19 Best Minimalist Shoes For Kids and Toddlers [and Barefoot Shoes]

If you’re a parent and your toddler is getting ready to walk, it’s important to have the right shoes. It’s easy to get caught up in cute looking shoes but many of the children’s footwear options on the market today doesn’t allow for proper foot development.

As a mom of two boys, I’m always evaluating the choices we are making in our household. And as someone who strives to do the best she can for her kids, I set out to learn about the best minimalist shoes for kids. I was new to this term until recently and hopefully can shed more light on why minimalist and barefoot shoes are important for kids and give you options for various styles that are available!

The best shoes for kids are minimalist style shoes. We will get into what that means further down! In this blog post we’ll be discussing 19 different kinds of minimalist toddler shoes that are perfect for kids.

Why do toddlers need minimalist and barefoot style shoes?

Minimalist and barefoot style shoes are designed with one simple goal in mind: to provide the absolute minimum amount of protection for a child’s foot. The aim is not to cover them up or protect them, but rather to get out of their way so they can move freely without any restrictions. This is especially important when it comes time for your toddler to walk!

Minimalist shoes for toddlers are also great because they help promote healthy foot development and function in young children. They encourage natural movement, which leads to strong muscles and bones that carry a person into adulthood without any injuries or pain from the weight of heavy footwear on their feet.

It’s hard to know what to look for in children’s footwear. Do you need supportive shoes? Athletic shoes? Rigid shoes? Soft soles? Bare feet? How often do you need new shoes? What’s the best option? How much space do big toes need? What are the affordable options? How do they transition to adult shoes? Today we will be looking at all of these questions as we explore minimalist kids’ shoes!

What To Look For In Minimalist Shoes For Kids

There are a couple things you want to look for in minimalist kids shoes for kids before making a buying decision:

1. A thin sole and flexible soles:

The most important aspect of minimalist shoes is their soles. They need to be as thin and flexible as possible so that they can bend with the foot, offer traction on slippery surfaces, protect from sharp objects or stones, and allow for free movement.

To know if a shoe is flexible enough, see if you can roll it into a ball.

2. A wide toe box:

The best minimalist shoes for kids have a wide toe box that will allow their feet to grow naturally. A wide toe box follows the natural shape of the foot and doesn’t pinch it incorrectly. It also allows all toes to wiggle and move freely without distorting them.

3. A flat sole/zero drop platform:

They need to also have a flat sole or zero drop platform so that they can move as freely and naturally as possible when the ground is uneven.

When kids shoes have a heel, it puts unnatural tension on the muscles and increases the chance of injuries and improper development.

The Difference Between Minimalist Shoes and Barefoot Shoes

Barefoot shoes are flat and mimic the feeling of walking barefoot. Minimalist shoes are very similar but tend to have a slightly thicker, but still flat and flexible sole for more durability.

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19 Best Minimalist Shoes For Kids and Toddlers

1. Ten Little Sneakers

Ten Little was founded by Julie and Fatma – two moms who were fed up with trying to find the perfect kids shoe that encourage healthy foot development. They also work with two medical advisors – Dr. Farah Alani DPM (an award-winning podiatrist and Dr. Tanya Altmann MD, FAAP (a nationally recognized pediatrician, author and editor of the American Academy of Pediatrics books).

Their shoes are made from vegan leather and are cruelty-free and PVC-free. Their outsoles are made from unprocessed rubber milk from the Hevea tree, and their insoles are crafted with hemp or recycled materials.

Click here for $5 off your Ten Little purchase!

They have also partnered with Souls4Soles to donate your child’s gently used pair of shoes to people who need them. My son has two pairs of Ten Little shoes and while we do like them a lot, I don’t think they have a lot of longevity to them if your kids will be in them 6+ hours a day.

2. Xero Shoes – Prio

Xero is a company that specializes in minimalist footwear for kids and adults. Their shoes are designed with mesh uppers to allow the feet to breathe easier while also providing a secure fit.

These include a wide toe box to allow toes to naturally spread. They have the “XERO-drop” sole which has a non-elevated heel and is low to the ground which lets kids have develop proper posture, balance, and agility. You can also remove the 2mm insole to be more barefoot versus a minimalist shoe. They are also said to have good arch support.

Xero also has a 5,000-mile sole warranty making them a very flexible option. These are a also a little bit pricier in my opinion and I don’t love the look of them personally.

3. Splay Athletics Freestyle

Splay Athletics is a company that focuses on barefoot footwear for kids and adults. Splay shoes provide nice, everyday options for older kids who want a bit more style with their function.

The Freestyle style is a sneaker style with a foot-shaped toe box, durable and flexible vulcanized synthetic rubber sole, and the uppers are made from 100% North American cotton.

These are a nice style that provide a very classic look while still being very minimalist!

4. Splay Athletics Explore™ 

The Explore style from Splay Athletics has similar features but uses a velcro strap. I would definitely chose these over the freestyle for younger kids as they encourage independence with the velcro strap.

Based on reviews, these do tend to run narrow beyond the toe box, so keep that in mind if your kids’ feet run wider.

5. Wildling

Wilding was founded by Ran, a sports therapist, trainer, and passionate barefoot runner and his wife Anna after a move to Germany left them without any viable shoe options for their three children.

They use material like cotton, hemp, wool, linen, paper, Tencel and cork wherever possible when constructing their shoes.

They offer many styles and options for both kids and toddlers. These are a bit pricier of an option in my opinion.

6. Vivobarefoot Primus Sport II Toddlers

Vivobarefoot is a well-known name in the barefoot and minimalist shoe industry. They have many options for kids and toddlers when it comes to minimalist shoes. One of their company goals is to “keep feet and brains connected to the natural world.”

Their products are vegan and made from sustainable materials. They have a sock-like collar for a snug fit and use Velcro straps. They also have ultra thin and puncture resistant soles that don’t mold to the foot.

The Primus Sport II is a great option for active toddlers! It comes in 3 colors and is the shoe I plan to buy next for my oldest.

7. Vivobarefoot Primus Knit Wool Kids

These are made on Vivobarefoot’s kids multi-terrain outsole to provide total barefoot movement and sensory feedback. The wool makes them breathable and able to regulate temperate in any climate.

These are great option for older kids who want a sleek look! These don’t come in toddler sizes but I will go for these when my kids age up.

8. Merrell Little Kid’s Bare Steps® H2O Sneaker

These water shoes feature an extra wide toe box, flexible, barefoot feel, easy on/off closure, superior durability and traction, and they are eco-friendly.

These are super cute and a lower-priced option. Coming in at $35 (and often can be found online cheaper) – these are nicely priced for minimalist/barefoot kids’ shoes. I like that these come in smaller sizes!

9. Merrell Little Kid’s Trail Quest Jr.

Another option from Merrell are these more sneaker-like shoes. These come in at $45, so still a good price in my opinion.

They are a combination of rugged leather and lightweight mesh and with an EVA footbed. They are also machine washable! They come in four color choices and are a great pick for outdoor and playground-loving kids and toddlers.

They are a Merrell best-seller and it’s easy to see why!

10. Be Lenka Play Kids Barefoot Shoes

Founded by Lenka Cenigova, a former long jump Paralympian, Be Lenka offers stylish and durable children’s barefoot shoes – made from a thin, high-quality sole that guarantees an all-day comfort. Thanks to their wide toe box and flat design, Be Lenka’s shoe allows your child’

11. Be Lenka Penguin Kids Barefoot Shoes

The Penguin style from BE LENKA is a classic high top style with minimalist and barefoot features. It currently comes in 5 colors:

While they are not a rain boot per-say, they do “come with a protective membrane which ensures dry, warm, and all-day comfort through the autumn and winter months.”

They are insulated premium leather with an ergonomic foot-shaped design, feature a wide toe box, and a flexible 6mm sole — ticking all the boxes for minimalist shoes. These would be a great cold weather option!

12. Be Lenka Jolly Kids Barefoot Shoes

And finally from Be Lenka, the Jolly shoe features two velcro straps and comes in two colors:

They are “premium leather low-cut barefoot shoes with ergonomic foot-shaped design, wide toe box, thin & flexible 6 mm sole and zero drop are specially designed for kids’ growing feet.”

13. MUKISHOES Woozle Play

Founded by Madlen and Marta in 2019 in Portugal with a goal of creating great-looking minimalist shoes out of natural materials, they use local, organic and fair-trade materials.

Their kids shoes come in fun colors and are easy for kids and toddlers to take on and off by themselves. The shoes feature adjustable elastic laces or double velcro.

The Woozle Play uses double velcro:

14. MUKISHOES Hunny

Another style from MUKISHOES that I love is they Hunny style. These feature the adjustable elastic laces. And are made from:

  • upper: deadstock cotton/organic cotton
  • inner lining: deadstock cotton
  • sole: 100% natural rubber
  • laces: elastic laces (polyester)

I love the color on these! And the lace design still encourage independence while being functional and more like a “grown-up” shoe.

15. Tikki Shoes POUF Leather

I wanted to include a more feminine option in my picks as well. According to Tikki, these are suitable for normal to chubby feet (wide feet), are made of premium quality leather, weigh only about 90g, have a 2mm insole, and a 1mm sole making them an excellent minimalist option as a Mary Janes style shoe.

16. Tikki Barefoot Shoes

These minimalist shoes are another nice option from Tikki weighing only about 180g. They have a flexible sole to make them the ultimate minimalist footwear. I like this brand for early walkers and for first shoes!

17. Vivobarefoot Fulham Rubber II Juniors

These are a barefoot and minimalist style Chelsea boot! They have a removable thermal insole which makes them really nice for cold weather. These look like rain boots to me, though I can’t determine if they are waterproof or not (I’m going to guess no since it doesn’t explicitly say).

18. Plae Charlie Waterproof

I’m throwing in a waterproof option! Waterproof shoes really go the distance, especially if you only want to invest in one pair! I love that these have a velcro closure too so that littles can take their shoes on and off by themselves. I am all about encouraging independence!

These have active traction, are flexible and lightweight, have removable insoles, and are waterproof. These are spot clean only.

Click here to get 20% off your first purchase at Plae.

19. Plae Ty

And the final shoe on my list is the Ty from Plae. They come in 15 different colorways and are priced at $59 which makes them a nice, mid-range option for minimalist kids’ shoes.

Plae actually has a ton of different minimalist style shoes, so I definitely recommend checking out the website! What also makes these an attractive option is that they are machine washable!

Click here to get 20% off your first purchase at Plae.

And there we have it – the 19 best minimalist shoe options for kids.

As a mom, I want to make sure I’m doing the best I can for my kids. When I started to learn about minimalist shoe options, there were many brands and styles to explore so I wanted to make a list that really narrowed it down.

I hope this was helpful! Leave me a comment with your favorite minimalist shoe option!

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