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The Best Running Shoes for Kids in 2021

 

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 available now.

Top 3 Best and Favorites

 

Nike Zoom Pegasus 38

 

  • Plenty of cushion
  • Plenty of colors to choose from
  • Suitable for running and cross-training
CHECK BOY’S PRICECHECK GIRL’S PRICE

 

New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V2

 

  • Lightweight shoe
  • Super comfortable
  • Promotes natural running style
CHECK BOY’S PRICECHECK GIRL’S PRICE

 

New Balance 990 v5

 

  • Underfoot support
  • Supports wide and narrow feet
  • Quality materials
CHECK BOY’S PRICECHECK GIRL’S PRICE

Best Overall

1. Nike Zoom Pegasus 38

The Nike Zoom Pegasus is a classic running shoe for adults – and the same is true for the kids’ model.

The Pegasus 38 is one of the most comfortable running shoes out there. Many people use them for everyday wear, particularly because there are so many colors available.

The kids’ Pegasus 38 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 38 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.


PROS:

  • Easy shoe with plenty of cushion for kids
  • Plenty of colors to choose from
  • Suitable for running and cross-training (great gym shoes)

CONS:

  • Durable for the price, but breaks down faster than other models

Top Value

2. New Balance Fresh Foam Arishi V2

These shoes come in two categories, Little Kid (from 4 to 8 years) and Big Kid (from 8 to 12 years). They are available in size 1 to size 7, and they’re one of the few children’s shoes that also come in wide sizes. Your child can also choose from many different colors.

The upper is very breathable so even if your kid spends the day running around the playground these shoes should keep their feet cool and dry. The Fresh Foam midsole cushions their feet and keeps them in the right position while being lightweight and easy to wear.

Your kid will be able to go anywhere in these shoes as they have non-marking soles. A lace-up closure means they can learn to tie their own laces, and if they already know, they can tie them as tightly or loosely as they’re comfortable with.

If your kid is very active, the light colors may get dirty very quickly and be difficult to clean.


PROS:

  • Non-marking rubber outsole
  • Lace-up closure
  • Cushioned Fresh Foam
  • Durable synthetic upper with mesh panels

CONS:

  • The light colored shoes can get dirty very quickly

Most Supportive Shoe

3. New Balance 990 v5

New Balance remains all the rage, and there’s a reason: they make good shoes.

The 990 v5 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.


PROS:

  • Underfoot support
  • Supports wide and narrow feet without looking bulky
  • Quality materials translate into serious durability

CONS:

  • Lack of available colors
  • Stiffer than Zante 4
  • Upper-end of price range, though quality is very high

Top Lightweight Shoe

4. 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.


PROS:

  • Cool colors, mirror adult Kinvara
  • Work well on many surfaces
  • Bigger toebox for growing kids

CONS:

  • Traction issues on slippery surfaces
  • Insoles may slip

Best Barefoot-style Shoe

5. Nike Free RN 5.0

Nike Free RN 5.0 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 RN serves 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.


PROS:

  • Train kids to run in a barefoot style that promotes a natural running gait
  • Soft, comfy shoes
  • Great colors and unique style

CONS:

  • Lack of cushion renders shoes unsuitable for all surfaces
  • No treads on sole

Top Stability Shoe

6. Asics GT-1000 9

Have you seen bright Asics kids shoes floating around your local 5ks? They’re likely the Asics GT-1000 9 – 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.


PROS:

  • Lightweight but still stable
  • Good color options
  • Sturdy shoes

CONS:

  • Shoe can be narrow or smaller than other models in the same size

Best with Quick Lacing System

7. New Balance FuelCore Reveal BOA

New Balance’s FuelCore Reveal BOA 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.


PROS:

  • Light and fast
  • BOA lacing system
  • Comfortable for running but also a good cross-trainer
  • Strong grip on different surfaces

CONS:

  • Not as much support as other shoes
  • Expensive

Top Saucony Shoe

8. Saucony Kids Ride 13

Saucony shoes have great cushioning and their kids shoes are no exception. You’ll be able to find shoes for kids from size 1 to size 6.5. There aren’t as many shoe colors as others, and your kids may not like the colors available.

These kids’ shoes feature ultra-plush cushioning and a POWERGRID heel insert for the best support and shock absorption. They can play rough with these shoes and still have their feet well protected.

The outsoles are non-marking rubber that has good grip and uses Tri-flex rubber lugs for better traction. A reinforced toe cap is an extra safety feature that can help prevent injuries on the playground or sports field.

The upper is made from a seamless and breathable material that creates a snug fit around the foot while still being flexible. The lace-up closure also creates a tight fit for extra stability.


PROS:

  • POWERGRID heel insert
  • Ultra-plush cushioning
  • Antibacterial properties
  • Non-marking rubber outsole

CONS:

  • Not many color options available

Best ASICS Shoe

9. ASICS Gel-Excite 7

The ASICS Gel-Excite 7 is another kids’ shoe that you can find in normal sizing and wide sizing, from size 1 to 7. They are available in many colors so your child should find something they like.

An engineered mesh upper provides a comfortable snug fit without being heavy. The collar and tongue of the shoe are also well padded, so the foot is cradled from every side.

Inside the shoe, the AmpliFoam midsole provides noticeable energy return and doesn’t flatten easily, staying dense for a long time even with prolonged use. Gel pads incorporated in the rearfoot reduces impact on the heel strike. The outsole is made of durable, non-marking rubber for good grip.


PROS:

  • Wide and normal sizes
  • Non-marking rubber outsole
  • Padded collar and tongue
  • Available in a variety of colors

CONS:

  • Kids who overpronate or supinate may not find these comfortable

Top for Mild Support

10. Saucony Guide 14

The Saucony Guide 14 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 14 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.


PROS:

  • 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

CONS:

  • Only a few colors available
  • Not great on slippery surfaces

 

FAQs

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!

Durability

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.

Sizing

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.

As for shoe size, keep in mind that unlike adult shoes, boys and girls use the same sizing. But it’s still a bit confusing.

For toddlers, sizing usually starts around a 10 and ends at 13.5. Then, it jumps to kid sizing which begins at 1 and usually ends at 7.

Toddler = 10 to 13.5

Kids = 1 to 7

One other factor to consider is that the Kids size follows adult men’s sizing. So a kids 7 is the same as a men’s 7. Most adult men’s sizing starts at a 7, so for young adults, they could wear a kids shoe sized 7 or men’s shoe sized 7.

Now one more thing that gets confusing… So women’s sizing is 1.5 sizes smaller than men’s. So a women’s size 9 is the same as a men’s size 7.5. So for older girls who wear a kids size 3.5. This is the same as a women’s 5 – which is where most women’s adult shoe sizes start.

Other Factors

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.

The Wired Runner