall, Washington, USA by Sharolyn. Everything is made to order using high quality deer hide which is known for breathability and stretch. Because they are custom they will fit lots of foot types. Exchanges accepted on standard sizing only – no returns or exchanges on custom sized moccasins.


Starry Knight Designs

$28+ | Sizes Preemie – Adult | Leather | Ships worldwide from USA

Starry Knight Design has a variety of soft sole leather shoe styles to choose from – simple moccs, mary janes, sandals, and fringe boots to name a few. They come in sizes for the whole family, and all handmade in Montana, USA. Optional wool insoles for winter, or thin rubber add-on soles for older kids.

Returns and exchanges are accepted within 30 days (except sale items or shoes with added soles/other modifications).


Bear Paw Moccasins

$50 | Sizes S-L | Moosehide | Ships from Canada to select countries

These bear paw moccasins are great for extra wide, thick feet and have a toggle for easy adjustment. Moosehide is soft and durable, so these can be worn outside. They are handmade in Canada by members of the Huront-Wendat nation.


Posh Panda

$38+ | Sizes 0-11/12 | Leather | Ships worldwide from Canada

Posh Panda moccasins are handmade in Canada with some of the cutest details! There’s a couple different sole options and we only recommend the soft soles for babies and new walkers. Older toddlers will do great with the thin rubber minimalist soles. Posh Panda sales are all final, but you can resell them when you are done with them.

Click here for the full review of adult Posh Panda moccasins


Bird Rock Baby

$30 | Sizes 2-9.5 | Leather | USA only

Bird Rock Baby makes affordable leather moccasins in a large variety of colors and prints (and even some cute mary janes!). They either have a suede outsole or smooth leather. The ankle cuff is soft and stretchy and they are very lightweight. I found the leather to feel a little cheap, but the prices reflects that. Free shipping over $49, and free returns!

Each pair of shoes purchased provides a child in need with food for a day through the Feed My Starving Children organization.


Warriors Apparel

$20 | Sizes 0-24M | Fabric (vegan) | Ships from worldwide from USA

These little fabric booties come in a variety of beautiful prints and textures. Everything is handmade in Ohio and some styles have grippy dots on the bottom. These are a great affordable option! Returns/Exchanges not accepted.


Ebooba

$19 | Sizes Newborn – 8 Years | Leather | Ships worldwide from Ukraine

Ebooba on Etsy has a plethora of affordable, soft sole shoes in a larger than usual size range. You can find lots of themed moccs as well as plain colors. There’s even some open top summery ones that look great for warm weather!

Ebooba offers free worldwide shipping and discounts on multiple pairs. Returns are accepted within 14 days.


Sun and Lace

$36+ | Sizes 0-10 | Leather | Ships worldwide from USA

Sun and Lace hand makes all their shoes in Wisconsin, USA and they are adorable. There are a couple exquisitely detailed girly options and they all have a suede outsole. For older walkers, a rubber sole add-on is optional.


Soft Walker Shoes

$30+ | Sizes 1-12| Leather | Ships worldwide from USA

Softwalker Shoes is a small shop with affordable, handmade shoes in a few different styles. You can find warm winter options here as well as a recycled rubber sole add-on for bigger sizes. The nice thing about these shoes is they have no inside seams, so nothing can rub your child’s foot. Returns not accepted.


For Confident Walkers:

As your child grows and is able to walk and run confidently, you can graduate to the following options with just a bit more structure to them.

Once they become school aged and need even more shoe, refer to our 10 Best Barefoot Shoes for Kids article.

Vivobarefoot

$62 | Sizes EU 18-24 | Vegan

Use code VBANYA10 for 10% off

The Vivobarefoot Pluma Knit is a fantastic option for toddlers and newer walkers! These sock-like shoes feature a thick stretchy knit upper made from recycled materials paired with a really minimal rubber outsole. They’re easy to put on and they stay on really well too. One thing that sets these apart from other sock style shoes is that they stay completely flat when not worn. This lack of toe spring means there’s no unnecessary upward pressure on your little one’s toes. Basically, we really love these!


Wildling Shoes

$59-$90 | US Sizes Kids 3 to 6 | Vegan Options | Ships Worldwide from Germany

Wildling Shoes makes some of the most minimal, yet functional barefoot shoes for all ages. While they are more of a shoe than a soft sole moccasin, they uppers are as unstructured as they can be while retaining shape and the rubber outsole is very thin and flexible. There are wool options for winter, and breezy cotton/linen options for summer. They open up really wide making them easy to put on and the laces give you adjustability to find the perfect fit.

Read all our Wildling Shoes Reviews here


Magical Shoes

$43+ | Sizes EU 18-28 | Leather and Vegan Options | Ships Worldwide from Poland

Use code ANYA for 10% off

Magical Shoes has great options for confident walkers with really unstructured uppers and a VERY flexible outsole. They’re lightweight, breathable, and the outsole has fantastic ground feel. The winter boots have a slightly more rugged sole, which is still very flexible for a winter boot. Both models shown above were my toddler’s first real shoes after exclusively wearing soft soles and I highly recommend them! Read the full Magical Shoes Bebe review here.


Jack and Lily

$30-$40 | Sizes 0-36 months | Leather | Ships Worldwide from USA & CA

Jack and Lily’s affordable shoes are a solid option for confident walkers. We only recommend the My Flexx & My Shoes lines as they have thinner, more flexible soles than the My Kicks line. You can always find a great deal in the Flash Sale and Outlet sections, too!


Tikki Shoes

Tikki Nido sandals being worn by a toddler standing on wooden blocks They have a very flexible rubber sole for new walkers

€35 | Sizes EU 19-32 | Leather and Vegan Options | Ships worldwide from Romania

Tikki Shoes has some good small child options with thin rubber outsoles like the Nido shown above. We also like their soft soled shoes. They are primarily leather, but Tikki did introduce a few vegan models made with cork last year. Shipping can be pricey outside the EU, but if you’re ordering multiple pairs for the whole family (we love their adult sandals too!) it can be worth it. Read all the Tikki Shoes Reviews here.


Soft Sole Winter Options

You don’t have to resort to heavy clunky boots for winter! Check out these sole soft boot options for babies and new walkers, so you can head out doors even in winter without restricting your child’s feet.

Close up of Jan & Jul affordable stay-put winter booties for babies toddlers standing on snowy ground

Jan & Jul Stay Put Cozy Boots (CA) – We love these vegan winter booties! Water resistant, affordable, warm, and easy to put on. Machine washable too. Read our full Jan & Jul review here.


Stonz Soft Sole Winter Baby and toddler booties being worn in the slushy snow with sherpa liners

Stonz Booties (CA) – Waterproof soft sole booties that can be worn over regular shoes or with sherpa liners. Use code ANYAREVIEWS10 for 10% off.


Sherpa Booties handmade in France by Earthing Moccasins for custom hard to fit baby fit

Earthing Moccasins Baby Booties (EU) – Custom made for infants to size EU 34. I love these! You can also get summer models, and find patterns & tutorials for making your own shoes from this brand. Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 10% off


Genuine made in Canada sheepskin warm soft sole booties for babies

Leather-Moccasins Baby Sheepskin Booties (CA) – These handmade in Canada sheepskin booties look very warm and cozy.


Robeez soft sole winter boots

Robeez (US) – Soft and fuzzy affordable boots for babies and young toddlers


More Options

There are so many great options for babies and toddlers, so don’t feel limited to this list! To continue exploring more baby barefoot shoe brands, head to the Barefoot Shoe Finder where you can filter by shoe type, shipping location, and more.

Conclusion

There can be a lot of confusion about which barefoot shoes are best for babies and toddlers. We believe that most children are born with everything they need to develop well, and shoes should only be used when necessary to protect them from danger. Allowing our children to develop strong, healthy feet sets them up for future success!

A special thanks to Bernie Landels, whose book Finding Their Feet is a treasure trove of useful information for parents and caretakers and whose resources helped us write this article.

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Comments

19 thoughts on “The Best Barefoot Shoes for Babies & Toddlers”

  1. Hi Anya, My 2.5yo has been in barefoot shoes since he needed shoes. He has very wide feet and this winter has been wearing magical shoes. The points of his feet turn inwards. We’ll see a podiatrist in a couple of months, but meanwhile, what shoes could he wear for spring? Will something will a stiffer ankle be advisable? Thanks.

    1. I’m not sure. If he’s not having any pain or issues walking, I personally wouldn’t rush in with supportive shoes. He may benefit more from the soft, flexible shoes and lots of barefoot time. But this is outside my expertise, so if you are concerned definitely get him checked out.

      1. Concerned parent

        We went to a Neuro chiropractor in Dallas, tx. He has given us therapy options to help the brain and exercises to strengthen the legs as our 2.5 year old has similar issue while walking and running.

  2. Hi Anya,
    Which one of this shoes will be the most fresh for summer ?
    My daughter is 15 months old, and the street gets very hot.
    Thank you !

    1. Hi there! Leather moccasins like Starry Knight Designs, or the sandals or mesh models from Magical Shoes are good for breathability. Wildlings also makes some great breathable fabric “sneakers” for littles.

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for this list! Have my first baby and glad to have a good start with footwear (or lack thereof ;)). It looks like Jack & Lily no longer carry the lines you recommend.

        1. I did not hear back, but it looks like the models with the flat rubber outsole would be good (not the bumper sole that’s on their slip-on sneakers).

    1. Hi Tana! The littlest shoes they carry with the soft motion sole are pretty good. As their size range increases they get more and more “conventional/supportive” and aren’t barefoot friendly.

  4. Hi! What are your thoughts on gripper socks? It fits kinda like a sock with a rubber sole. Ice been eyeing the ones from Ozznek Shoes to keep my little guy’s feet warm with winter. Thank you!

  5. Hello,

    I wanted to order some magical shoes for my toddler but I see that the width is going to be too much for him. His feet are 15.5 cm long and 6.3 cm width, if I take the size he would need (either 24 or 25 in this brand) then the width is either 7.1 or 7.3 cm – that is too big for his width right ? Any brands for I guess what is considered a narrow, low volume foot for toddler/kids ? Thanks !

    1. Hi Emy! I think would be fine for Magical Shoes if you are getting the warm, lined boots. Otherwise if you’re looking for an option with a rubber sole – PaperKrane and Wildlings would have a narrower fit. Additionally, Softstar comes in multiple widths so you can choose the best one.

  6. I wish you had a post focused on young toddler shoes. A lot of these designs are really for babies and slip on styles are too easy for a toddler to take off, but a lot of the shoes in your kids article don’t come small enough for younger toddlers. I feel like there is a black hole for toddler shoes sizes 6-9 or so! We’ve tried Little Love Bug (so cute but found the waterproof soles slippery and the vertical volume in the toe seems too short for my kiddo) and Ten Little (I really like the shape of them even with the soles being a bit thicker but I hate “vegan leather” with a passion and prefer something that breathes and isn’t going to take 100+ years to break down in a landfill) but my kiddo is in need of new shoes and I need more options!

    1. Hi Kari – The recycled canvas shoes from Ten Little are more breathable than their vegan material so you might look into those if you already know you like them. Otherwise, some brands offer little sneakers in sizes down to EU 18 or so like Vivobarefoot, and Wildlings (which you can find in the confident walker section of this list). Another great brand for toddlers is Tip Toey Joey.

      PaperKrane offers toddler shoes in sizes as small as EU 16.

      I hope that gives you some more ideas 🙂

    1. Hi Chloe! The first-walkers are really more shoe than a baby or young toddler needs but they are flat, wide in the toe box, and moderately flexible so they aren’t the worst option. The only models for older kids that are zero drop are the sneakers and that’s only with the insole removed, but the toe box is pretty narrow and rounded.

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Hi. I'm Anya.

Hi. I'm Anya.

I first discovered barefoot shoes after a long history of foot issues. By changing my footwear and strengthening my body I was able to completely transform my life. Anya’s Reviews is my way of sharing with the world that healthy feet are happy feet!

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