TOMS for Boys

What do you think of TOMS for boys 2nd grade and up? I’m not sure I’m on board, even though their marketing plan says I should be. For Nicholas, sure. They look like sweet little slip-ons he can put on himself this summer. For Mikey, my gut says to ignore the hype and buy some Chucks or Vans. I hear Toms start to stink after a while and that they don’t survive the wash well. Mothers of young boys, I think we can agree that’s a problem.

Also, I think they look a bit feminine. They have a slender, delicate form I can’t picture on rough and tumble boys.

Every time I think that I feel judgmental, like I am committing some sort of gender bias. I went to the TOMS website to look at the kids section, eager to squash my own preconception. The lead model is a blond, long-haired child and, hand to heart, I can’t tell the gender. Could be a girl, could be a boy, could be Shiloh. I decided it was a boy because two of the remaining three models were girls and campaigns are usually spread even when it comes to gender. I’m probably correct, but it’s important to note that I don’t normally have to use deductive reasoning to ascertain gender among children.

Not to be deterred, I searched for images showing the shoes in action. I clicked on the Youth section and saw that 99.9% of the images were of toddlers or girls. I found one boy between 8-10 years of age. He was sitting in a dimly lit room with flat-ironed angular hair, leaning against the headboard of his bed, strumming a guitar. Looking melancholy.

Shoes for boys are difficult. You understand, as a mother, that nearly everything will be questionable in appearance. Form isn’t as important as function; it’s a fact. But still, I pine. I pine for cute shoes that can withstand the blast of a kickball, make believe paleontology digs, and the aggressive stops and starts of summer long bike rides.

Don’t even get me started on sandals.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    Oh I can relate to this post so much. As a mother of a 3 year old boy (who will soon get a little brother) I always wonder why there can’t be such a thing as shoes comfortable, cool and “boyish” and still able to withstand the mentioned adventures…Shoemakers of the world, hear our call!!!
    Love your blog!
    xo, Melanie from Germany

  2. Betsy says

    Last summer I splurged on Keen sandals for 3 of my 4 boys. They wore them ALL summer for everything – everyday playing, church, in the creek – everything. The older 2’s feet haven’t grown a ton and they just started wearing their sandals again. And the younger one’s will be able to be worn by my baby. I have never been able to pass down shoes or have them wear them for more than one season, so for us, this is huge!

  3. says

    I would love to be able to have the dilemma of buying little boy’s shoes; but alas, my wee nephew lives in Sweden (the nerve!) and is growing like a weed. By the time said shoes got to him, they’d probably be two sizes too small. Sigh.

    So I’ve got nary a helpful hint–though I must agree with you on the TOMS.

  4. frances says

    I don’t think it’s gender bias so much as hipster bias. Which I’m totally fine with.
    As the parent of 0 boys (and the teacher of about 120 girls, many of whom wear Toms), I say if they’re requesting Toms fine, let them have Toms, but if not stick to the classic Chucks.

  5. says

    For boys 2nd grade and up (actually, any child in my house over the age of 3), I have found that what I think about shoes (or any other article of clothing) is irrelevant. When I suggested red Chucks, we ended up with black with flames. Some cute Mary Jane sneakers for my daughter were rejected in favor of glittery, light-up Skechers Twinkletoes. Of five hand-me-down spring jacket options, my daughter has rejected all and is still wearing her down coat. The 2nd grader hates Keens (which I think are the ideal shoe for kids, good for water, sand, bike rides and ball games), but his 3-yr-old brother loves them. The 2nd grader chose some inoffensive Stride Rite sport-like sandals, and since he rarely trips over his own feet anymore, I figure he doesn’t need closed-toe shoes. Anyway, I have given up all opinions on clothing, only putting my foot down on formal occasions and over some girls’ clothing that is…inappropriate, shall we say?

  6. says

    You know if the sole wasn’t white they wouldn’t look so girly…I much like the look of chucks better, or those nanuk shoes are sort of the same concept but a little more rugged looking, I know a few boys with those. I recently went through the same things with Salt Water sandals for Syd. I love the dark brown ones but think at the end of the day they are just too babyish for him now, which makes me very, very sad :(

    • says

      I just had the Saltwater convo with my sister in-law! I think 4 years old is still fine for SWs, especially for church, which is where he would wear them. For Mikey, no go. He would kill me if I even suggested them. SW does have a fisherman sandal called “Shark” that isn’t babyish at all. I like them, which says something since I don’t normally like fisherman sandals. (I think they’re practically shoes and the straps rub little toes raw in my experience.)

  7. says

    You know, just from a practical level I’m not sure they are best. I have a pair, and while I love them my feet start to ache if I wear them a few days in a row. For boys running around and playing, I just don’t think there is enough support.

  8. says

    No matter if you pick or they pick the shoes … 10 – 20 years from now they will swear that you ‘made them wear those ridiculous shoes.’ (Hard to imagine Tom’s falling outta favor but it’s bound to happen.)

  9. Amy Loves Teal says

    I don’t think they are sturdy enough for little boys, and I think you will have kiddos complaining of sore feet. I know Crocs are ugly, but they are great summer shoes for kids! Like Keens, they’re safer for bike-riding than sandals are, but Crocs are much less expensive. I just don’t see any point in buying expensive clothing/shoes for children :)

  10. Lauren says

    If you’re having trouble deciding between TOMS and other shoe brands……let TOMS’ one-for-one mission sway you! For every pair of TOMS purchased, the brand gives a pair to a child with no shoes. Yeah, the price is a little high, but it helps when remembering you’re providing a pair to another kid in some other part of the world!
    I was in college when TOMS got started, and I remember their founder coming to talk on campus – he’s a passionate guy with a great mission that is exanding all the time.
    Plus, their shoes are really comfortable! They even have laceups and wedges for adults now :)

  11. says

    Shopping for boy shoes is the bane of my existence.

    Which is why Troy wears Saltwater sandals and Converse for life.

    I vote no on the Toms, you know they will be trashed in a week.

  12. Conny says

    TOMS would not last even one week on my 7 year old son’s feet! If your boys play rough or run a lot, I wouldn’t suggest buying them. I couldn’t believe what one active boy can do to a shoe in less than a month – he wears them out – from the inside out. If I could find good and tough shoes other than expensive StrideRite I’d be a happy camper. Buying new shoes every 2 months is tough on the wallet.

  13. Larissa says

    Ethan, my oldest, went through a pair of Asics in less than two months. . . like he wore down the rubber all the way to the foam of the soles. That sole on those TOMS would be obliterated in like two days!! Yeah, way too feminine (for my taste) and totally impractical for boys. :)
    For me on the other hand. . . . . 😉

  14. Jennifer says

    I have to second (or third) the Keen comment. They are the best. I bought Crocs for all three boys last summer and they are a close second. The first thing I thought when I saw the TOMS was “stinky.” I am not familiar with them tho’. We must not be very stylin’ in Kentucky.

  15. says

    My boy is older (15 yrs), and has always, always, always just worn his tennis shoes (or gym shoes depending on what part of the country you’re from). Usually Nike or Addidas. Summertime finds him in his soccer slides (again, Addidas). He’s always worn sports shorts & t-shirts & sweatpants. Getting him into a pair of jeans (God forbid!) was a nightmare!
    All of a sudden (if you can call puberty all of a sudden), this spring it’s nothing but cargo and PLAID shorts. Yes, I said plaid shorts. He now has about 8 pairs and wears them EVERY day. What does this have to do with shoes? Well the shoe choice changed too: Sperry topsiders. Remember in high school we just called them topsiders? Well now they’re called Sperries (I’m guessing that’s the plural).

    (I’d never really heard of Tom’s until I saw the acupuncturist wearing them; they do look cute on tiny, fit women wearing stylish leggings under knit dresses) 😉

  16. Cristina says

    I’d go for them. Here in Argentina everyone wears “alpargatas” (aka Toms): boys, girls, grown men and women. They are especially used by people who live / work on farms. They are cheap (at least here), comfortable, you wash them by hand and put them outside to dry. I wouldn’t run a 5k in them but I think they’re great for a warm weather shoe option. And just as a side note, I’d say alpargatas are kind of part of our culture because of their association with estancia life, Perón’s controversial phrase “Alpargatas sí, libros no”, the Alpargatas company had Molina Campos, a renouned artist, do their ads, etc. They’re pretty cool in that way too. Saludos!

  17. allie says

    We love Simple shoes for the grown ups and will get some for the boy when he is old enough. They’re really sturdy and good looking. I got purple keens for the girls and she wore them all over Europe with nary a peep (we get peeps from other shoes). The boy will probably inherit the purple keens and wear them with pride. Until my kids are old enough to make a fuss about the shoes I let them decide between, they’ll wear what I like. Is that terrible?

  18. says

    I feel your pain. Shoe shopping with my son is like entering the fifth dimension of hell. Out of the dozens of pairs of shoes he will try on, we are lucky if one meets his insane standard of comfort. It’s maddening!

    If your boy’s are anything like my son was at that age, I would be worried that the TOMS would be destroyed in a matter of days. My son was, and still is incredibly rough on his clothing and shoes. I have no doubt that the fabric and thin soles of the TOMS would be no match for his rough-and-tumble ways.

    My son has had both Keens and Crocs. While neither one is particularly attractive, they were both ridiculously durable. Good luck!

  19. says

    we love keens too. they are so versatile and rugged. my boys’ only complaint is getting rocks stuck inside the cracks. however, they’ve revamped them over the years making them easier to get on and off.

  20. Erika says

    while Toms are cute…and Gabs had a pair when she was a little young…they are expensive for what they are. They look cheap to me really and i know from experience they don’t have support and get uncomfortable. I plan to buy some ugly, but comfy crocks for Gabs…

  21. says

    This made me laugh a lot. I always shudder a little when I see a grown guy (or woman for that matter) in TOMS. They’re so peasant-like and I much prefer a structured shoe. I was trying to think what boys in my neighborhood wore in the summertime growing up and I am fairly certain they went barefoot or wore their filthy tennis shoes with knotted laces that were leftover from the previous school year. Not terribly stylish or helpful.

    Sounds like there’s a big hole in the boys’ shoe market. Maybe you could design some?

  22. says

    Toms are actually pretty durable shoes. I’ve had the same pair for over two years now (nearly two and a half, actually) and they’re finally starting to become unwearable. I’m going to keep wearing them until they’re threadbare though.

    I’m a grown woman, but I love them. And I always get compliments.

    I play soccer an average of 4-5 days a week, sometimes more, and have probably worn my Toms to the field for 75% of the practices in the past two years. Obviously I don’t play in them, but my Toms have been through some rough and tumble times. Your boy might do more damage than I can, but personally, I don’t think they’re a bad bet.

    Plus they’re coming out with more structured styles, such as cordones (though I’m not sure what the boys youth is)

  23. Romeoandjewels says

    I’ll say the same thing that I did to Julie when she posted on PeanutButterFingers about Toms.

    Buy them if you like them and you think they’re a good shoe for your boy. However, do not buy them because you think you’re doing a good deed.

    Flooding 3rd world countries with shoes imported by Americans doesn’t help those poor communities – you’d be better off supporting micro-lending so those children’s parents can start their own shoe companies or other ventures. Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day – that kind of thing…

    Awesome article on this :

  24. says

    As far as the washability of Toms goes, mine have held up really well. The oldest pair I have are the women’s eggplant corduroy Toms and I’ve washed them every three weeks since last July. I wash them on the top rack of the dishwasher though and let them air dry on a rack. I also put inserts in them to make them more comfortable for prolonged wear.

  25. Kelley says

    My eight year old is fine with me picking his shoes, but I am quite certain he wouldn’t want those Toms. He wears Chucks. He likes Vans. I can’t imagine him wearing those Toms, or the Toms lasting more than two days with the way he plays. I plan to buy him Keen sandals this summer, because they are rugged and comfortable and versatile. Toms has a great mission, but they should work on their boy styles. :-)

  26. Yolande says

    I bought a pair of TOMS for my daughter and in less than 2 months, she has worn them out already- there are holes in the toe area… so I wouldn’t suggest them.

  27. Jennifer Formby says

    I have had this same issue at my house. My 8 yo son wants a pair of Toms to the extent he is willing to pay his own hard earned money for them. I looked online, I went to a local store (where thank goodness they did not have his size!) and I just can’t seem to make myself allow him to buy them. I know that black, brown or red? should be a boy color but they are indeed a bit feminine. My daughter treats me like I am so clueless about what is stylish. However, I do know that they look like little fairy shoes and I would prefer my son not to wear them. Could they not add some surfboards or skull & crossbones for goodness sake?

  28. Charity C says

    To answer your question….my 6 year old son saw one of his teammates wearing a pair of Toms today and flat out said “mom, he’s wearing girl shoes.” I actually just bought him a pair of orange Sperrys and he loves them, just for casual wearing though. For his every day play shoes he either wears sneakers or Keens (which are indestructible and worth every penny I paid for them)

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