Toddler shoes for us is like catnip for cats or porn for adolescent boys. For some, it's even an addiction -- like methadone to a heroine addict. Not quite the Louboutins of your dreams, but a vicarious experience that makes the world a better place.
Personally, I maintain a moderate habit and try to limit myself to a new purchase every couple of months. I know some moms that binge on a two new pairs every month, like my sister, who came by it honestly by inheriting the habit from our mother when she was on the scene. They are what you would call Class A shoe consumers, always trying to get me to try new brands and peer pressuring me to go to the shoe store with them. I just say no. That's a little too hardcore for me.
Don't get me wrong. I've experimented a lot; I know what's out there. And there are a few standout must-haves (and one major covet) that every mom should try out on their toddlers.
1. Stride Rite. Every mother I know grew up wearing these shoes and continue that tradition by shelling out up to $50 a pop for their own kids' feet. It's worth the price. The shoes are durable and "good," meaning they're not pretend kid shoes that look really cute but reap havoc on their insoles. Nor are they the Saddle Oxfords of yesteryear that provided Draconian levels of ankle support.
2. Keen Kids. Maybe it's a DC thing, but ever since my son and I returned to DC Metro area for a summertime visit, I encounter his Keens ($35-$50) in every shade of the rainbow from beet red to Circus Print. One caveat, every single mother that I talk to says the same thing: "they make my kids feet stink!" So true, but I'm immune to that sort of thing.
3. Crocs. I do not like Crocs for myself or for my son. They're ugly. But once upon a time I said the same of Birkenstocks and now I live in them. I've been told time and again how comfortable and versatile they are for kid's feet, especially on the playground and in all forms of self-made weather (as in romps through muddy puddles). The Crocs shown here might change my tune, though. I don't know that I can resist. Must. Buy. These. Now. $30.
4. Clark's. Toddler sizes in this UK brand are a little bit hard to find, but worth the search. They come in a range of widths and, maybe I'm swayed by my innate trust in Mary Poppins, you can't help but trust that the Brits know what they're doing when it comes to the make and structure of this shoe. My son's Clarks ran me about $64 USD.
5. Camper for Kids. I will not pay $84 for my son's shoes. I will not! But oh how I want them. I love Campers for my own feet. They're cute, earthy and usually comfortable. That's what's holding me back. The Iberian brand is usually comfortable, not always. I've seen lots of kids running around in Campers where I live in Spain and heard a lot of "oh si, son fantásticos," but I have yet to buy a pair.
I covet the Campers but must draw the line somewhere. Right here. In the comments below, can you let me know if you have any experience with Campers for Kids? And what other brands do you (and your toddler, of course ... wink, wink) live by?