A really big shoe for you
May 16, 2006 8:10 PM   Subscribe

Toddler shoes -- what are the best brands?

My son is 15 months old. He's currently wearing a pair of Striderite boots, having moved on from his Robeez slippers when he learned to walk a few months ago. I got the boots at an unbelievably low price, choosing the brand because my well-informed friend (an early childhood educator who has a friend who owns a shoe store) said that Striderite was the best brand for toddler shoes. However, I don't really have any research to support this and I don't know if there are other shoes that would be close seconds. I wear orthotics and a quality shoe is important to me. Can anyone out there help me understand the kids' shoe market? All I can find on the web is information on how to choose shoes, but that doesn't really give me the Consumer Reports-style low-down I'd like. (And AskMe just turns up a question on light up shoes.) Before I spend $70 on a pair of Striderites, I'd like to know that I really am making the best choice for my son.
posted by acoutu to Shopping (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeesh, I don't know about best quality, but at that age and that price, you are probably approaching $1/day the kid will wear them. I don't know much about footwear (though this is the second shoe question I am answering in a row), but I can't imagine that there is any potential benefit that justifies a >$20 toddler shoe.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:23 PM on May 16, 2006

Since the human foot was 'designed' to walk barefoot, there's nothing wrong in continuing to use the Robeez well into the walking months ahead. I have no data or science to back this up, but the more a child becomes familiar with their own bodies, as opposed to the commonly hard shoe-augmented feet -- the better. My 29 month-old (gotta convert to years soon!) son still wears Robeez occasionally and I've noticed that he'll walk longer in them before asking to be carried.
posted by pmbuko at 8:27 PM on May 16, 2006

I find it hard to believe there's a single "best" brand for toddler shoes. Is there a single, universally acknowledged "best" brand for adult shoes?

I believe Striderite is a good brand, but I've bought other brands for my son, too, and haven't noticed my difference in how they wear or how happy he seems in them. More important than brand, I think, is the way they fit, and you already seem to be researching that.

By the way, I think Robeez are terrific, and my son still wears them inside (but wears harder-soled shoes for going outside. What if he steps on something sharp? I don't think Robeez would offer much protection).
posted by Badmichelle at 8:51 PM on May 16, 2006

Response by poster: My community health nurses say that Robeez shouldn't be used once your child learns to walk. Even Robeez (based out of my city) says that they are only designed for indoor and light outdoor use. Per Vancouver custom, my son doesn't wear shoes in our home, so he does spend a lot of time walking barefoot -- and he's been walking for a few months, so this is not a case of putting hard soles on a new walker. However, when we go outdoors, he needs protection against the elements and all sorts of nasty things on the ground. Shoes also provide arch support and things like that. I was able to pull up this podiatry article on children's athletic footwear, but I'm wondering if there's more information out there. It's pretty clear to me that I need to spend $50 or $70 -- I just want a few sources that will point me to the right shoes. (I know I could ask at a children's shoe store, but I'm hoping for some independent info.)
posted by acoutu at 8:56 PM on May 16, 2006

posted by caddis at 9:21 PM on May 16, 2006

There is no universal agreement over what are the best shoes for toddlers. Opinions vary between much support and almost no support and soft soles. In the latter category, I have heard much enthusiasm about preschoolians and soft star.

I recently read an article from a child orthopedic surgeon who stated that the only thing that is important is that the shoe fits well and is absolutely not too small (it is in Dutch, so probably not useful for you, but it is here just in case someone is interested) . But again: opinions and feet vary.
posted by davar at 1:15 AM on May 17, 2006

Look, I'm biased. Former Stride Rite kid myself, bought my own kids Stride Rites, had the Stride Rite company as a customer for many years in the 1970's and 1980's, selling them machinery and materials. They are a very good maker of children's shoes, and their products are generally of top quality, and excellent fit. They are demanding of suppliers, but fair in their dealings, and pretty conservative in their management, meaning they take the job of making kid's shoes seriously.

That's not to say that back in the 1950's, there weren't retail stores selling Stride Rites by use of Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope machines, which was a bad idea, but I don't think Stride Rite had anything directly to do with that. I do know that they have traditionally made a much broader matrix of size/width combinations than any other maker of children's shoes, and have spent a lot of money on such things as advanced MRP II software to support efficient manufacturing of the complex product matrix such a commitment to size accuracy makes. So, if your child has very wide feet, like I and mine, you've got a much better chance of getting a good fit with Stride Rite, than with other brands. And, you'll be getting a brand with a lot more wear and fit testing behind it, than other choices.

Stride Rite costs more, but there is more behind Stride Rite shoes. In this case, you really do get what you pay for.
posted by paulsc at 2:15 AM on May 17, 2006

Paulsc: do you know anything about Striderite's current labor practices? I know they used to be made in USA, but are now imported from the Far East. This would be okay, I guess, if they're made by folks earning a living wage. Is this company as concientious about their workers as they are about kids' feet?
posted by rikschell at 4:03 AM on May 17, 2006

We go with strideright because they're pretty much the only brand that will accept my daughter's orthodics and still fit. Bonus.
posted by plinth at 4:16 AM on May 17, 2006

"Paulsc: do you know anything about Striderite's current labor practices?..."
posted by rikschell at 7:03 AM EST on May 17 [+fave] [!]

Like thousands of other Americans, I left the footwear industry in the late 1980's, when import quotas and protections evaporated, and business essentially moved offshore. Overall, the footwear business, more than most others, is a complex relationship of suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers, and the globalization of the industry in the last 30 years has been driven by forces as diverse as environmental concerns about tanning [PDF file] to labor cost considerations. Actually, labor costs are a smaller part of footwear manufacturing costs than they are of apparel manufacturing. Footwear manufacturing can be a significantly more complicated process than apparel manufacturing, but it is more highly mechanized, and thus, generally more capital intensive.

Stride Rite has a history of being a socially conscious company, but all companies bear responsibility to stockholders. Stride Rite has recently acquired Saucony, and has ongoing production agreements with Achilles Corporation, among other producers. As contract production organizations go, they are as good as any, but if what you are looking for is a company that does business entirely in the U.S., your choices are constantly shrinking. It's not an industry the U.S. really wants to encourage, and the pressures against the industry, in terms of environmental regulation, labor and capital availability, and trade regulation are substantial.
posted by paulsc at 4:37 AM on May 17, 2006

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