The Best Kids Summer Shoes You Both Will Love!

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A collage showing two barefoot kids and then 3 barefoot sandals - Reima, Unshoes Keota, Vivobarefoot Ultra and the text "Kids Summer Shoes for Happy Feet, Anya's Reviews"
The Summer Shoes for Kids We Love!

In the summer we go barefoot as much as possible, because kids (and adults) benefit from being barefoot outside. But shoes are often required for protection! So I make sure to choose kids summer shoes that are still good for little feet and promote healthy development – because not all the options out there do that.

Here are the summer shoes I avoid and what I put on my kids instead.

The Best Kids Summer Shoes Are Barefoot Shoes

I am such a stickler about my kids’ shoes because shoes can really get in the way of their development. Considering the rate of foot issues among adults, I see children’s shoes as an opportunity to prevent issues down the road. That’s why we only recommend shoes that meet the following criteria:

  • Have a natural shape (wide toe box)
  • Are totally flat (zero drop)
  • Are thin & flexible
A hand holding a toddler Tip Toey Joey shoe into a tight roll showing the flexibility

You can learn more about this idea below!

Now let’s look at some of the most common kids summer shoes and replace them with options I think are even better!

Barefoot Alternatives for Popular Kids Summer Shoes

Because a lot of the big names in kids shoes don’t meet my criteria for healthy shoes, I’ve had to do a bit of searching to find good alternatives. Here are a few of my favorite swaps for popular kids shoes, so my two boys can participate in all the summer activities without risking any damage to their tootsies.

Swap Crocs for Reima Sandals

A graphic of kids summer barefoot shoes with the text Swap This (Crocs), For That (Reima Barefoot Sandals) Kids Summer Edition Anya's Reviews

$40 | Textile | Sizes US 13-6.5

Crocs are just ok. They have a wide toe toe box, which is great, but the thick cushioned sole interferes with proprioception (your sense of what your body is doing). I much prefer these thin barefoot sandals from Reima that are also wide but have a flexible sole that will move with your child’s foot.

Crocs are also less secure on the foot than the Reima sandals. If you are using Crocs because of their accessibility, then by all means please continue. But if your child is able to do a velcro strap, the Reima sandals can be adjusted to fit snugly without flopping around.

Sizing Note: We find Reima to run a little bit big and the first size we ordered was too large. But we are extremely happy with this comfy kids summer shoe!

Swap Keens for Cior Water Shoes

A graphic of kids summer barefoot shoes with the text Swap This (Keen Sandals), For That (Barefoot Water Sandals) Kids Summer Edition Anya's Reviews

$20 | Mesh | Sizes US 9C-6Y

While Keens are very durable, I question the need for such a thick sole on a kid’s shoe. Unless there’s real danger of crushed toes or sharp objects coming through, a shoe like the Keens Newport sandal is overkill for developing feet.

The Cior water shoes are only $20, are significantly softer and more flexible, but still protect little feet from everyday encounters.

Swap Natives for Vivobarefoot Ultra

A graphic of kids summer barefoot shoes with the text Swap This (Natives), For That (Vivobarefoot Ultra Barefoot Sandals) Kids Summer Edition Anya's Reviews

$68-$80 | Vegan | Sizes US 9C – 6Y

Use code ANYA20 for 20% off for 10% off

We’ve been wearing Vivobarefoot Ultras as a Natives replacement for years now – they function the same but the Vivobarefoot sandals have a naturally shaped toe box (it looks like a foot!) and a more flexible sole. Win win! The velcro adjustment also means you can get them secure on little feet, which is important for natural movement.

They’ve been perfect as a do-it-all outdoor summer shoe and are durable enough to last through multiple kids. We find the Ultra Bloom to also run a little bit big!

Swap Flip Flops for Unshoes Keota

A graphic of kids summer barefoot shoes with the text Swap This (Flip Flops), For That (Unshoes Keota Barefoot Sandals) Kids Summer Edition Anya's Reviews

$45 | Sizes EU 21-35 | Made in the USA

Use code ANYA for 10% off

Flip flops, the quintessential summer shoe! My problem with flip flops is that they are not secure and they flip flop on your feet. This can cause kids to grip their toes and change the way they walk to keep the shoes on.

Adding a back strap solves that problem, you can even add your own elastic back strap to kids’ flip flops! But if you don’t want to DIY one, the Unshoes Keota is a sport sandal with an elastic back for easy pull on. They fit more securely than flip flops and are perfect for summer adventures.

Read our full Unshoes Keota Review here.

Swap Fisherman Sandals for Zeazoo Kids

A graphic of kids summer barefoot shoes with the text Swap This (Fisherman Sandals), For That (Zeazoo Kids Barefoot Sandals) Kids Summer Edition Anya's Reviews

45€ | Leather or Vegan | Sizes EU 18-34 | Ships from Bulgaria or US

Use code ANYASREVIEWS for 5% off from Zeazoo, or find select styles at Anya’s Shop

Even when we dress up I keep my kiddos in flat, flexible footwear. But most dressy kids sandals have a slight heel. The Fisherman sandals from Zeazoo Kids check all my kids’ shoe boxes, and can be dressed up just like regular fisherman sandals. They are also delightfully soft, making your child a lot less likely to protest! I love Zeazoo sandals for adults too.


For the best kids summer shoes look for barefoot sandals that are are wide, flat, and flexible. We’ve spent the last 5 years researching the best healthy shoes for kids (and all people πŸ™‚ ) – These are just a few of the options available! If you’d like to explore more, check out these resources below:

Once you know what to look for, you can find options that work with your budget and lifestyle.

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4 thoughts on “The Best Kids Summer Shoes You Both Will Love!”

  1. First of all thanks for your recommendation. I follow you since my daughter started to walk and you have helped me a lot. I had bought the cior sandals for her summer camp and I am thinking about shaving the under insole to remove the little drop they have. Do you think it would be better or don’t really matter because is just a little drop? She use to wear saguaro without insoles. But I think the cior insoles are helpful to drain the water, aren’t it? Thanks

    1. From what I can tell, the outsole is already zero drop. If the insole has a little padding at the heel, then I think it would be worth it to even it out so it’s totally flat. Or swap the insole for a different one from another barefoot shoe. The smaller the child the more the drop affects their alignment, so wherever possible I say go for totally flat.

  2. Erica Whitfield

    Do your kids have any issues with the Vivi blooms rubbing at all? Is there an open-toed sport-style sandal you would recommend for kids that don’t have something between the toes?

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Picture of 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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