You wouldn’t go running in any old pair of shoes – neither should your kids.
Although kids seem to have the energy and temperament to run in pretty much anything, the right shoe makes a huge difference in performance and comfort during training runs.
While kids running shoes aren’t as focused on technology and features as adult shoes, you still find large gaps between quality and comfort in kids shoes. The shoes we like find the right balance between comfort and durability.
Most of the running shoes listed are neutral shoes, meaning there is no corrective support placed in the shoes. We feel that unless your child has very flat feet or has been recommended to wear a stability shoe by a doctor, it’s better to use a neutral, non-corrective shoe. This allows their feet grow and develop naturally without artificially changing their running gait.
So let’s get started and check out the best running shoes for kids in 2018.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
New Balance Zante 4
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Nike Zoom Pegasus 35
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New Balance 990 v4
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1. Saucony Kinvara 11
The Saucony Kinvara 11 is a neutral shoe modeled after the adult version of the Kinvara. Like many of Saucony’s running shoes, it’s lightweight with nice cushioning and support.
Unlike most running shoes, the drop on the Kinvara is lower than most. This allows your child’s foot to sit flatter on the ground, which is more accommodating for a natural running gait.
The Kinvara 11 also includes a Tri-flex outsole, which means you can take them from the court to the playground.
The upper on the Kinvara is mesh and breathable – great for keeping feet cool. The Kinvara also has a slightly wider toe box than other kid shoes, which is great for kids with growing feet or sore toes.
- Cool colors, mirror adult Kinvara
- Work well on many surfaces
- Bigger toebox for growing kids
- Traction issues on slippery surfaces
- Insoles may slip
2. New Balance Zante Pursuit
The Zante is a neutral road shoe with a big focus on comfort. Like the Saucony Ride, New Balance modeled the kids shoe after the adult version. So it’s lightweight with just enough cushion to protect kids’ feet. Whether they’re the first out the door or the last off the couch, there’s no need to coerce them into their running shoes.
In addition to comfort, you can expect a shoe with good traction even in wet conditions. Your kids will also find it easier to go faster as New Balance continues to add a bit of firmness and a low heel-to-toe drop to promote a natural stride.
New to this version of the Zante is a knit-upper and lighter-weight design. The new style still performs awesomely as a running shoe, but is a bit more stylish for everyday wear.
It’s likely that the greatest benefit of this shoe is its ubiquitous popularity among children and adults. These shoes are very popular both for their performance and price.
- Lightweight shoe
- Super comfortable
- Promotes natural running style
- Firmer than other shoes
- Stability is lacking
3. New Balance 990 v4
New Balance remains all the rage, and there’s a reason: they make good shoes.
The 990 v4 is a stability shoe for daily road running. Its claim to fame is in its ability to support all kinds of feet from narrow feet to extra-wide feet. Although the style isn’t a slim one, it does disguise wide feet better than the bulky or wide versions of other running or street shoes. It’s available in a range of widths to fit different types of feet.
There are a few things to love about the latest version of the oldest New Balance running shoe.
First, it includes ENCAP midsole technology for supporting little feet and adding stability. The protection makes it a great shoe for kids with flat arches complaining about pain in their feet and arches.
Second, the added lace keeper is a lifesaver. It keeps the laces tight and prevents the tongue from moving.
A few things to note: there’s a limited color scheme available on these shoes. They are also heavier than the Zante 4. Still, it’s a small trade-off for exceptional comfort.
- Underfoot support
- Supports wide and narrow feet without looking bulky
- Quality materials translate into serious durability
- Lack of available colors
- Stiffer than Zante 4
- Upper-end of price range, though quality is very high
4. Nike Free RN 2018
Nike Free RN is one of the latest models of the original Nike Free – the manufacturer’s popular lightweight shoe.
The shoe is designed to be an alternative to barefoot running by providing both cover and cushion to the foot. For adults, it’s a good transition shoe for someone who is interested in trying a Vibram shoe but isn’t ready to go all the way. For kids, it promotes good running form and builds strength if their feet.
The Nike Free and Free RN serve as more of a kind of slipper than a shoe. Although there is some cushion, these shoes remain flexible. You can even wiggle them on with the laces tied.
Be wary of transitioning kids straight into Nike Free RNs if they’re currently in a very structured shoe. Additionally, this is a better shoe for running on the grass or softer surfaces.
Although you can use it as a gym shoe, it wouldn’t be recommended for lots of court time in part because of the hard surface but also because there’s no tread on the sole.
Many kids also wear the shoe as a an everyday shoe since it comes in many colors and has a popular style.
- Train kids to run in a barefoot style that promotes a natural running gait
- Soft, comfy shoes
- Great colors and unique style
- Lack of cushion renders shoes unsuitable for all surfaces
- No treads on sole
5. Asics GT-1000 7
Have you seen bright Asics kids shoes floating around your local 5ks? They’re likely the Asics GT-1000 7 – and they’re great shoes for adults and kids.
Asics designed the shoe to be comfortable with a touch of support. They feature classic Asics features like a snug heel, secure midfoot, and guidance systems to keep feet aligned correctly while running and walking.
Like other Asics models, much of the cushion comes from the gel in the sole. However, the gel does more than providing comfort – it also guides kids’ ankles away from pronation.
The GT-1000 is a great option for kids who want cushioning and some extra support.
- Lightweight but still stable
- Good color options
- Sturdy shoes
- Shoe can be narrow or smaller than other models in the same size
6. New Balance FuelCore Reveal
New Balance’s FuelCore Reveal is one of the few kids shoes that uses the BOA lacing system to keep the shoes tied.
BOA lacing is a unique way to tight shoes without traditional laces. Instead, there is a small disc you turn to tighten the shoes. Pull the disc out to loosen them up. Popular with triathletes, this type of lacing makes it fast to quickly get a snug fit.
The FuelCore Reveal upper also features a bootie design, which looks cool but also keeps the shoe light and nimble.
From a cushioning standpoint, the Reveal has nice EVA foam to protect the feet but also offer a nice, responsive run.
New Balance’s Reveal is a good kid shoe because while it’s a running shoe, it’s also good for cross-training and gym class. It’s also a good looking and trendy shoe, making shoe shopping just a bit easier and more affordable.
- Light and fast
- BOA lacing system
- Comfortable for running but also a good cross-trainer
- Strong grip on different surfaces
- Not as much support as other shoes
7. Saucony Freedom ISO
Most of the shoes we cover are newly released versions of shoes that have been around for quite some time. In fact, it’s not often we get to talk about a brand new shoe like the Saucony Freedom ISO.
Saucony attempted to design a lightweight shoe that’s as responsive on your first run as it is on your hundredth run.
These shoes aren’t quite racers, but they tend to be up towards that price point. Still, there’s something to be said for what Saucony calls the EVERUN, which is the foam used in the midsole that is said to provide 83% energy return. The foam is also underneath the insole, which is great because it keeps the shoe together.
This would be a great shoe for the child serious about running. It’s pricey but worth it for a top of the line kids running shoe.
- Lightweight and responsive
- Fun design and colors
- Fast shoe that performs better than even lighter shoes
- Snug fit won’t suit all kids
- Premium price point
8. Nike Zoom Pegasus 35
The Nike Zoom Pegasus is a classic running shoe for adults – and the same is true for the kids’ model.
The Pegasus 35 is one of the most comfortable running shoes out there. Many people use them for everyday wear, particularly because there’s so many colors available.
The kids Pegasus 35 has the same look and feel as the adult shoe. It has a soft upper and raised heel tab for comfort around the Achilles. The midsole also offers a cushioned, yet fast ride.
The 35 is generally regarded as being more breathable and having more traction than other pairs of shoes, which means your kids can work harder for longer without creating smelly shoes.
- Easy shoe with plenty of cushion for kids
- Plenty of colors to choose from
- Suitable for running and cross-training (great gym shoes)
- Durable for the price, but breaks down faster than other models
9. Asics Gel-Kayano 25
So far, this list has primarily included basic neutral shoes with a couple of more technical options.
But if your child needs a heavy-duty shoe with a whole lot of cushion, the Asics Gel-Kayano 25 is a worthwhile consideration.
Asics uses gel in addition to cushion, which keeps the shoe feeling comfortable longer. This particular shoe focuses on absorbing shock and promoting stability, which is ideal for anyone training for a long race or even those with injuries.
Although there’s a firmness in the midsole, the upper itself stretches with your foot. The new update also includes an upgrade to a FluidFit mesh, which improves circulation and is all but required in a heavily cushioned shoe.
- Gel and foam provide security and cushion
- Transitions are well supported by the Impact Guidance System and Guidance Trusstic System
- Available in attractive colors and styles
- High price point
- Stiff midsole makes them uncomfortable for general running and playing
10. Saucony Guide 13
The Saucony Guide 13 is a fast, stable road shoe for daily runs or just wearing to school.
Speed is supported by the midsole and the Tri-flex outsole. Both of these also contribute to a lightweight, secure fit for maintaining form and winning the race. In the updated Guide, Saucony added a firmer heel and midsole.
The extra firmness is helpful for kids who overpronate by adding extra stability. It also makes them faster because it speeds up the transition before takeoff.
It’s the Tri-flex outsole that wins the day in this pair of kids’ shoes. Whether they’re running track or playing soccer, the Saucony Guide 13 will support them on any terrain. Wearing them from the gym floor to the road makes them a good pair of gym shoes for school.
Why are they great for kids? The security keeps their foot in place while learning. Plus, they’re comfortable straight out of the box, so there are no complaints about breaking them in.
- Outsole makes them versatile for all kinds of training or play
- Good stability combined with some softness
- Added firmness to heel and midsole is good for kids of overpronate
- Only a few colors available
- Forefoot area is narrow
- Not great on slippery surfaces
How to Buy Running Shoes for Kids
Most parents understand that kids can do a number on a pair of shoes. Maybe we adults can get away with wearing the same pair of shoes for years and years. But kids can go through shoes in months – sometimes even weeks!
So it’s no surprise that durability should be the main concern. While this varies from model to model, generally speaking, known running shoe brands like Nike, New Balance, Asics, and Saucony produce high-quality, durable shoes.
And like adult shoes, it pays to spend a bit more on running shoes. You may be tempted to buy the cheapest pair since they wear so fast. But spending a bit more means your child will get more use out of each pair.
The other big factor to consider is size.
Also not a surprise, but kids feet grow. And sometimes they grow really fast!
We recommend buying shoes big enough to allow for a thumbs-width gap between the toe and the front of the shoe. This allows for kids to grow into the shoes. But it’s also not so big that they’ll be tripping over them.
For most kids, a cushioned neutral shoe works best. This protects their feet but still allows for their feet to grow naturally.
For kids under the age of 12, you probably don’t need to get them fitted for shoes at a running store. Buying a quality running shoe is often enough. Because kids are still growing and developing, there isn’t a need to manipulate their gait with heavy stability shoes as we do for adults.
We think it’s better to let them grow naturally. If they have pain or extremely flat feet, then it might be worth getting a more structured pair of shoes. But otherwise, a neutral running shoe should be fine.
What Are Good Brands for Kids Running Shoes?
Any of the running shoe companies that make kids shoes are good brands. This includes some brands from our list like Nike, Saucony, New Balance, and Asics. But Salomon (for trail), Under Armour, and adidas also make good running shoes for kids.
Why Doesn’t Brooks Make Kids Running Shoes?
Brooks used to make kids running shoes. But they stopped several years ago. You may be able to find a pair here or there online.
But why did they stop making kids running shoes?
Brooks is a very smart company. They are a numbers-oriented business and they keep their running shoe line very tight with only the most essential models. Kids shoes probably didn’t sell well enough for Brooks to justify continuing to manufacture them.