My Search for Toxic Free Children’s Shoes… again!

Summer Shoes

At the end of February, we usually get a few warmer days that make us all begin to think about summer. A few weeks ago, I realized that last summer’s shoes won’t fit the kids anymore. So I am hopping online and tried to find toxic-free, eco-friendly summer shoes for everyone.

The problem is that it’s not an easy search. I feel like I spend hours every spring looking into the safest shoe options for my kids.

Here’s my blog post from last year about the same topic. I run into this dilemma spring. I want shoes that are eco-friendly, made in a fair labor factory, chemical-free, cute, and high quality. I know that’s a lot to ask for, but I wouldn’t expect it to be as hard to find as it is!

Also, some of the companies that fit all of those qualities are very expensive. I actually don’t mind spending more than the average person on my children’s shoes. Those qualities I listed above are very important to me. First off, summer shoes often mean that there isn’t a sock between my child’s sole of their foot and the shoe (unlike winter shoes where you almost always wear socks) so I do want the shoe to be toxic-free so that chemicals aren’t leaching into their bodies through the soles of their feet. Also, I’m working really hard at making more ethical choices when it comes to clothing. Last of all, I don’t want my kids to stand out for having odd shoes on. We aren’t a super stylish family, but we do try to have enough style that we blend in with everyone else. Some of the really eco-friendly shoe companies I’ve found just aren’t our style of shoes.

Back to the money issue. Yes, shoes that fit all the qualities I listed above are expensive. Sometimes, very expensive. I try to find a balance. My kids get two pair (three at the most) of shoes to make it through spring and summer. They get 1 pair of water/play sandals and 1 pair of nicer sandals. They might also have a pair of sneakers. This makes it so that I can spend more money on high quality shoes that will last all spring and summer even if my kids wear them every day.

I’ve summarized below some of my favorite companies. Not all of them pass each of my “wishes” from my shoe wish list, but I’ve had to compromise in some areas and the do the best that I can with the budget that I have.

Children’s Shoe Companies

1 | Pololo – Really love the quality of these shoes, and I trust the company. You can get some styles on sale right now at Little Spruce Organics.I got these in navy last year for Brooklyn. Yes, they were expensive! But they held up all summer, and I even think she’s going to be able to wear them for a couple of months this season. She’s almost outgrown them, but they’ve held up perfectly. They’d easily last another year if she could fit in them, and she wore them every day last summer.

2 | Mikoleon Kids – My friend, Kezia, at The Whole Food Diary texted me about this company the other day. I was so excited, because they met everything on my wish list! And they were very reasonably priced. I ordered these for Brooklyn for her nice summer sandals for this year.

3 | Livie & Luca – I mentioned these in my post last year. They aren’t as toxic free as I’d like, but they do have some standards that I appreciate: lead-free leather, non-toxic (I’m not sure what that exactly entails) glue, and no harmful chemicals in the tanning process. They are also a company that incorporates sustainable and eco-friendly practices. I’ve always been very impressed with the high quality of their shoes. I’ve bought these for my daughter in the past and these for my son.

4 | Veja – I love this company and their style for children’s sneakers. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to pay that much money for my kid’s sneakers yet. They had a big sale around Christmas, and I should have bought some then. I still plan on buying from them one day. I’m very impressed by the company, but I just need to time it when things go on sale.

5 | Plae – This company is based in San Franscisco and looks fairly new. Again, they are one that don’t meet all my criteria, but their sneakers are a bit more affordable. I just bought my son these. I’m happy with the quality and the fit. He’s been wearing them non-stop so I guess he’s happy with them too! I’ve found a used pair on eBay that I’m bidding on for my daughter. They are about 70% cheaper than buying them new.

6 | Keens – I bought these and these for my kids this summer. But instead of getting them off Amazon, I got them used off eBay. I’ll chat about eBay more in a minute. As far as Keen’s go, I am not convinced that they are completely safe for my child, but they were the best I could find for play and water shoes. The company does have some eco-friendly and non-toxic practices. Two years ago, I got Crocs instead. Again, I do not for a minute believe they are toxic free, but I did find some very good research on the company about how they do purposely steer clear of some of the most toxic chemicals usually found in children’s shoes.

7 | eBay – This is a great place to find expensive eco-friendly and non-toxic shoes for a great price! A lot of times you can find them brand new, but I do buy used shoes as well as long as they are in very good shape, and I can clean them. It takes some searching and patience, but I’ve gotten a lot of good deals. Before I buy a pair of brand new shoes for my kids, I always check eBay first. I got my daughter her Plae sneakers and both of the kid’s Keen sandals off eBay this summer. I saved around $130 doing that!

I’m going to wrap this post up with similar thoughts to how I wrapped up my shoe post last year. I strongly believe in doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Sadly, finding toxic free shoes isn’t easy, and it’s not always possible or affordable. Toxic free shoes, I must admit, are one of the few places that I don’t think many budget friendly alternatives exist yet. Hopefully, one day soon, there will be more companies I can trust for children’s footwear, but for now, it’s just a place I will budget extra money each year in order to keep my children safe as I can. I’ll plan on continuing to do the best I can with what I’ve got!

22 Comments

  1. Esther on March 11, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Thank you soo much for being authentic. It’s soo beautiful. I want to give you a fyi regarding Keen. They are not the quality they used to be & when you have probs they don’t seem to really be good about standing behind their expensive products. My husband last yr bought a 120.00 pair of their black shoes for his work. Within 6-9 mths they were blown out at a seam in the toe area. We tried to send info to hopefully get a new pair. After soo much of getting nowhere & them asking for more & more we gave up. Within a couple months of this happening to us, my husband’s co worker asked him if he had any luck with Keen, because his expensive shoes were doing the same thing at the seam. I’ve been a Keen lover for 10 yrs. I now am not & am looking for another shoe company with integrity. Bless you!

    • Lauren Dahl on March 11, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      Thank you for the info! I bought my kid’s Keens off eBay this year to try and save money. Their Keen’s from last year held up well, but we just got our new/used ones in from eBay so I’ll see how they do this summer.

  2. Kay on March 11, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Hello. Thank you for the info. I was wondering what are the other nontoxic shoes you found that were not necessarily your style I have been looking at the same shoe companies and I also used soft star shoes in the past. They don’t have any lead in their shoes, but their styles don’t work for my child right now.

    • Lauren Dahl on March 12, 2017 at 2:06 am

      Soft Star and Bear Feet are the two I can remember off the top of my head. Although, from what I can tell, Bear Feet might not be in business anymore.

  3. Elizabeth on April 1, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    Thanks for the updated post! I recently saw in the German Oko-Test magazine that Keens gave off an alarming amount of PAHs… Do you think the Plae shoes would be better or worse? Keens you’d perhaps not be inhaling the PAHs as much since they are outside shoes? Better than absorbing antimicrobial through the feet?

    Also, will you be specific about what things you looked for that Mikoleon met? As well as the ones that Livie & Luca did not meet? Thank you for your research! – Elizabeth

    • Lauren Dahl on April 2, 2017 at 1:57 am

      That’s sad about Keens. Like I said, I really can’t find an “outdoor” water type shoe that makes me feel safe which is such a bummer! I really don’t know if Keens or Plae would be better. Mikoleon does dye free leather which is hard to find and they also pay fair wages. I just got my daughter’s in the mail. The soles are a bit lightweight so I’m interested to see if they hold up. Live and Luca promise lead free leather, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other chemicals in their shoes. I’m also not sure if they are fair trade/fair labor.

  4. Irina on April 4, 2017 at 1:04 am

    Lauren, have you by any chance researched salt water sandals? I’ve been reading for hours now on kids shoes and still don’t know what brand to go for 😊

    • Lauren Dahl on April 6, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Do you mean, shoes for the beach? I went with Keen’s, but I’m not really happy about it. I don’t completely trust that they are safe. Crocs actually keeps some of the more toxic chemicals out of their shoes. I’m sure they aren’t 100% toxic free, but they keep the worst things out.

    • Jennie on July 10, 2019 at 12:49 pm

      I think this question – about Salt Water sandals – is referring to the brand (Salt Water sandals by Hoy Shoes). They appear to be plastic-free, at least – rubber sole and waterproof leather upper. From what I’ve read they are leather but actually made for use both in and out of water. I would guess the leather is not totally non-toxic, e.g. chrome-free and ecologically produced. But so far, after several days of searching for non-toxic water shoes for toddlers here in the U.S., this is the best I’ve come up with. I live in Sweden now but am American and spend several months a year in the U.S., and I have not looked for non-toxic water shoes in Europe, but there are some really good regular shoe brands that are both non-toxic and offer some shoes with “minimalist” or “barefoot” soles: The German brand Pololo, already mentioned above; Filii, another very good German brand, Amy & Ivor (for a beautiful indoor soft-sole shoe in leather), the German brand Ricosta, the Italian brand Ocra, and the French brand Easy Peasy. There are more, but those are a few. Unfortunately these are not cheap, and apparently they’re not easy to find in the U.S. Some . European web stores do ship to the U.S. though, and there are no customs fees for this, just the shipping fee.

  5. Bluebillie on May 29, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    I found some “muck” shoes with duck cloth and recycled rubber on Etsy that look pretty good: https://www.etsy.com/listing/295144021/outdoor-kids-shoes-minimalist-soft-soled
    They are obviously not waterproof but would probably work for outdoors and swim shoes. My only concern would be rubbing after they get wet. U think I’ll try them out for my 2 year old and see how they do. Most everything else labeled as a water shoes in Etsy seems to be made of neoprene.

  6. Michelle on October 12, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for this great article, Lauren. It’s encouraging to know that there are other mothers out there seeking to provide their children with chemical-free options. I appreciate your list of resources. My toddler is due for a new pair of shoes, and I am often pressed for time, so it really helps. All the best!

  7. Freida T. Humes on March 26, 2018 at 11:21 am

    Unisex Shoe Fillers for Big Shoes

    Thanks for this informative article, Elizabeth.It’s very encouraging to see that these days mothers are seeking to provide chemical-free shoe options to their kids. The list of companies selling eco-friendly shoes for kids is really appreciable.

  8. Sadie on April 27, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Aren’t Pediped shoes supposed to be nontoxic?

    • Lauren Dahl on May 2, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      Last time I read about them (a year or two ago) they do some non-toxic practices but not enough to make me feel comfortable purchasing them.

  9. Sara on July 16, 2018 at 12:16 am

    Thanks for this information! Do you still feel okay with the shoe companies from your original shoe post? I’m looking at Geox to purchase.

    • Lauren Dahl on July 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm

      Yes, I do! I haven’t researched Geox much but a few folks have mentioned them.

  10. kids shoes manufacturer on August 28, 2018 at 11:47 am

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  11. Yuliya A McCallum on August 15, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    You are awesome… I know it’s an old post but still… So much help and research… Thank you. My question, I need to get shoes for my boys 7 and 9 they can use indoor of a school … They cannot be slippers but something that fully covers their foot and comfy… They will change into,it everytime they enter school.,what would you buy if you were me? I wanted to get crocs but you don’t seem too happy with them… What would you suggest that’s comfy safe and casual?

  12. Hollie Petapiece on September 14, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    All birds are clean! 🐦 Salt waters, sea wee’s 🙂

  13. Faith on May 6, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    The pictures of your kid’s sneakers are beautiful, and am drooling already. I hope that I would see more of this when next do I visit your site. Please keep the good work, thanks for creating this site.

  14. Roxana Rock on June 2, 2020 at 4:08 pm

    Hi thanks so much for this post I came across pololo sandals on my non toxic search for shoes. Would you say these are the best brand that are free of toxins for sandals including them being lead free etc I’m still learning about toxic free shoes. just another thing to add to my endless list of things to research! Thank you

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