Best Running Shoes for Kids Reviewed & Rated
It’s no question that, for children under 12, there is a limited range of quality running shoe options. Parents’ best bet is to find a shoe that is of highest quality without compromising the family budget; and is a pair that affords both comfort and stability. Unfortunately, low-budget retail stores may not offer the best quality shoe. These stores may seem more favorable wallet-wise, but the cheaper alternatives will not ensure the overall health of a child’s feet. Read on to find out our top 10 running shoes for your child!
This is the best product on our list that is currently in stock:
Leather and Mesh
Top 10 Running Shoes for Kids
1. Adidas Ultraboost
Continental Rubber Traction
Stabilizing Torsion System
One of the best models ever made, the adidas Ultraboost is a winner shoe you’ll want to check out. Not only does it feature some of the industry’s best cushioning, it’s also made with a flexible Stretchweb outsole that works both on road and light trail, meaning you’ll be getting a versatile pair of high performance equipment that’s not just functional, but looks amazing as well.
Made with tiny TPU pellets, the BOOST is a responsive and cushioning form of shock absorption that’ll do amazing in terms of protecting the joints and muscles from hard landings. 20% more shock absorbing than the brand’s previous models, the Ultraboost will also bounce back more efficiently, allowing for amazing energy return that allows for faster and longer runs, even in less than ideal conditions.
The adidas response to the trend of knit uppers in athletic footwear, Primeknit is a great material that offers just the right amount of stretch and flexibility for children’s growing feet. The midfoot is supported with an external cage, while the heel clutching system offers some of the best lock in you can get in sneakers.
2. New Balance 990v4
Premium Pigskin Suede Upper
Padded Collar and Tongue
Helps with Overpronation
Durable Rubber Outsole
Unsuitable for Rain and Snow
Another stability road runner for those who tend to overpronate, the New Balance 990v4 is a high quality product that’s made with some of the best materials you will find in footwear made for running. The premium pig suede upper with mesh overlays ensures a durable style that’ll hold up to playground and park use, and will offer plenty of protection in the sole in terms of support and shock absorption. Not just functional, but stylish as well, this is definitely a pair of footwear you should consider.
With activity comes sweating, and with sweat, it’s inevitable that odor-causing bacteria will appear. The mesh overlays on the 990v4 ensure a good amount of breathability, preventing your little one from having to suffer in wet socks. Furthermore, both the collar and the tongue are padded for additional comfort.
Using soft cushioning EVA foam for the midsole, the 990v4 offers support through the tougher polyurethane rim that’s located on the inside of the shoe, preventing overpronation and helping achieve better alignment for the prevention of foot and joint problems that may appear later in life.
3. Adidas CF Racer
Ballistic Nylon Upper
Mesh For breathability
Injected EVA Midsole
Injected Rubber Outsole
From humble beginnings in Germany to become a household name known around the world, you simply can’t talk about athletic shoes without talking about Adidas. The CF Racer running shoe features support and lightweight construction at the forefront, with an injected rubber outsole and injected EVA midsole to provide both support and durability.
What do we mean when we talk about “injected EVA?” The midsole on any running shoe is going to be molded specifically for that model, but the mechanics in which they are made is different. Compression molding is similar to shaping Play-Doh, where a block of EVA foam is compressed down in a metal mold. Heat and pressure are then applied, allowing the foam to completely form to the mold. Injection molding is similar to pouring batter into a waffle iron or cake pan, where the EVA foam is heated until it becomes a liquid, which is then injected into the mold. Injected EVA soles are made out of a solid piece of EVA foam, making them more uniform in design and ensuring that any wear and tear on the midsole is spread evenly, increasing long-term durability.
The upper features both ballistic nylon and mesh. Ballistic nylon was originally designed by DuPont for use in military jackets. The term “ballistic” refers to this original purpose as it was designed to protect the wearer from shrapnel and other fragmented debris. While military uniforms now use Kevlar for this purpose, ballistic nylon is still widely used in footwear for its strong durability. Mesh panels are also used in the CF Racer to promote breathability.
4. Nike Downshifter 8
Hook And Loop Closure
Breathable Textile Lining
Limited Long-Term Durability
Named after the winged Greek goddess of victory, Nike has become an athletic and style icon around the world. The latest version of the Downshifter sneaker features elastic laces and a child-friendly hook and loop closure. The Phylon midsole is a signature Nike technology, which we’ll talk about in more detail after the jump. The Downshifter 8 is also a lightweight and flexible shoe, sporting a mesh upper with synthetic overlays.
Nike shoes often feature a wide range of technologies that work to improve the shoe in various ways, and the Phylon midsole used in the Downshifter 8 is one such technology. The Phylon midsole is made of EVA foam pellets (EVA being the most common type of foam used in midsoles) that are heated, pressurized, and set in a mold. This allows the foam to be formed into a wide range of midsole types, and Phylon provides a more responsive type of support than typical compressed EVA foam.
While the act of tying one’s shoes is simple on the surface, it involves a great deal of fine motor control that children are often still in the process of developing. Without this sort of motor control, children can easily become frustrated with traditional laces. This is why there is a wide range of closure types available for children’s shoes. The Downshifter 8 uses a hook and loop closure that is Velcro-based to make it easier, as well as elastic lacing that provides a secure and customized fit.
5. ASICS GEL-Contend 4
Fits Custom Orthotics
Great for Gym Class
This shoe upholds the ASICS brand through the company’s understanding of the needs of the just-starting-out runner. Children whose feet are still growing will experience well-designed arch support and extreme comfort wearing these shoes.
For the wearer who requires custom orthotics within their shoes, it’s a comfort to know that the sockliner is completely removable. Even with an orthotic appliance in place, there is still enough wiggle-room within the toe box. With this much room in the shoe interior, this shoe works well with feet of varying widths.
As this shoe’s name implies, there must be a GEL component somewhere in its makeup. It is in fact employed in the shoe’s midsole, where the heel benefits from this silicone-based gel cushion for the purpose of creating even more shock absorption.
6. New Balance 680V5
Leather and Mesh
A traditional looking running shoe that has one goal and that is to help your child run as fast as they can. New Balance helps your child feel great all day with a well-cushioned midsole and Abzorb technology that helps them outrun anyone else.
The foam-based cushioning allows for tremendous shock absorption by dispersing the force throughout the shoe to avoid injury or impact on specific parts of your foot and lower body. It is an important feature that is put into almost all New Balance shoes and makes them especially great for distance running.
If there is one brand of shoes that always beats out the others when it comes to the proper health and protection of your feet it's New Balance. They mean business when it comes to quality and creating shoes that will stand the test of time when it comes to supporting and comfort. Although not always the most stylish on the market they continue to perform almost like no other.
7. Salomon Speedcross J
Protective Toe Cap and Mudguard
A trail runner for those who prefer something a bit more sturdy and versatile, the Speedcross J was made by Salomon, a brand which specializes in outdoor gear with high performance features. This particular model was made for all types of terrain, and is suitable for use in both dry and wet conditions (although, do note it’s not waterproof). An EVA midsole takes care of cushioning, while grip is provided by a Contagrip outsole with deep lugs.
We all know children aren’t exactly patient when it comes to getting dressed, so a pair of athletic footwear that’s easy to slip on and off can be a lifesaver in situations where you need to get ready fast. The quicklace system found in the Speedcross J is effective in providing a secure fit, but is a breeze to adjust, even by small hands.
Though the appearance of a running sneaker may not be your first concern, it’s quite possible that your child will have something to say about how their new shoe looks. The Salomon Speedcross J comes in fun, colorful options that will catch anyone’s attention, bringing a playful air to an otherwise professional piece of running equipment.
8. Under Armor X Level Scramjet
3D Printed Mesh Upper
Charged Cushioning in Heel Area
UA Hero Flex Sole
Rubber Traction Pods
Unsuitable for Machine Washing
Made for serious speed and performance, the X Level Scramjet by Under Armour is one of the most comfortable pairs of sneakers you can get for your kid. Not only do they look and feel futuristic (which should satisfy the more picky dressers out there), it’s also equipped with some of the best energy return and shock absorption you can get in a kids shoe. A soft 3D printed mesh upper ensures a good fit, while also providing plenty of airflow for a breathable feel.
Active kids who are always running around jumping, and getting into fun adventures are inevitably going to sweat during the day. Bacteria and fungi that naturally grow in moist environments are going to love this, which is why a good moisture wicking lining is crucial. The Scramjet has an inner treated with anti-odor technology, so you’ll be happy to know you won’t have to suffer stinky feet and shoes after a day of playing.
The shock absorbing system of this sneaker is made with a full length EVA foam midsole, with the addition of Charged Cushioning under the heel that’ll absorb the shock generated on impact, and prevent any damage or fatigue traveling up the legs. Not only will this mean a healthier physique, but also longer playing and running sessions.
9. Adidas Hyperfast 2.0 K
Fits True to Size
Padded Collar and Tongue
Tends to Stretch Out
Unsuitable for Overpronation
As the name implies, this shoe’s lightweight design will encourage your budding runner to fly on the pavement. Adidas scores highly in the cushioning department with this shoe and continues to deliver support during a child’s stride where it’s needed most.
The shoe is made mostly of synthetic textile for the purpose of remaining light, and its durable outsole can withstand any sport in which your child chooses to play. The brand carries out its commitment to quality in constructing this shoe to withstand any rigorous activity.
The midsoles cushioning prevents feet from tiring during activity through even load distribution and allows every step to feel easy and comfortable. Ankles are supported further by way of a padded tongue and collar, forming a relaxed, secure fit. While being slightly more in price than the average model, Adidas has always been known for its long-standing reputation for athletic footwear. When choosing appropriate quality footwear for your child’s sport of choice, you need to look no further than the Hyperfast 2.0 Ks.
10. Stride Rite M2P Ian
Easy to Clean
Hook and Loop Closure
Memory Foam Footbed
This shoe makes the list for the toddlers and preschool-aged children due to its durability and the ease with which parents can slip them onto little feet. Made with high quality materials, these sneakers are perfect for those kids who like to spend all their time moving and playing, and need footwear that's going to allow it.
Stride-Rite caters to the parents who struggle with keeping tiny feet housed within a sturdy shoe and anticipates the time it takes to slip on shoes on an unwilling wearer. These shoes are designed with a velcro hook and loop closure that’s easy enough for an independent toddler to operate themselves. Parents can be assured of their little one’s comfort in these shoes, thanks to the memory foam insoles placed in the footbeds. Not to mention, these leather-mesh shoes are built tough for the rough-and-tumble sort of child who will literally put these pair through its paces.
Again, Stride-Rite anticipates another compulsion children will undoubtedly indulge: the need to jump through puddles and mud. Luckily, parents can rest easy in the knowledge that these shoes are 100% machine-washable. It also doesn’t hurt that these shoes are also constructed with an anti-microbial lining to stave off odors. Parents will love that this shoe completely delivers on quality and value for the price! These shoes were designed with the active toddler/preschooler in mind, and yet, are able to satisfy the parents’ need for a comfortable quality shoe for their children.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
You would not just throw on any pair of shoes if you spent your days running around and playing, so neither should your children. Picking the right pair of running shoes for your kids is very important because of how much those shoes will go through. Your children's day consists of constantly being on their feet, whether they are at school, gym class, playing outside for recess, or out and about with their friends. You want their feet to be comfortable and supported all day, so the first thing you should think about is fit.
The way your kids running shoe fits is extremely important, they need to fit properly. There should be approximately a fingers width between the longest toe and the front of the shoe. If you do not leave enough space their feet will feel squished and uncomfortable throughout the day, but too much space and there is a cause for injury. If your child’s shoes have laces, ensure that they are properly tied up; even double knotted if need be, but not too tight.
The importance of wearing the proper socks with running shoes is huge. First and foremost they must stay up throughout the day, otherwise, blisters and irritation will occur. Ankle socks are great if you do not want your socks to show with perhaps shorts, or cropped pants but they must be high enough that the ankles are protected from the shoe, so no rubbing occurs. The thickness of the sock is up to you and your child and depends on things like how they will affect the fit of the shoe such as making them too tight.
It is recommended to look at more neutral shoes rather than ones with corrective support unless your child has a foot condition where they are in need of extra support. Wearing running shoes that are neutral allow for kids feet to grow and develop however they naturally should, without something that could potentially change how their foot lays. If your child is in need of extra support like potential medical orthotics, ensure that the shoe's sockliner is removable and can properly accommodate it, without changing the fit of the shoe.
Not buying the proper fitting shoe can lead to many serious issues:
Your child should experience immediate comfort when putting on their new pair of running shoes. Unlike other types of shoes, runners should have little to absolutely no break-in period and should feel comfortable and ready to run in straight out of the box. If your child is complaining of something not feeling right, or the shoe being too stiff, it is not the correct fit and should be exchanged for either a different size or a new shoe altogether. They will not feel better with time, and even if they were too, why be uncomfortable for any period of time if it’s not necessary.
Running outdoors, indoors and anywhere they can, children have so much energy that they need to get out throughout the day and giving them the proper shoe to do that it is essential. Really access how your child runs, where they are running and the number of other activities they will be doing while wearing their running shoes. There is a big difference between regular tennis shoes and sneaker and running shoes, and taking the time to ensure you are getting the right shoe to fit your child's needs is very important.
The first thing to decide on is what material you are looking for, and which one will hold up the best over time, considering how they will be worn. The most popular, durable yet breathable materials are leather, suede, and canvas and they all provide your child with something different.
Your child may like the sleek look of a leather upper, however, because of the way our feet move when we run, that part of the shoe tends to crease, especially with a material like leather. Whereas mesh is much more flexible and can easily bend with your feet without showing any signs of wear.
As the warmer, summer months approach it is especially important to buy shoes that wick away moisture because, in the long run, it will preserve the longevity of their shoes. The more feet tend to sweat in shoes, the more moisture that seeps into the insole, cause bacteria to grow and odor to increase. Avoid that at all costs necessary but buying the material that fits your kid's lifestyle.
If you find your children's shoes are always getting dirty and muddy, prevent that by spraying them with a protectant, this can in turn act as a barrier against water making them last even longer. If they are already dirty, materials like leather are convenient because you should be able to wipe away the dirt with a damp cloth, whereas canvas can be a little bit trickier at removing the stain rather than rubbing it around.
The option to machine wash the shoes is a big bonus and can make everyone's life a lot easier, as well as maintain the look of the shoes. Your child’s running shoes will probably be going through a lot throughout the day, from potential scuffs to just the weight of your child stomping down on them, so take the time to go through a few pairs of shoes until you find the pair that can really hold up against your child’s busy life.
When you start your search for children's running shoes you may not realize how many important factors go into picking the perfect pair, from fit to support and everything in between, these will more than likely be your child's go-to shoes throughout the week and therefore should be the most comfortable. Breathability is key where comfort is concerned because it can mean the difference between hot sweaty and potentially smelly feet, and nicely dry and cool feet.
Kids are always on the go and have more energy than adults can dream of, so it is important to differentiate what it is we need in shoes, and what our children need. You do not want your child coming home after a busy day, and taking off their shoes only to find their feet stink. Taking the time to find the proper running shoe material for their needs will change that, and will make them feel confident and comfortable.
Finding breathable running shoes should be pretty easy because most brands realize the significance it has on children's feet, however less expensive brands may use cheaper materials resulting in a shoe that offers zero airflow and that is the last thing your child needs. So what materials are the most breathable?
Materials that are synthetic (which is common) do not allow feet to properly breathe and can cause serious issues down the line, aside from just very smelly feet. When it comes to running shoes, your child is most likely running and sweating in them, so a pair that does not wick away moisture is a big no-no. Aside from not allowing air to flow, synthetic materials can also restrict the foot's movement and not allow them to splay out the way they naturally should.
Running shoes should almost always have a mesh upper as well, this will allow for air to flow throughout the shoe and keep your child's feet feeling nice and cool, especially during warmer months. Although there are leather uppers as well, these tend to be quite a bit stiffer, they will stretch after time if you’re patient, but with children, whose feet are continuing to grow, you may not have the time to wait, so mesh is the best option. Not only will mesh allow for breathability but it also is softer and will allow your kid's feet to easily move around.
Kids running shoes should be comparable to adults in the sense that they offer the right amount of support and fit just right. This is the prime stage in their life where their feet are growing and developing so you want to make sure they are wearing the correct footwear that will ensure everything develops as it should. Sending your child off to school in slip-on shoes or rain boots is fine, but depending on what their day will be consisting of, a pair of shoes that are made to support your child’s feet during physical activities are important to have on hand, to change into.
The amount of support and type of runner they need will vary throughout their childhood, depending on the activities they take part in. If they are for everyday running around, basic cushioning, shock absorbency and ankle support are fine, however, if they are getting involved in sports or track and field you need to look into more of a quality shoe. This shoe should really perform when it comes to shock absorption and good heel stability which will keep the ankle in place, and prevent injuries.
Proper cushioning goes hand in hand with support and is very important, so the midsole should be of good quality. A cupsole is common with kids shoes, but they are cheap and do not offer a comfortable platform for your feet to rest on, especially while you run. Foam midsoles will offer the most amount of comfort and will best help to absorb shock.
Although you may think the more supportive the shoe the better that is not always the case with children. When it comes to shopping for yourself, and other adults extreme support can be a must-have because of your age and the possible injuries you will be prone to. Children are still growing, and having running shoes that do not allow their feet to properly splay out can damage them long term.
Buying shoes for your children can be fun, there are so many brands creating different stylish and fun shoes every day, however when it comes to running shoes, try to not keep style at the forefront of your mind, and more important qualities there instead. The second you start browsing for shoes your child is going to be drawn to certain ones, based on color, design, and style and although running shoes can be both cute and supportive, that isn’t always the case, and the priority should always be fit and support.
There should be a good amount of traction on the bottom of the shoe, such as flex grooves to ensure stability. If the soles of the shoe are slippery they are almost utterly useless to be worn as running shoes because your child will be slipping and falling all over the place. The amount of grip and traction will vary depending on the type of running shoe you buy; for instance trail shoes, but the smallest bit will make a large difference in how confident your child feels running around on different surfaces.
When shopping for running footwear, whether it’s for yourself or your child, you need to consider the amount and type of cushioning that you will need. Everyday wear certainly won’t require as much as professional training, but some protection from the force that’s generated with every landing may still be a good option.
Most models on this list feature at least an adequate amount of shock absorption, always found in the midsole of the sneaker. Some models go with the traditional EVA foam system, while others introduce tech that’s more advanced, lightweight and does a better job at protecting the joints and muscles from the force of impact. Any shoe that will be used to run in should meet the bare minimum of criteria, with at least a heel cushion. It can be gel, silicone, an air pouch or even a wave plate such as that found in Mizuno shoes, but without this, footwear simply won’t be suitable for athletic wear.
If your child has a training regime that includes pavement running or cross training, you might want to go a step further, and look for something that protects the forefoot as well. Not only will this lower the damage done to their bodies, but it will also give them a much needed push forward with a better amount of energy return they’ll surely appreciate.
One thing to consider, however, is that you should never go overboard with shock absorption and cushioning in children’s footwear. Maximalist shoes will often do all the work in terms of accommodating landings, which may result in weak arches and ankles. Instead, choose an option that is both responsive and protective, while still allowing for the proper development of your child’s podiatric health.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
When your little one shows genuine interest in activities, you want to do all you can to expose them to the experience and teachings it may provide them.
The best way for your child to really get into running is with you! If you run, it's a great idea to have your child join you for a short running session, and will make them feel supported as they do.
Signing up for a 1 mile fun run or their first 5k is also a great motivator, and will help them feel accomplished as they cross the finish line and into your arms!
As your child grows and develops, so do their feet, and the muscles that will help support them as they explore running as a sport. To get the best fit, always leave some room in the toe box for growth, and once they have a few runs under their belt in their new shoes, check in with them if they feel anything hurting after they run, as it may be a sign they need a proper running shoe fitting, or different levels of support from their shoes.
Other Factors to Consider
When used for training, a good pair of shoes will help the person do their best, offering a good balance between protection, cushioning, support and weight. You should be aware of the fact that the more tech there is in a pair of footwear, the more likely it is to have a higher weight, which may not seem as much, but over a few hours can cause lots of fatigue.
The best possible choices of footwear, sneakers, boots or school shoes, should always try to weigh as little as possible, as this will contribute to them being more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time (such as at school).
Spending $150 on a pair of Oxfords or work boots may not seem that extravagant to you, but you will need to consider that when shopping for kids, they're only going to be able to wear their footwear for 6 months or so. That's why the price of an item can play such a huge role.
If you need an everyday shoe that'll work well on the playground, then you should definitely try and go with something in the average price range, as it'll give you a good combination of quality and value. But, if your child is an athlete and needs professional equipment, you may have to invest in higher priced items in order to provide them with the protection and features they require.
A good way to save some money can be looking into older models (when they can be found). Most sportswear manufacturers update their products every 6 to 12 months, with small improvements. This means that outlet stores may allow you to purchase last year's model at a fifth of the price of the latest edition. You'll get almost the same quality, but will be happy with the extra funds in your family budget.
Think of all the shoes you own: probably some sneakers, several pairs of everyday shoes, winter and summer footwear, as well as formal options for fancy affairs. Now, imagine if you had to purchase all of these for your kid every year. You would go bankrupt!
That's why going with more versatile products is a good idea. When shopping, consider whether a certain model will be appropriate for school, playtime, as well as after school activities. If you're lucky, you might even manage to find a shoe that'll pass at more dressed up occasions.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How often should I buy new running shoes?
You should be buying quality shoes that last for years, the problem with that though is that your children’s feet are growing at a much faster rate. Depending on their age, you should be checking the fit of their shoes around every 6 months to ensure they still fit comfortably and their toes are not starting to get squished at the front of the shoe.
q: Is flexibility important?
Flexibility is important and the soles should bend and move with your kid's feet as they run. As they get older the amount of flexibility they need or want in a shoe will change, depending on the activities the shoes will be used for or the type of running they do. While they are young though, and their feet are still developing a soft, flexible shoe and sole is best.
q: How tight should the laces be tied?
The laces should be tight snug, but not so much so that they are squeezing your foot. There are a lot of nerves and tendons on the top of your feet where the laces lay and you do not want to damage those in any way, especially with children's feet that are not fully developed. Lace the running shoes to the top eyelet and securely fasten them ensuring they feel comfortable yet snug.
q: How many pairs of running shoes does my child need?
Depending on how often your child wears runners, and if they play sports or activities that require them to have different levels of support or possibly cleats on the soles, two pairs are ideal. You want them to be able to switch between the two if one, for instance, is dirty or not as supportive as the other pair. Keep in mind every 6 months or so you will most likely need to purchase a new pair for your child, so too many pairs on hand at once can be a waste of money.
q: Is traction important?
Yes traction is important in running shoes, the amount however that your child will need is completely dependent on their use of the shoes. If they run track, for instance, the proper grip on the bottom of their shoes is going to improve their performance significantly, but for running around on the playground it is not a necessary feature. Take the time to determine the exact shoe your child needs.