Best Running Shoes for Kids Reviewed & Rated

For parents, hunting down a running shoe that’s functional, comfortable, and affordable for their child can sometimes amount to the same kind of effort as a treasure hunt. From the toddler who’s just starting to walk to the preteen who’s just starting out in athletics, children require different aspects in footwear dependent upon the activity. With so many choices out there, how is a parent to weed out the pairs that fit all criteria equally amongst a host of options?

Last Updated: June 26, 2018
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By Himmatpreet Kaur:

Our most recent update took a fresh look at our list of running shoes for kids to be sure that we consistently bring you the most current, up-to-date and best-rated shoes on today's market. We also reviewed our criteria and frequently asked questions sections to ensure that the information is accurate, complete and up-to-date.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children’s shoes be modeled upon the bare foot. As a child’s foot develops, the primary role of a shoe should be protected from injury and infection. Therefore, a quality shoe for one so young should consider the following factors:

  • Flexibility
  • Shock absorption
  • Load distribution
  • And Elevation

Restrictive, stiff shoes need not make any parent’s list of running shoe options, as proper support and fit in a shoe are crucial to the growing feet of a child. Arch support and ankle support are also necessary to keep feet and ankles healthy.

Featured Recommendations

ASICS Gel-Noosa Tri 11 GS
  • ASICS Gel-Noosa Tri 11 GS
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Gel cushioning
  • Seamless liner
  • Price: See Here
Nike Downshifter 7
  • Nike Downshifter 7
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Flex grooves
  • Seamless design
  • Price: See Here
Adidas Hyperfast 2.0 K
  • Adidas Hyperfast 2.0 K
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Comfortable fit
  • True to size
  • Price: See Here

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 favourable 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!

 

10 Best Running Shoes for Kids

 

1. ASICS Gel-Noosa Tri 11 GS

ASICS continually creates shoes that scream comfort, and support. These Gel runners are the perfect option if your child needs extra support and likes the feeling of running on clouds. The rearfoot gel cushioning ensures proper shock absorption and the seamless construction will allow for zero form of irritation or potential blisters.
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Removable Sockliner
Becoming more and more available is the option to remove the sockliner from the shoe, this allows for a tremendous amount of versatility and lets you add in more support if needed. If your child is in need of medical orthotics, a removable sockliner is a must and can be the difference between being able to buy a pair of shoes or not.

Gel Cushioning
The gel cushioning in the rearfoot optimizes comfort and helps to properly absorb shock leaving your kid’s foot not only comfortable but safe as well. If shock is not properly absorbed, especially while running the foot can be damaged, and at these stages, while the foot is still growing, it is very important to ensure the feet are well protected.

Cost and value
Similar in price to others on the list, these ASICS gel running shoes are not the most affordable option, however, if your child is in need of extra support and cushioning these are a great option and well worth the price. Made with many added in features to ensure your children's feet will be well protected all day.
Pros
  • Rubber Sole
  • Reinforced Toe Cap
  • Seamless Inner
  • Removable Sockliner
  • Gel Cushioning
Cons
  • Size Up for Wide Feet

2. Nike Downshifter 7

These are the perfect running shoe for the active child in your family who likes to run and perform to the best of their ability. The lightweight, seamless design ensures all-day comfort while the flex grooves on the sole make sure they stay on their feet and can properly grip surfaces without the worry of slipping.
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Seamless Design
One of the most uncomfortable things when running in your new shoes is when the materials start to rub and irritate the sides of your feet. If the materials are not sewn together nicely it can cause unnecessary rubbing. The seamless design of these Nike running shoes is perfect for avoiding any type of discomfort and blisters when running.

Flex Grooves
While running around outside either for fun or sports activities it is always important to ensure that you have the most traction and stability possible. The flex grooves on the sole of these running shoes ensure that you will be able to grip most surfaces and stay on your feet regardless of what you may be doing.

Cost and value
These Nike running shoes are a great option for any child that needs lightweight support and stability while still providing them with the speed they need to outrun any possible competition. They are very fairly priced, and a more affordable option on this list.
Pros
  • Flex Grooves
  • Seamless Design
  • Custom Fit
  • Rubber Outsole
  • Leather Overlays
Cons
  • May Show Wear Quickly

3. New Balance KJ890

This shoe boasts style in its offerings of different color choices. Its lightweight design and ABZORB technology allow for comfort that is as close to that barefoot-feel.
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Comfort factor
The shoe’s design lends comfort in its padded tongue and collar, disallowing abrasion around the lower ankle and protecting the top of the foot from the lacing. During a sprint or leisurely walk, heel cushioning is provided to reduce the force of impact.

Breathable and Secure
The mesh material of the shoe upper grants breathability, while the synthetic material affords protection for the child’s foot at the toe cap and quarter. The heel is supported with a sturdier synthetic to ensure the foot is secure.

Cost
While not being the most expensive shoe out there, there is no denying the quality of this shoe! New Balance created this pair to be flexible with your child’s stride and have made wider sizes available.
Pros
  • Wide range of colours available
  • Flexible
  • Very versatile
  • Heel and arch support
Cons
  • Run a half size small
  • Not durable 

4. ASICS Gel Contend 4

4. ASICS Gel Contend 4
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.
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Room for feet plus orthotics
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.

Cushioning system
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.

Cost
The Gel Contend 4s are remarkably priced well for what they can do for your child’s feet. The amount of support and comfort they deliver to the wearer creates more value for this shoe than its actual cost.
Pros
  • Supportive structure
  • Runs wide
  • Can be used as cross-trainers
  • Great arch support
  • Handful of styles to choose from
Cons
  • Sizes run wide

5. Adidas Hyperfast 2.0 K

5. Adidas Hyperfast 2.0 K
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.
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Sturdy design
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.

Comfort factor
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.

Cost
While being slightly more in price than the New Balance KJ890s, 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.
Pros
  • Holds ups well 
  • Fits true to size
  • Available in different colours
  • Offers support 
  • Comfortable fit
Cons
  • Tends to stretch out
  • Not meant for overpronation

6. UA Micro G Assert 6

6. UA Micro G Assert 6
With Under Armour in the running shoe game, this pair holds its own alongside well-known brands in terms of comfort, durability, and style.
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Unique Construction
This far into the list, the Micro G Asserts differs in its shoe upper in that there is a foam layer nestled between two layers of soft, breathable mesh. Leather overlays encase the body of the upper for enduring stability.

State of the Art Technology
Under Armour developed their own cushioning system in Micro G Foam, which allows the wearer a lighter-weight shoe compared to its counterparts. Due to its relative thinness, athletes will feel that much closer to the ground and, in turn, be that much more responsive to what’s underfoot. While at the same time, feet will be energized and given that extra bounce. Anti-odour technology is built into the footbed to discourage odor-causing microbial growth.

Cost
The Micro G Assert 6s are reasonably priced for what they can do for your child’s feet. The feeling of ease and comfort in this shoe increases its value relative to its cost. While comparable in price to the Hyperfast 2.0Ks, this shoe maintains its brand’s integrity through its innovative design and technology.
Pros
  • Foam technology 
  • Anti-microbial footbed
  • Durable against rigorous activity
  • Style options
Cons
  • No wider size options

7. New Balance 680V4

7. New Balance 680V4
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.
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Abzorb Midsole
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.

Podiatrist Recommended
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 its 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.

Cost and value
New Balance continually creates exceptional quality shoes that put your feet first and ensure the utmost comfort and support. At times expensive, these running shoes prove quality doesn't always need to mean expensive. The traditional looking runners will last as long as you need them to and deliver wear after wear.
Pros
  • Leather and Mesh
  • Rubber Sole
  • Abzorb Midsole
  • Traditional Look
  • Podiatrist recommended
Cons
  • Not the Most Stylish

8. Stride Rite M2P Ian

8. Stride Rite M2P Ian
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.
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Ease of Mind for Parents
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.

Washable and Fights Odours
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.

Cost
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.
Pros
  • Easy to clean
  • Anti-odour, anti-microbial
  • Designed for a thicker, wider foot
  • Durable construction
Cons
  • Stitching on closure less durable
  • Runs a size smaller

9. Adidas Altarun K

9. Adidas Altarun K
These lightweight and breathable shoes are always ready for whatever your child’s day may throw at them. The mesh upper will keep your child’s foot cool, and dry while the eco-friendly sockliner provides exceptional comfort and molds to your child’s foot to ensure the perfect fit.
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EcoOrthoLite Sockliner
Having these sockliners not only means great comfort because of how they mold to your feet over time, creating the ideal fit for your child but they are also environmentally friendly. Made from castor beans and thus replacing 20% of the petroleum generally used when making foams, you can feel good about supporting the environment while still providing great quality for your child.

Mesh Upper
One of the most important features to look for in a running shoe is the amount of breathability they provide. Having a mesh upper is essential and will keep your child’s feet dry and cool regardless of what their day consists of.

Cost and value
These Adidas running shoes are very fairly priced, and surprisingly because of the name brand, one of the more affordable options on this list. With all of the features you will be receiving with this shoe they are a great, affordable option.
Pros
  • Mesh Upper
  • EcoOrthoLite Sockliner
  • Supportive Overlays
  • Rubber Cupsole
Cons
  • Run Quite Large

10. Nike Free 5.0

10. Nike Free 5.0
With the Nike brand pumping out sneakers for every activity, this pair of running shoes simulates the barefoot state in its lightweight, supportive design and its performance endures against the frequent use and abuse.
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Conforms to foot
The mesh upper acts as a sleeve in which the foot can slide into a sock-like fit. A dissimilar feature from most other running shoes have this shoe built with asymmetrical lacing to reduce pressure to the top of the foot while still stabilizing the midfoot area. The underfoot platform is responsible for a more natural stride due to its ultra-light flexibility, mimicking a barefoot gait.

Performance-ready
Most parents would expect a shoe to last just long enough to get their money’s worth out of it. This shoe passes this test as it is able to last both extremes of use between the frequent walker to the competitive racer.

Cost
While the Nike Free 5.0s are a well-made pair of shoes, the cost may be off-putting at first glance in comparison to the aforementioned pairs on this list. However, the quality and ease of use in them more than make up for the price.
Pros
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • More room in the toebox
  • Close to feeling barefoot while worn
  • Keeps feet dry and cool
Cons
  • Runs narrow 
  • Runs a half-size smaller

With so many running shoes on the market today, the truly discerning consumer need only concern themselves with the well-being of their children’s health without the worry of spending far too much for a pair that will only be subpar in quality.

Children under 12 will not have the same choices of running shoes as that of a 12-year-old or older, but there are choices out there. Those choices will be the kind of shoes that provide proper cushioning and support for little, but fast-growing feet.

The purpose of this list is to ease the minds of parents with the knowledge that there are affordable, high-quality choices out there; ones that can appeal to both parent and child alike with the requirements needed in a properly built running shoe. Running shoes for children should always be protective, comfortable, and most of all affordable without compromising the overall health of the child.

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Running Shoes for Kids

Fit

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:

  • Blisters
  • Ankle injuries
  • Bunions
  • Pinched nerves
  • Ingrown nails

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.

Durability

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.

  • Leather –  One of the most durable materials but does not allow for the most airflow
  • Canvas – Easy to clean, affordable and vegan
  • Suede – Not as durable as leather yet sofer to the touch

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.

Breathability

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?

  • Leather
  • Suede
  • Canvas

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.

Support

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Q: How often should I buy new running shoes?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: Yes traction is important in running shoes, the amount however that your child will need is completely dependant 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.

Sources


Rockay Running Socks
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