When planning a trip with kids, you should always consider their footwear. Blistered, aching, uncomfortable feet can ruin your vacation. And it’s even more so when you are traveling with children because they will just refuse to walk! When it comes to kids’ travel shoes – think COMFORT above anything else!
In this post, you can find our experience-based suggestions for the best kids shoes for summer and winter, walking and hiking, city trips, theme park visits, and more. Read on!
We have three active boys who just don’t understand the concept of taking care of their shoes. So it’s a real challenge to find good quality/ price shoes that will hold up to the abuse our kids give them. On top of that, quality shoes for kids are not cheap.
It’s almost impossible to find the right shoes that will fit all kinds of different occasions and with three fast-growing kids, our garage often resembles a shoe store… Slippers, shoes for school, rain boots, winter boots, summer sandals, sports shoes, soccer shoes… And just when you think you have it all covered, your kids’ feet grow and you can start all over again…
Finding the right travel shoes for kids is even more challenging. You cannot really pack seven pairs of shoes for every child and every occasion when traveling, so it’s important to pick the right shoes for your destination.
Depending on your travel plans, you may need to buy a good pair of hiking shoes for one trip, a pair of water shoes for another destination, and a pair of smart shoes for yet another trip. Or you may need all three pairs in just one week…
Kids Travel Shoes – OVERVIEW
Why it’s important to pick the right travel shoes for kids
One of our all-time worst travel experiences with kids was due to the wrong shoes our son was wearing during a short hike in Corsica. He got such a big blister under his toes that we ended up going to the hospital every day for the whole second half of our vacation.
It was so bad that the doctor insisted on seeing the wound every day and changing the bandages himself! He just couldn’t believe it started with a simple blister – the whole foot was blue and black…
Our son couldn’t walk, he wasn’t allowed to go into the water and we had to change the whole vacation planning completely! Luckily, we were staying close to Ajaccio – one of the biggest towns on the island – and the hospital was nearby. Also, my husband speaks French and we had no trouble in communicating with doctors and pharmacists… We also had a stroller with us for our younger twins and so we could still do some sightseeing in between the hospital visits with our oldest son riding in the stroller…
So it could have been worse, but needless to say our vacation turned out to be very different from what we had planned…
After this experience, we are even more careful when choosing the right shoes for our kids when we travel. We try to always travel light which usually means we pack maximum two pairs of shoes per person, especially when we fly.
However, depending on our destination, we now sometimes take three or even four pairs of shoes, because we know from our experience that wrong footwear can ruin the whole trip.
READ ALSO: What to Pack when Flying with Kids
So here is some advice to help you pick the best shoes for your children for any kind of a family trip.
Best Kids Shoes for Summer
Depending on where you live or travel, finding the right kids summer shoes might be an easy task or an almost impossible assignment. Here I focus on the best kids’ shoes for summer – real summer, not the one we typically have here in Belgium.
Closed-toe sandals for kids. If you buy just one pair of kids summer shoes, closed-toe sandals are probably the best option. Most of the closed-toe sandals for children have adjustable rip-tape which means they suit any foot. The sole has a good grip and your kids’ toes are also well protected. On top of that, they are lightweight, breathable, extremely comfortable, and can be used on so many different occasions.
We tried various sandals for our children over the years, and I have to say that these Keen sandals are probably my absolute favorites. They look good, are very sturdy and comfy, and can even be worn in the water. It’s probably the most versatile kids summer travel shoe we ever had and all three our boys love them. Recommended!
Our kids’ other favorite summer shoes are two-strap open-toe sandals. We usually buy these Geox Junior sandals here in Europe. Our boys had at least nine pairs of these sandals during the years and they never disappoint. We once tried a cheaper pair, but quickly realized that sturdy sandals with a comfort sole and a good grip are well worth the extra price.
They are great for an active vacation in really warm weather. Some brands, like Merrell, have similar model sandals that can also be worn in the water.
If you are not sure which sandals to get for your kids, closed-toe or open, I’d recommend the closed ones, especially for younger children.
Kids’ Water Shoes
Well worth a few extra dollars are kids water shoes. You don’t have to worry about sharp stones at the beach, hot or slippery tiles around the swimming pool, or your kids stepping on a sharp coral when snorkeling. A must for any beach vacation or water sports!
Between the age of 2 and 8, our all-time-favorite shoes for kids were actually Crocs. I used to be skeptical about them, but crocs are so versatile and durable that it’s one of the best investments you can make when it comes to buying shoes for young children. Our kids wear them all the time – at the beach, by the pool, in the garden, at home, in the hotel when we travel and even on ski holidays to walk to the ski room…
Like with all quality products, there are many cheaper brands available, but I suggest you buy the original crocs for the best quality. I lost count on how many pairs of Crocs we have had up to now and never – not once – did we have any issues with them. We just wash them and use them again.
What about flip-flops? While we always pack flip flops for ourselves when traveling, we never take them for our kids. Granted, they take less space in your luggage than crocs, but we always prefer crocs for our children due to their versatility and comfort. Active kids and flip-flops just don’t go well together.
Best Kids Shoes for Active Vacation: Walking, Hiking, Camping
There are four main factors to consider when looking for the best kids shoes for an active vacation outdoors.
First, you have to figure out what exactly are you planning to do during your vacation. For example, you don’t need to buy really expensive kids hiking boots if you only plan to make one or two short walks with your kids. Instead, better get good walking shoes that will fit most occasions.
Second, you have to make sure the shoes are comfortable and sturdy enough so you don’t have to fear twisted ankles. Third, make sure the shoes have a good grip. And fourth, consider that the shoes will get wet outdoors – choose waterproof shoes for most outdoor activities.
We hike a lot when we travel (here you can read about some of our favorite hikes from all over the world), yet our kids don’t own any heavy hiking boots. We always opt for light waterproof hiking shoes with a good grip. That way, kids’ shoes can be used daily and not just for hiking.
If we travel light and take just one pair of shoes for each of our kids, it’s usually this type of walking shoes.
TIP: If you are planning some strenuous hiking and rather get sturdy hiking boots for your kids, I recommend kids hiking boots from Hi-Tec. I owned women’s Hi-Tec hiking boots for over 10 years and they kept my feet safe and comfy during some serious trekking in the mountains. The best price/quality hiking boots I ever had.
Best Children’s Shoes for City Trips
Any city trip is synonymous with walking. Lots of walking. Your kids definitely don’t need hiking shoes in the city, in fact, it’s better you chose lightweight comfortable shoes for your kids.
For city trips, I would recommend sneakers. Not the Converse type, but good old-fashioned sneakers with a good sole and breathability.
Best Kids Shoes for Disneyland & Theme Parks
I’m leaning towards sneakers as the best shoe option for theme parks as well. However, if you are visiting in summer and like water rides a lot, you may want to consider closed-toe Keen sandals like the ones I talked about above. Sneakers take a long time to dry and it’s no fun to be walking around in wet shoes.
Best Kids Shoes for Winter Trips
If you buy just one pair of winter shoes for your child, make sure they are not only waterproof but also sturdy and have a good grip.
We always opt for waterproof winter boots with a good grip. They can be worn to school, but also during ski holidays or winter trips to any cold-weather destinations like Canada, Alaska or Iceland.
TIP: If you are going skiing this winter, I really recommend you pack Crocs with you as well. Not just for the children. Our whole family packs them for a ski vacation. They are perfect to wear in the hotel in the winter – you can easily slip them on with thick ski socks, it doesn’t matter if they get wet on your way to the ski room, they are washable, and they don’t glide.
If you are looking for more recommendations, please check our complete guide to the best winter shoes for travel (for the whole family).
Best Travel Shoes for Girls
We have three boys and try to always choose comfort above style. Luckily they are not very picky when it comes to clothing. I know that this is not always that easy when you have a girl… Nevertheless, there are many stylish comfortable girls’ shoes available so you should have no difficulties in finding good travel shoes for your girls.
If you look at any of the shoes I recommended above, you’ll see that there are quite some really nice girly options for pretty much any type of shoes I mentioned in this post.
You’ll even find nice hiking boots for girls, so don’t compromise on comfort when choosing the right travel shoes for your daughter, especially if your vacation involves a lot of walking!
Smart Shoes for Kids
You may want to pack a pair of smart kids’ shoes if you are going on a cruise or if you are staying at a really luxurious hotel. In those situations, you may want to pack a really nice outfit as well.
TIP: Go for good-looking shoes that don’t cost too much as your kids will only wear them on several occasions. It’s better to spend more money on good versatile walking shoes or sneakers.
So, these are our experience-based recommendations for the best travel shoes for children. If you are going on a trip soon and are still not sure what kind of shoes to pack for your children, feel free to leave a reply below and I’ll try to help.
READ ALSO: Best Travel Gear for Kids – family travel bloggers share their favorite products
Check out our other family travel guides as well:
Family travel essentials:
- Best travel bags for kids
- Best travel booster seats
- Travel gifts for kids
- Travel books for kids
- Travel-inspired gift ideas
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Saturday 19th of November 2022
Hi Jurga, I love your kids travel shoes list. Thank you for the tips.
Sunday 20th of November 2022
Glad to help. Happy travels!
Friday 30th of October 2020
Hi Jurga, thanks for your tips. We are taking a trip to Moab Utah with kids in a few weeks and I was wondering what kind of shoes you'd recommend for them? I saw that you visited that area. Any tips?
Friday 30th of October 2020
Hi, Lisa. Taking into account that you'd be traveling in the late fall, I'd definitely recommend hiking shoes for the Moab area. It's not hot there anymore and hiking shoes will be perfect for the colder fall weather. There are also many short hikes in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks that you'll want to do, so you'll need shoes with a good grip. Also, depending on when exactly you go, there might even be some snow in that area (it doesn't stay long though), so also for that, good hiking shoes are best. I'd probably go with something like these shoes. Alternatively, lower ones like this. Enjoy your trip!
Saturday 12th of October 2019
Hi Jurga, we are traveling to Iceland this winter with our 5-year old. What shoes would you recommend for her?
Monday 14th of October 2019
Hi Abi, for Iceland in winter, I recommend warm waterproof winter boots with good traction, something like this. We have more suggestions for winter boots, also for kids here: best winter boots for travel. If you need more tips, please also check our guide for what to wear in Iceland in winter.
Wednesday 7th of February 2018
Hi, I love your travel blog and this article. I would like to add though: It is very important to measure the feet of our offspring properly to ensure they are wearing shoes with sufficient wiggle room. Good shoes are not very cheap, so parents might tend to keep these shoes longer than they should.
Friday 9th of February 2018
That's a good point, Mary. Thanks for sharing your insights!
Wednesday 19th of July 2017
Thank you! We are packing hiking boots and the crocs I got are completely covered all around, not the original crocs with the back strap.
Wednesday 19th of July 2017
Oh, in that case you are all set! Great choice. Enjoy Yellowstone!