When it comes to back-to-school shopping, the most thrilling purchase has always been a new pair of kicks. I mean, they’re literally the foundation of a fresh wardrobe. That said, picking the best shoes for school is an annual tradition that can easily be fraught with indecision. The styles! The colors! The need for comfort during all the things!

No, it’s not easy–especially when you’ve got a kiddo with opinions. (That’s all of them.) And while it’s important that they look good, they also need to offer real support for growing feet. Moreover, you want to spend your hard-earned money on something that’s not going to look like garbage before they’ve actually grown out of them. After all, that happens soon enough.

Related: 25 outfits every kid will want to rock on the first day of school

From preschool shoes to slips-ons and velcro shoes that save a bit of time and aggravation, we’ve hand-picked some of the best shoes for school this fall that are sure to last–and look good while doing it.

Best shoes for school: Preschool shoes

Nike Dynamo Go



Dynamo Go

The latest release from Nike is designed to go from “zero to play in just two seconds.” Yes please. Dubbed the Dynamo Go, the futuristic-looking style features a collapsible heel which, rather than getting crushed and ruined as they stomp their way in, lets them slide right in. The overall design is soft, squishy yet still super supportive and available in both infant/toddler and kid sizes!

Stride Rite Winslow Sneaker

Stride Rite


Winslow Sneaker

Stride Rite is practically synonymous with kids’ shoes. From sneakers to mary janes, their styles are always meticulously designed with growing feet in mind. They’re also go-to for little ones with wide feet since practically every style is available in wide width. This best-seller not only cradles their foot with super comfy Ortholite® memory foam footbeds but is also equipped with patented sensory pod technology to help feet feel the ground and help prevent slips and tumbles.

Stride RIte Nell Mary Jane

Stride RIte


Nell Mary Jane

Alternatively, for a classic back to school look we’re totally smitten with Stride Rite’s Nell Mary Jane. Like the above pick, they’re crafted with the same patented innovative SRtech™ and ultra-comfy memory foam molded foot beds. They come in the sweetest patent leathers and more traditional colors but gold metallic is our ultimate fave.

native Shoes the robbie



The Robbie

We love Native Shoes so much and the best-selling Jefferson is an absolute summer staple. But for back to school season we’re fond of The Robbie. It’s similar in fit to the Jefferson with a retro-runner inspired silhouette and a chunkier, grippier sole that’s durable but also helps keep dirt out–perfect for playground antics and easy to slip into if they change shoes at school.

Even better, the style is crafted from their eco-friendly material, Sugarlite. Made from 40% bio-based content from sugarcane, it offers all the things we’ve come to know and love about the brand: lightweight, easy-to-clean and odor-resistant but with a greenhouse gas impact that is 22% lower than traditional EVA. They come in a rainbow of colors for toddlers through big kids and retail for $45-50 depending on the colorway.

New Balance 327

New Balance



With their 70s inspired silhouette and hard-wearing nylon and suede construction, the New Balance 327 is a totally classic style, scaled down for your too-cool mini. The nubby sole offers plenty of grip while the fixed lace closure makes it easy for them to slip off and on. And because they’re New Balance, you know they provide top-notch support for growing feet!

See Kai Run Kids Stevie II

See Kai Run


Kids Stevie II

Super flexible and oh-so-stylish, See Kai Run sneaks are always a top-pick for the preschool set. The Stevie II gets high marks for kiddos with wide or chunky feet and they go with everything!

Best velcro shoes

Merrell Big Kid's Nova 2 Sneaker



Big Kid's Nova 2 Sneaker

The hardworking styles from Merrell are a top pick for everything from forest trails to the elementary school lunch line. The Nova 2 is one of our favorites since it’s lightweight but durable with a great tread. The style also comes in a bunch of fun colorways–some that even twin with dad!

Keen Speed Hound




If your fam foregoes the school bus in favor of a bike ride to school, this style from Keen is where it’s at. The Speed Hound features a toe bumper and tread that’s inspired by bike and car tires which expertly grips the ground and won’t wear out even as they drag their toes halfway down the street. And like every Keen style, they’re built to last through multiple kiddos! Available in five great colorways and both little and big kid sizes.

Saucony Jazz Double Hook and Loop Sneaker



Jazz Double Hook and Loop Sneaker

Perhaps one of the most comfortable adult sneakers on the planet, Saucony Jazz styles have been a personal go-to for years. The kiddo version swaps laces for velcro but still offers that same pillowy support and beat up-able nylon/suede combo in a variety of super cool colorways.

Nike Flex Advance



Flex Advance

An extra-wide opening and thick, criss-cross straps make these fresh Nikes an easy choice. They come in a few go-with-everything colors for both toddlers and kids.

Puma Carson 2



Carson 2

This beloved Puma style is a total classic. Available in a ton of great colors and a range of sizes from toddler to big kid, they’re ready to keep up with whatever plans for world domination your little one may have.

Best slip on shoes for kids

kizik kids shoes



Hands-Free Shoes

If you’ve yet to hear of Utah-based shoe brand Kizik, listen up. These were made with you and your kids in mind. Each style is made with a “spring back” heel to go on completely hands-free. No cramming, no whining and no need to even bend down! The kid line just launched recently with three styles to choose from and sizes for toddlers through big kids. (Want to see the tech in action? The demonstration video is definitely worth a watch!)

Smallbirds wool loungers



Smallbirds Wool Loungers

Sustainable meets adorable! Allbirds kids’ line (adorably named Smallbirds) are a shrunken down version of their beloved classics. They’re made with itch-free, ZQ Merino wool that’s not just comfy and breathable, but machine washable as well. The brand only launches kid styles a couple times a year and they sell out fast, so don’t snooze!

Vans Classic Slip Ons



Classic Slip-On

Vans are as classic a slip-on shoe as they come, and a brand that will frankly never go out of style. I also love that they come in a wide range of colors and themes, so you’re sure to find a look your kid will love. With elastic on the sides, these shoes make it easy for little hands to guide them onto their feet.

Lamo Piper Kids



Piper Kids

Similarly styled but a bit lighter, the Lamo Piper comes in glitter and faux snakeskin options that look cool but play hard.

Rothy's Kids Sneaker



The Kids Sneaker

Uber-popular Rothy’s are available in kids’ sizes, too! This eco-friendly brand is dedicated to sustainable fashion (shoes are made out of recycled single-use water bottles), and serve as the perfect way to introduce a conversation about being kind to the Earth with your kids. Also, they’re super comfortable, machine washable and come in an range of fun colors and designs. Win, win!

Cat & jack rory slip on

Cat & Jack


Rory Slip-On

Target’s popular Cat and Jack brand is an affordable option for kids’ shoes that come in cute designs that won’t break the bank. With a hidden elastic component these shoes are easy to put on and comfy, thanks to the 100% cotton upper.

Inkkas Slip On


Inkkas shoes are handmade in Latin America, featuring textiles from around the world in their designs. I love that this company was founded on principles of fair trade and global philanthropy, and well, they’re just really cute. You can also tell your child that when you bought this pair of shoes, a tree was planted in their honor. Pretty neat.




Ultra Flex

The ever-popular Skechers has tons of slip-on styles to choose from, but one of our faves this season? The playground-ready Ultra Flex. The stretchy knit fabric is easy to pull on and stays breathable and cool throughout their adventures. They also offer a super supportive air-cooled memory foam insole to keep them comfortable.

cienta kids shoes



Mary Janes

This European brand is a favorite of Duchess Kate, who puts Cientas on George, Charlotte and Louis. And now you can put them on your kids, too! This classic style goes with everything, and each pair features a sweet and fruity scent. (Well, at first anyway–how do little kids end up with such stinky feet? It’s a true mystery.)

Hey Dude shoes



Slip Ons

Heydude kids shoes come in a wide range of designs but comfort is really their key component: these kids shoes offer an ultra-lightweight outsole, are lined with a soft patterned cotton and come with memory foam insole. And oh yeah, they’re machine washable!

Keen Big Kids' Chandler CNX



Big Kids' Chandler CNX

A versatile style that can carry them from the asphalt to the forest floor and everywhere in between! The Chandler CNX is lightweight and breathable and easy to slip into thanks to an elastic cinch. And we love the toe bumper that not only keeps them protected but saves the shoe from getting shredded the second they hop on a scooter!

Best shoes for big kids

Vans Kids Divine SK8-Hi

Vans Kids



It’s sort of a requirement that mini groms rock a pair of Vans SK8-Hi’s at least once. And since they’re built for kick flips and ollies, you know they’re up to the challenge of cruising the hallways as well. They come in tons of different colors and patterns, but we’re particularly fond of this empowering pair that benefits organizations that uplift and empower women of all ages via the Tides Foundation.

adidas superstar




If they’re good enough for Run DMC, they’re good enough for your kid. The iconic style comes in plenty of different color options, but why mess with a classic?

Custom Chuck Taylor All Star By You



Custom Chuck Taylor All Star By You

If you really want to make back-to-school season extra special, let them customize their own pair of Chucks. A timeless shoe if ever there was one, they can make them their own by designing everything from the panel and stitching colors to embroidered text and patches. A pair of kicks that’s as unique as they are? You know it!

Nike Air Max 90



Air Max 90

Comfortable, durable and fresh AF, the Nike Air Max 90 is sure to win all the cool points with kids and stylish adults alike.

A version of this story was published in 2021. It has been updated.