The Best Summer Sandals For Kids (TOMS Vs. FlipFlops Vs. KEENS…It’s a SHOWDOWN, People)

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This picture cracks me up.  For the record, we did NOT ask them to pose like that.  I think this is the result of being the offspring of a fashion blogger.  God help me.

In any case, SUMMER IS A COMIN’.  Are you ready?

Normally, my answer would be a resounding NO.  But this year, in terms of summer rediness, I’m doing pretty good.  That’s one of the many (many!!) bonuses of a tropical Spring Break: we’re totally ready for SUMMA SUMMA SUMMATIME.

And by “we” I mean the boys.  I am in no way done shopping for myself (don’t get any crazy ideas, Mike Draugelis).

But let’s talk about sandals for kids.  More specifically, let’s get down to the nitty gritty and discuss the following pressing topics:

1. TOMS vs Flip-Flops

2.  Are Keen sandals worth it because they are just so truly practical even if they are also completely awful looking?  AMIRIGHT?!!?

My Feelings on TOMS Can Best Be Expressed by This Photo Montage

Here’s the thing:  I love TOMS for littles in the summer.  They’re lightweight, won’t overheat the feet, can get wet, will dry, and both of my boys have been putting them on by themselves for years.  (This is the main advantage they have over Saltwater sandals.  We’re big, HUGE fans of Saltwater here, but I hate having to buckle them each and every time we go outside.  But for all-day outside exploring, they are hard to beat.)

We went to Puerto Rico for Spring Break, and no matter the activity, the boys romped around in their TOMS.

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Also?  That BELLY. 

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wearing

RainesOriginal Penguin Print Polo, Volcom Blocko Board Shorts, TOMS Classics in navy, sunglasses are sold out but these orange aviators are similar

Me – James Perse Slub Raglan TeeUGG Australia Char Mar Ankle Strap Wedge Sandal

PaxOriginal Penguin Stripe Polo, Volcom Surf& Turf Hybrid Shorts, Tiny TOMS in red, Pax’s socks are old, but he’d be all over these shark socks, the orange sunglasses are gone, but yellow is still available

 

I also love the fact that for every pair of TOMS purchased, a pair is donated to a child in need.  Such an amazing concept.  Also, they’re affordable.   So when my oldest loses his TOMS mid-trip and is forced to wear his flip-flops for the rest of the vacay, I’m $30-ish mildly annoyed rather than $50+ ENRAGED.  Win-win.flip-flops-for-kids
 Kowabunga tshirt, Volcom Recliner Sandal

OK, Flip-Flops.  Bring It.

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Both of my guys love their flip-flops.  Raines loves being able to kick them off so easily (which is exactly the problem if you ask me), and Pax loves them because his brother has them.  The reason I always pack the flip-flops, despite my misgivings, is because this pair of TOMS isn’t the first shoe to be lost on a Draugelis vacay.  And then there was that time we made it (3+ hours) into a trip only to discover that neither boy was wearing any shoes at all.  GRRRR.

So yeah – no matter the destination, flip-flops are in the bag.  (Besides, they’re great for dirty bathrooms.)

 

In any case, I was pretty impressed with how well R did hiking in the jungle rainforest in his flip-flops.  Logical consequences people.

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I don’t love flip-flops for toddlers (or heck, kiddos four and under).  It’s tough for them to walk around in flip-flops for any length of time.  HOWEVER….if your little one insists (and Pax can be verrrry crazy I mean convincing when he wants his way)….I swear by Reef’s Ahi Flip-Flop.  The tinier sizes have that back strap (you can see it on Pax below), which makes a huge difference.

For older kiddos?  Volcom.  Really comfortable, but insanely durable, too.

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wearing

Raines – Kowabunga tshirt, Volcom Recliner Sandal

Pax – Um…the hysterical outfit I bought downtown Puerto Rico in desperation when we realized we let Pax leave the hotel in leggings and a sweatshirt in 90 degree weather.  #badmommy.  His shoes are Reef’s Ahi Flip-Flops (exact color is sold out, but Nordstrom has a ton).

 

 

Now…let’s talk KEENS

You’re familiar with Keen sandals, right?  If a hiking boot and a sandal had a baby….you’d end up with Keens.  As you can imagine, if one is the type that insists on dressing their child like a tiny hipster [S raises hand] Keens do NOT make the cut.

But….as I recall, when Raines was a little guy, Keens were my go-to summer sandal for his little self.  I’m sure I have a picture around here somewhere…..

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Oh. My. GAWD.  Look at my baby boy.  Look at my RAINES!  Look at that face, those intense eyebrows, those lips, those pudgy little hands…..I DIE.  Where did the time go?  Who cares what they look like, my Keen-wearing little man and I had so, SO many adventures together!!  Keens protected his cute little piggies everywhere we went:  climbing on rocks, wading through streams, stomping in mud…

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And now I’m sobbing.  Keens, I LOVE you, I really, really do.  I do NOT care that you are not hipster-baby approved.  You are totally practical and durable and all of those totally boring words which when put together in this case means FUN.  You. Are. FUN.

(And crazy-emotional-mom-rant aside, you’ve gotta check out the colorway on the girls’ sandals.  Well played, Keens.  My favs are below.)

Shop – Fav Sandals For Kids

My Favorite TOMS

 

 

Durable, Walkable Flip-Flops

 

 

The Coolest Keens

 

 

You guys, what the heck did I do for Pax when he was a toddler?  I know I didn’t agonize over his footwear choices like I did for Raines….

Riiiiiiight.  [hangs head in shame] Those poor, second babies.

 

xo!

S

A big, HUGE thank-you to Nordstrom for sponsoring this post – this walk down memory lane was such fun.  As always, all product choices, thoughts, and opinions are my own.  (Or as Pax would say, “MINE OWN”.)  And readers, thank you for supporting the retailers who help support The Mom Edit  – it doesn’t go unnoticed, and is so very much appreciated.

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About Author

Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name's Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and denim-underwear, always.

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46 Comments

  1. Possibly overly practical, but, personal experience: if your baby is crawling at the beginning of the summer and walking by the end of it, the tip of the sole curving up over the shoe on the Keens means that the tip of the toe hasn’t been completely destroyed by the crawling before they even get to walk on the shoes. Unlike those oh-so-pretty Saltwater Sandals.

    I gotta admit, though: the woman-sized Saltwaters are my choice for beach vacations. They’re kinda mom-shoes, but they survive lakes and mud and manage to look at least SLIGHTLY nicer than flipflops, and then you throw them in the washing machine and hang them to dry and they look ok again. Sometimes, you don’t need gorgeous. Sometimes, you just need the perfect cross-section between durable, comfortable, and cute.

    • Ros – I’m SO with you on the adult Saltwaters!! Pretty much my go-tos for serious playtime, or even when I know we’ll be doing a ton of walking.

  2. Yes. Toms allll the way! My little guy (2 1/2) wore his Toms all last summer, wouldn’t put anything else on! I’ve been debating getting some for my girls (4 and 5), but they still fit their salt water sandals, which I LOVE and they love, bonus!!! And I only have to do the 4yo’s up for her 😉 lol.
    Keens…..yup. Ugly. Can’t do it. I get the whole practicality side….but I am quite possibly too fashion obsessed *embarrassed* saltwater sandals are a great alternative!
    Love your photos, love your blog, love how it’s changed my wardrobe and after a few years of reading, I’ve FINALLY gotten to the point where I look in the mirror every so often (not as often as I’d like…..but progress! Lol), and think, “NAILED IT!”. Big change from being depressed and therefore grumpy every morning cause nothing was working…..my children thank you

    • Lori, thank you SO much for leaving this comment! It seriously made my day!! I’m always surprised by how much clothes matter to my own daily happiness. When I’m dressed like “me”, I always feel better. Am thrilled to hear you’re figuring it out, too. xo!

  3. All of mine ages 8, 5, & 2. Have TOMs and love them. Their feet so get stinky though.

    My daughter (9) has had keens before but never wore them saying they were uncomfortable. Last year I got her Chacos. And she has loved. All the camp counselor college kids wear them so that really sold her on them.
    http://www.chacos.com/US/en-US/Mobile/Product.mvc.aspx/24065Y/83335

    I bought her a pair of saltwater sandals per your recommendation this spring and she is loving them. She loves cute shoes but they must be really comfortable.

    For flips flops we love Reef mush. And also Sanuks.

    My two year old son wears his crocs (his have extra traction) most of the time. I know they are not cool but I like he can put them on himself and they are his favorite since he is too little for flip flops.

  4. There has been a lit of criticism of the paternalistic, local-economy disrupting approach of Tom’s. This quote in particular: “If you give a kid shoes,” she told me, “they wear out or they grow out of them, and then what do they have? If you give the kid’s parents a job, the whole family will always have shoes.” (Source: http://whereamiwearing.com/2011/04/toms-shoes/ )

    I love saltwater sandals for my little and found by age 3 she could mostly handle a buckle on her own and by age 4 completely independent.

  5. 1. How STINKING CUTE are the baby pics of R? Seriously.
    2. Am I missing it because O…M….G…where is his backpack from? My son would FLIP for that. FLIP.
    3. Chucks. For ever and ever and all my littles. Amen.

    PS that pic of R Spiderman-ing up the walls is awesome and something that happens in my kitchen doorway every. single. night. Lol.

  6. We have trouble with Keens (narrow feet) and though I finally got a pair to fit, they seem to rub on his toes and he prefers his tennis shoes every time. How are the Salties for narrow feet and ankles? And how well do Toms hold up for second or third child wear?

  7. Caitlin Clancy on

    I live in Vancouver, B.C. And my two boys ( 2 and 4 ) LIVE in their Natives practically 6 months of the year. It’s a local company, the colours are amazing, rinse off in the tub/sink and resist odour. I refuse to put them in Crocs but these I love! Also, love your blog.

    • I love the look of Natives, but have never actually tried them. I worry about them rubbing on ankles, etc. But hmmm….you make a good case…..

      • Shanna they are so comfy. I have a friend that has a pair for herself and seriously ALL kids love them. Have your boys try them out. You won’t be disappointed. My daughter went through a pair or two a year until she was 5 and decided they weren’t fancy enough. My son who is 22 months started wearing them a few months ago and prefers them over anything else. We are HUGE fans!

  8. I think Toms are adorable but they would never hold up to my three year old. He wears out serious rubber sneakers in a couple months. Plus he’s sooo picky, he told me he wanted blue shoes with straight velcro (no loops) that light up. 🙂 very opinionated

    • I love Natives too but they only worked for awhile for my boys. One has narrow feet and they gave him blisters and the other has wide sweaty feet (a conspiracy I assume, just so I can’t hand down shoes I am sure of it) and it also gave him blisters. So I would say to let your kids try them out first before you go on a trip or something.

  9. Personally I stay away from Toms because of the above reason, but Keens and Salt Water sandals have worked well for my kids. I am jealous that some of you can wear Salt Water sandals- I wouldn’t last 5 min. in those flat shoes- I’m stuck with ugly old Keens. I need the support.

  10. Emily Juergens on

    We do Natives for our 3.5 yo and 1.5 yo. They are durable, closed toed, gender neutral, and pretty cute (I think).

  11. Lots of replies already, but I have got to give my own shout out to Natives. My boys have been wearing them for at least three years. They are as easy for kids to put on as crocs, but so much better looking. I have a pair of flip flops and they are very comfortable. I think Toms fall apart quickly and smell bad once they get wet.

  12. We’ve have been through quite a few pairs of Keens and Toms – last summer my son was 2.5 and my younger daughter was 5. I have 2 complaints with the keens – hard to get on their feet and they smelled awful! My daughter had a pair of Toms and while I love them for myself, they are not made for kids with skinny feet or heels – much better for wider feet. They also smelled something wicked!! These year, we opted for Tsukihoshi sandals – so far so good. You can throw them in the washing machine which is a huge bonus for my smelly kid’s feet and they can get them on “by all myself” as my 3 year old would say 🙂 It doesn’t look like Nordies sell them but zappos does – http://www.zappos.com/tsukihoshi-kids-girls-sandals/CK_XARC51wFaAtoKwAED4gIEARgCCw.zso?s=goliveRecentSalesStyle/desc/

  13. I have two sneaker adverse girls so we are saltwater sandals all the way! However, I also got tired of the constant buckling for my littlest. We found that the Umi “Cecelia” looked just like big sister’s salt waters but had velcro hidden under the buckle – also they were reported to be very comfortable. Here’s to hoping that this year everyone in this house can manage their own buckles!

  14. Toms are cute but not practical for a family with wide flat feet. Seriously, they make my feet hurt just looking at them so for that reason I wouldn’t put them on my kids. We also don’t really care about being stylish hipsters. Even if we wanted to look cool that’s just not going to happen. 😉

    Keens used to work great for my boys, ages almost 6 and almost 9, but last year we started having a wicked stink problem. After much internet research I tried several methods to cure this but nothing worked. They’d be fine for a few days but start smelling again. And this was after soaking them in Icky Poo for 12 hours and drying all day in the sun! So, I think we’re done with Keen sandals. I did buy Keen oxford type for indoor school shoes this winter and while the ones for the 6 y/o are super cute they haven’t held up as much as I would have liked for a $50 pair of shoes. For reference, these are the shoes:

    http://www.zappos.com/keen-kids-chandler-cnx-little-kid-big-kid-blue-depths-lime-green

    Anyway. Crocs have been the boys’ favorite summer shoes for years and I’ve given up and accepted it. I’m not crazy about them for riding bikes or for any extended period of walking and playing – traveling, the zoo, amusement parks, etc. – but they’re mostly fine for daily wear. Especially because of how easy they are to clean. My 9 y/o is probably getting a bit too old but I also keep an eye on what other kids at school are wearing and I still see them on plenty of kids in the upper elementary crowd.

    But since they do need a decent pair of sandal type shoes that aren’t Crocs or flip flops we’re trying Tevas this summer. Just the pain old throwback 1990’s style.

    http://www.zappos.com/teva-kids-hurricane-3-toddler-little-kid-big-kid-hydro-navy

    We’ll see how they work out. Hasn’t been warm enough for them to be worn more than once or twice.

  15. Keens = 1.25 years worn-literally-every-day INDESTRUCTIBLE. No floppy insole to catch sand/mud, one-piece construction, hose down either on or off the kid! My son now has the pale pink ones (he still like shopping in the girls’ department) and loves them to death. But yeah, they look goofy, especially with all his primary colored boys’ hand-me-downs. 🙂
    The Toms I tried on him last year got a hole through the canvas right by the big toenail, in about two months. So… waste of money in my book.

  16. I go with Keen-type sandals for littles. Covered toes, traction and support are key for playing. Flip flops are for the beach or pool only.

    I gotta say, I would have conniption if my kid lost a $30 shoe. That is actually a good chunk of money for something that they will outgrow in 6 months. Sigh, some of us be poor. I’ll keep searching thrift stores.

  17. My four year old LOVES his red Keens. They are soooo red….Anyway, we ended up in the Keen Seacamp instead of the Newport. The Newport is the Keen everyone thinks of, sort of bulbous and thick soled. The Seacamp is a thing soled version that is narrrowing and more flexible. For my boy who previously would only agree to shoes if they had lights on them (god help me and those damned police car sneakers from StrideRite that he wore EVERYWHERE) has worn the Seacamps everyday since we go them, wore them on vacation, in the water, to preschool and they look great. And are still very red.

  18. How are the natives for super-narrow feet? Been looking everywhere for a slip-on (slide in) that’ll stay on crazy narrow feet. My oldest is still wearing his Kamiks around because they’re the “easiest to put on.” It was over 80 degrees today.

    • I totally want to know the answer to this, too! I have 3 little girls, and one has super-narrow feet like I do. We both have a horrible time finding shoes that fit – especially slip-ons! The other two get to rock Toms and Keens (and flip-flops) all spring through fall, but they don’t fit my other narrow-footed daughter and I at all. It’s an epic event to find anything for us.

      • The Native millers tend to run wider than the Jeffersons. The Jefferson more of a converse fit. Millers more of a vans. Should work fine for narrow feet.

  19. We are serious fans of Natives over here. Way cuter than crocs, haven’t met a kid who didn’t love them, antibacterial, can get wet, and I could go on….

  20. Love reef flip flops. Otherwise, Natives here too. And agree w Chacos. Both are perfect for summer day camps, camping, hiking, kid friendly music festivals.

  21. Another vote for Natives! Discovered them three years ago, and they have been the only summer shoe for us ever since! Try the Native Miller (they look like vans) on chubby toddler feet, and the Jefferson for narrow kid feet (they look like chucks). They also have a toms style now too I’ve been wanting to try. Easy for kids to put on, we don’t have a problem with rocks getting in (like with flip flops), no blisters, no stink, and they go from park to splash pad to pool no problem! I swear I don’t work for them, but maybe I should! Ha!

  22. As much as I love your blog, we are a Keens family. Yes they are ugly but they withstand the abuse of toddler through 40+ year olds that live at my house. I did have to google the stink issue one particularly humid summer. Very simple to do. While I love Toms, they are a waste of money! Never last more than 2 months. I’ve relegated mine to house shoes to make them last.

  23. Law mama Liz on

    I was going to reply and ask where the natives are – everyone else beat me to it! My kid was refusing to wear anything but crocs (so ugly). Finally got him into a pair of Natives and we haven’t looked back. Toms are our back up shoes for summer. And my baby girl is wearing saltwaters for the summer. We’ll probably get a pair of Natives for her too, or maybe tiny toms? Trying not to OD on cute baby girl shoes. So hard.

  24. Right now my son has Croc type shoes and rubber boots (he loves his boots!), but really needs something else. I would love to have Natives and/or something like Keens for him. We live in the country, and TOMS or even open toed sandals really wouldn’t make the cut! Loved this article! You always nail the pressing issues!

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