Vegan shoes for boys?

We’ve been having a hard time finding suitable footwear for my son ever since he started to wear out, and then outgrew, his IsaBooties. They had been an awesome find for us, and I was sad to see them go.

I feel like my shoe-buying criteria isn’t that demanding, but it must be because after searching high and low I am still finding very few shoes that fit the bill.

Here’s what I’m looking for:
– Flexible soles
– Non-leather
– Velcro or slip-on, no laces
– Under $30

Bonuses given to those that are:
– Lightweight
– Washable
– Not ridiculously ugly, actually look like shoes!

It always amazes me how thick-soled childrens’ shoes can be. I would never choose to wear shoes so bulky and heavy, let alone choose to put them on children who are just learning to use their feet. One of the
main reasons we chose the soft soled shoes in the first place is that research showed me that children’s feet are maleable, and take years to develop fully. Barefoot walking is the ideal for muscular development, and shoes too tight or hard can actually mold feet into the wrong shape and cause problems. While learning to walk kids should be able to feel what they’re doing and use their toes to grip. When going without isn’t an option, you want something that mimics barefoot walking but also gives them some traction so they don’t slip.

Even once they’re walking well (my guy is always moving these days!) flexibility continues to be important for proper foot development and is useful as they run, climb playground equipment, etc. The focus also
turns toward areas like protecting feet from sharp objects. I know I’m not alone in thinking flexibility is an important quality in kids shoes, given that there are companies specializing in this area, it’s just that they all use leather! True it is a flexible material, but there are substitutes like Ultra Suede that looks just as nice, is durable and cruelty free.

Part of the struggle may be that I’m looking for boys shoes. I see lots of cute girls shoes that are canvas with rubber soles and would work. Also, many girls shoes are slip-ons. Men’s shoes contain both these
features in the form of loafers, so why not shoes for little boys?

I see a lot of small kids wearing Crocs, but they are not flexible, quite ugly in my opinion and sometimes cause injury. I’ve found some canvas options, but they all have laces. (Laces seem nothing but a burden in shoes meant for kids that are nowhere near close to having the dexterity needed to tie them.) Considering how fast kid’s feet grow, I’m hesitant to spend the $50+ that a lot of the “eco-friendly” or vegetarian shoemakers are demanding.

So what’s the problem? Am I really being too picky? Is there really no demand for shoes like these?

I’ve had some luck with Squeaky Shoes. However, they are made in China, by who knows who, using who knows what. I really don’t like the idea that my son’s shoes could possibly be made by children. I’m sure they’re not environmentally friendly and even if they were, they have to be imported. But they are canvas, flexible, and under $10. Sometimes they go on sale or you can get defects for under $5. They hold up well and wash easily. (Note – we pull the squeakers out.)

If only some US-based company would take on this cause the way IsaBooties did! What are other vegan parents buying for their boys?