A boy and a girl sitting in a chair in a school class, wearing kids' school shoes.

The Difference Between Cheap & Expensive Shoes for Kids

There is a difference between cheap & expensive shoes for kids. Some cheaper footwear is totally good-quality and sustainable, and some really expensive shoes can tear down just from a couple of wearing. 

You might be wondering why I would pay $500 for kids’ shoes that will be outgrown in a few months when I can spend $50?

That’s true, but the price can say a lot. Due to the redundant nature of this debate, we’re focusing instead on educating part. Today we will dive into some details that set apart high-end and low-end footwear for kids.

For the materials and design of the shoes, along with the manufacturing and branding, we’re searching for every element that influences the shoe’s final price.


Does hype justify the price? We’ll find it out now!


The Main Difference Between Cheap & Expensive Shoes for Kids

Most of the time, you are paying for the brand and materials. A sneaker’s quality of materials and construction is the main difference between high-end and low-end footwear for both kids and adults.

Cheap footwear is often crafted of low-quality materials (usually synthetic materials like plastic) that are prone to breaking down and don’t provide the same level of support and comfort. Aside from that, these shoes are often glued rather than stitched and put together poorly as well.


Expensive footwear is crafted from high-quality materials, such as leather, textile, natural rubber, and foam, making them more durable and comfortable. Furthermore, they’re better constructed, which means they’ll withstand wear and tear better.

Another difference between this different-price footwear is arch support. Proper arch support allows kids’ feet to support their weight when standing comfortably. Thus, cheaper footwear, instead of providing the proper support, provides just flat, lifeless soles. Usually, these companies that provide inexpensive shoes have one thing in mind – sell as many cheap, stylish, and cute shoes as possible. Thus, your overall health and well-being are not taken into account.

However, the overall difference can be rather felt than seen. High-end footwear for kids is much more comfortable and durable

Unfortunately, most of us cannot afford some extra-expensive, highest-quality footwear, so we have to compromise. Often, you can find a good quality pair of shoes for a reasonable price if you know where and when to look. If you run into some good sales, take advantage of it. At the end of the day, the manufacturing process and location determine how much shoes will cost. 

Expensive Shoe Features:

  • High-grade leather – usually pebble leather that is less likely to crack over time.
  • Thicker leather – this feature will make sure that the shoe will retain its shape and maintain its appearance for a longer period of time.
  • Tumbled leather – some shoe brands use this material to make their shoes more affordable while still maintaining quality.

As you can see, leather is considered a quality material for crafting high-end shoes. We know that this does not fall under the vegan shoes category, but these are the facts. Leather, even though it might sound cruel, is the most quality material for kids’ feet.


Cheaper Shoes Feature:

  • EVA foam midsole of low-quality 
  • Upper construction materials are cheaper
  • Synthetic materials like plastic 

Cheaper shoes are usually prone to wear and tear, are not comfortable enough, and do not provide proper arch support.


Is You Get-What-You-Pay-for a Myth?

While some think that price does determine the shoe’s quality, others think that quality isn’t necessarily reflected in pricing. More so, some shoes crafted in China might be the same or even better quality than those from Italy and Spain. However, China is a big country, and they can make some really bad, low-end footwear and, at the same time, some extremely good quality shoes.

Here are some tips on spotting high-quality footwear regardless of price:

  • Leather shoes can be a good determinant of shoe quality.
  • The smell of leather shoes will also give you a sign of how the quality of the leather.
  • Check the flexibility of the leather shoes and footwear made with suede.
  • Glued or stitched? – High-end footwear is always stitched rather than glued. Suppose you cannot see that with the naked eye; you can smell inside the shoes. You can smell that odor. if sneakers have glue.
  • Lightweight shoes will tell you that they probably have expensive soles, which are always a better option and, of course, better quality.

Now that we know how to recognize good, quality shoes, let’s check when and where we can find them and even when it is justified to opt for cheaper ones!

When to Opt for Cheap Footwear for Kids?

It is totally up to a parent to decide whether you will buy cheaper or more expensive footwear. It is your call, and we respect it. We are here to advise you when to choose one or another. Now that we know the difference between cheap & expensive shoes for kids, let’s check when to opt for each pair of these shoes. 

Parents can feel free of guilt about buying cheaper shoes for kids in the following situations:

When you still have an infant, and your little one is still not walking, you do not need to spend extra money on quality footwear since you already got enough expenses. Plus, the best recommendation is to let your kid be barefooted as much as possible. Once your little one is comfortable walking alone, you can look for your baby’s first pair of shoes.

Kids under 6 do not need footwear with proper arch support. As you probably already know about kids’ foot development, our kiddos do not develop their arches before 6 years; thus, you do not need to look out for that feature. 

You can skip the quality part when it comes to those dressy shoes for kids that are usually one-time wear. Formal shoes will not hurt your kid’s feet since they will be worn once or twice a year. Thus, spending a lot of money on it is not worth it.

Besides these one-time wear footwear, house shoes and slippers do not need arch support, quality insoles, or leather material. Hence, you can save some extra bucks when buying these as well. 

Shoes for the beach, such as bathing sandals and swimming socks, are usually not crafted from some special, expensive materials. You can look out for certain features that these shoes should obey, but these types of footwear are inexpensive.


Where Can You Buy Cheap Footwear for Kids?

You can find cheap shoes almost everywhere. Luckily or unluckily, there are a lot of fast-fashion stores that sell inexpensive, low-quality shoes. 

You can also find them in:

  • Thrift shops
  • Yard sales
  • Consignment shops
  • Online shops like Amazon and eBay
  • Hypermarkets like Walmart and Target


When to Opt for Expensive Footwear for Kids?

When your kid starts elementary school, so around the age of 7, it is time for good quality footwear. Your kid will spend a lot of their time in that footwear, so it is out of greatest importance to look out for quality school shoes

Steel toe boots, as well as hiking shoes, should be out of the highest quality since kids’ safety depends on them. 

Any type of activity that your kiddo will spend a major of its time wearing. This includes everyday footwear and travel shoes. 


Where Can You Buy Expensive Footwear for Kids?

Luckily, there are many stores where you can find great shoes for a great deal. Shoe brands such as Plae, Keen, Ascent, Alpha, Adidas, and Nike, are just some of the companies that craft quality footwear. 

Depending on your kid’s needs and style, you can find different types of shoes for your little one, both online and in-store. There are good deals at these athletic shoe stores in the mall, but you have to monitor to hit sales if you want to save a couple of bucks.

Besides that, outlet stores are great since you can find some high-quality footwear for great prices. You can find great deals there, especially if you have more than one kid, and you can buy a few pairs with special sales.


In Conclusion

There is obviously a difference between cheap & expensive shoes for kids. Usually, the main differences are in terms of quality of materials, proper arch support, and time and place of manufacturing them. However, in the last couple of years, you can find some great footwear for kids for reasonable prices. 



  • Petra Moskatelo

    Petra is the main editor and writer here at Footmeter. She is passionate about helping people find the right solution. She holds a university Master's degree in pedagogy, and she knows a lot about children and learning.