Barefoot Shoes

Teva Zilch Minimalist Sandals for Toddlers/Kids Review

Buying footwear for your growing babies, toddlers, little boys/girls, or kids would be simple if there weren’t so many shoes out there that were clunky, narrow, heavy, stiff, or high-heeled. Unfortunately, outside of the moc-like slippers worn by infan…

Buying footwear for your growing babies, toddlers, little boys/girls, or kids would be simple if there weren’t so many shoes out there that were clunky, narrow, heavy, stiff, or high-heeled. Outside of the moc-like slippers worn by infants, crawlers, and light walkers, there aren’t a ton of great options out there as a child’s foot grows—particularly, it seems, in the “in between” stages of ages of 3 to 4. This really hit home recently when my oldest daughter Avi’s 3-year-old sized Merrell Barefoots started wearing out (the uppers, mostly). My instant reaction was simply to pick up another pair of the same shoes in a slightly larger size. Unfortunately, it seems that her precious Flux Gloves are no longer being produced and I couldn’t find any in her size, anywhere. So I needed a replacement that fit her fast. Commence frantic Googling. But I wasn’t having a lot of luck. That is, until a search led me to find that Teva had created a Zilch sandal that sized down to a little kids or toddlers 10* and that they were only a little over $30 from Amazon (They’re the “Teva Zilch Sport Sandal (Toddler/Little Kid/Big Kid).” I didn’t delay, grabbed the smallest size I could (10), hoped for the best, and paid for next day shipping. You might recall Teva released the Zilch for adults over two years ago (got a review of them right here). Unlike the adult Zilch, the kid’s version ditched the big toe loop (I never cared for that design of the adult Zilch, personally) in favor of a simpler criss-cross front strap as seen above.

On the kid’s Zilch

Here’s the Zilch in the words of Teva:
The kid’s Zilch is the thinnest, most minimalistic sport sandal we’ve ever made. Minimalist construction means that the kid’s Zilch will bend and flex naturally with your foot, giving you an amazing feel and connection to the earth, but also giving you traction and protection that a bare foot doesn’t.
My instant reaction to the Zilch on receiving them was that they were, indeed, a solidly minimalist sandal. The soles are super flexible, thin, and feel very light in the hand. The straps don’t have too much in the way of stitches, either.

Do they fit?

Aviana was quick to try them on and despite them being clearly too big on her feet as evidenced by the extra space at the end of the sandals as seen in the photo above, Avi was quickly bounding about our kitchen in the sandals with nary a care in the world. I was particularly concerned the extra sole aft her toes would tend to catch and might trip her up; to date some three weeks after getting them (and she’s worn them every day save one), I’ve not seen this happen. This actually seems like a plus when it comes to the sandals; she’ll actually be able to grow into them assuming they hold up to a very active going-on-four-year-old’s wear-and-tear.

What’s she been doing in them?

Outside of the Zilches being Avi’s primary footwear for going to “school,” Avi’s been regularly wearing them to run around the neighborhood (lately she’s wanted me to “run” with her while pushing my 1.5 year old in a Bob) and/or ride her Mini Kick scooter. So far, Avi is loving these sandals and I’ve seen no major issues with them. Every now and again, she’ll play with the front strap and move her toes up and around it (usually while sitting down or putting them on). She has no problems putting them on or taking them off. Long-term, my primary concern will be how well the materials will hold up. If they start falling apart, I’ll be sure to update this post.

Concluding thoughts

You might recall that Avi’s no stranger to minimalist sandals. She still talks about her Xero Shoes huaraches (horribly mispronounced at this point) and I need grab another kit and make her a new pair. That said, I’d say the Zilch is a great choice at a pretty solid price of $30-$35 on Amazon (Even at $45 full price they’re still cheaper than many other minimalist “little kids” shoes, which can run $60). If you’re looking for a minimalist sandal for your little one now that the weather is getting warmer, take a look at the Zilch. And if you know of any other shoes that fit 3-4 year olds, I’m all ears. * Shoes sizes for kids are confusing as all get out. Actually, Avi wears an 8 now (Even though Tom’s 7/8s are too big??). Even still, I thought, “Well, maybe the 10 will work … might as well give it a shot.” It didn’t hurt that Amazon offered free returns in the event they didn’t work. Or she could always grow into them …

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

19 replies on “Teva Zilch Minimalist Sandals for Toddlers/Kids Review”

Too bad about the sizing. My 4 year old daughter has small feet and starting at a 10 is going to be too big for her. I bought a pair of zilchs for myself to try this summer. If I like them well enough and these kids sizes survive long enough, I might pick up a pair for her next year.

Teva is now making sandals in the style of the zilch for adults minus the toe strap. One is the Northridge for men and the Zirra Lite for women. I haven’t seen the Northridge, but I have tried on the Zirra Lite and it’s pretty nice and I plan on getting a pair soon.

I was just talking to a friend about footwear options for her toddler. I’ll have to suggest these! I also bought a pair of Teva Zilches for myself recently and I’m hoping they hold up as well.

Thanks Fey — yeah the problem with Vivos is that, to date, they haven’t sized small enough for Avi. I’m optimistic that will soon not be the case! 🙂

Thank you so much for this! At this very moment I am frantically trying to find something in a size 5 or 6 for my daughter, who just grew out of her 18-24 month Pedipeds, and I can’t find anything that doesn’t have a heel! Does anyone know of anything truly minimalist in the large infant/small toddler sizes?

I am also dismayed at Merrell’s decision to drop their infant/toddler line of barefoot shoes. Had I known this was happening I would have stocked up on every single size, as they are the perfect shoe for my two year-old and I haven’t found anything else like it.

We may try out the Teva’s for the summer. Hoping more options arise for kids, as the adult barefoot shoe market has really grown.

My son is 2 but big (40″ tall), and he wears a size 9. I stumbled across a deal at Joe’s New Balance Outlet for toddler Minimus shoes. At the time I got them for $20 so grabbed a few pair of Minimus Trail shoes (to cover the summer growth), but the outlet prices are usually never more than $30.

I just checked and they had New Balance Minimus 20v2 Trail (KV20) at size 8 in Yellow/Black and Black/White for $30.

Hmm, that they seem to have one of the shoes in 5,5 could mean that they’re just sold out, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll have them again…

(I’m also surprised that they’re curretly offering more options for kids on the European site, for adult shoes it’s usually the other way around (also the price increase is just mean). It might be because in Europe it’s more common to invest in high quality shoes even for kids.)

I have been eyeing these for my kids. My only issue is that I really like covered toes with sandals and many of those are really thick soled, like Keens. I did find a pair of Teva Nilch water shoes for my son but they are a bigger size so he’ll have to grow into them. I’ve tried water shoes and unless they are a full slip on,they left blisters. One pair had a rip cord type of closure and they hurt my son’s feet. They will be fine for the water park but not for general outdoor play. So a slip on water shoe is not a bad choice. I plan on getting some Soft Star Dash shoes for my kids for school in the fall but boy those are pricy. I am hoping that as this trend is taking off for adults, more kids’ shoes are designed. I see some of the baby/toddler shoes that are out there for early walkers and wonder why they don’t make more shoes like that- they seem so flexible and comfortable. It seems once they hit preschool age its hugely built up sneaker soles!

I have been looking at the Teva Zilch for my 5yo. I contacted Teva to verify that they are in fact zero drop and Teva responded that, “We do not have 100% zero drop shoes. I apologize for the inconvenience. The closest items to a zero drop shoe would be the Zilch.” I was kinda shocked because the images look like the shoe is zero drop. 🙁 I have not seen in it in person — is it obvious? I’m hoping the customer service person doesn’t know what they are talking about.

I have a pair of Unshoes huraches for her, but she keeps tripping over the floppy sole under the toes (which is a larger problem with how she walks and why I am transitioning her to minimalist and barefoot) so I was looking for a little more structure to mix it up. Back to the search!

Any thoughts on good running shoes for my 7 year old? She’ll be doing a couple kids triathlons this summer and needs some new shoes.

After reading this article, I bought a pair for my son and also the adult version (Northridge) for myself. Unfortunately, we both have wide, high volume (chunky) feet and they simply don’t work. The problem is that the straps aren’t long enough. Or rather, the patches of hook and loop fasteners on the straps don’t line up once we loosen them enough to be comfortable.

Does anyone know of any minimalist sandals for kids with wide feet? I’ve tried Nike SunRays and they don’t work either.

Is it just me or are these impossible to find? Neither of my boys’ sizes are available on Amazon and I can’t find them anywhere else, not even on the Teva website. Are they not being made anymore?

I found a pair on Amazon. Alas, though, they have been placed into the “shoe bin” of shoes that I save for my younger son. If your child needs a wide width (my son needs XW) these aren’t for your kid. My son wore them to school for one day and they hurt his foot across the front – the strap is just not wide enough. You can adjust it on top, but not for width. He did love the feel though- said they felt like not wearing shoes at all. bummer! Its frustrating that some of these manufacturers make these shoes too narrow considering that people who are more barefoot tend to have wider feet!

Count me in as another parent who’s super-frustrated by the lack of flexible, affordable footwear for the 3-and-up set.

The Nike Sunray Protects are for every narrow feet :/

We found similar last year: the Osh Kosh B’Gosh Kid’s Casplan-B Sandal. My 3.5 yr old ran and played happily in them.. the downside is that they reeked (even though I scrubbed them inside and out a few times a week). I blame it on the unbreathable neoprene footbed/rubber sole combo. Hoping the Zilches work for us this year because I’m desperate..

@Justin- PLEASE create a running list of flexy kiddo shoes for us!!

I’d like to share a list of minimalist children’s shoe brands, created with the help of the staff at NW Foot and Ankle, the clinic of Dr. Ray McClanahan ( (made in Oregon) (this brand runs narrow) (sandals),default,pd.html (Zilch sandals) (sold at Famous Footwear and Target) (up to age 3 only)
Eleven Collection (search for “Eleven shoes kids”)

Hopefully there are always more to add to this list! Please let me know if you have additional options to suggest, or if you have direct experience with some of these brands and think they should not be included. I have not personally checked each of these shoes, as many are only available online.

Best wishes!
-Karin the Rolfer

I bought these for my son after reading this review…or sometime thereabout. I noticed this morning that the sandals are cracked where the front strap connects to the sole (the flex point for the toes – I discovered he likes to fold that bit over with his foot, thus bending the shoe unnaturally). I think it’s mostly the foam rubber that’s cracked. The sole is fine, but it bothers me that they’re already looking on the edge of destruction. I hope they hold up through the rest of fall since he wears them all the time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *