Our 4-year-old Owen is wary of new shoes, to say the least. It takes a lot of finessing by us to convince him to try on a new pair, let alone take a step. Imagine a cat with a ribbon around its neck … frozen in fear, afraid to move. This is our Owen in a new pair of shoes. Needless to say, as new shoes are an inescapable fact of life, my husband and I have had to become cheerleaders of sorts whenever the time comes to move our son up a size. We sell it. But recently we had the most pleasant of surprises when we received two pairs of shoes from Eleven Collection. Because these shoes sell themselves!

If there is anything that Owen likes with as much enthusiasm as he dislikes new shoes, it is dessert. So we were somewhat taken aback as he ripped the box of Rio sneakers ($54, shown above left) out of our hands and whispered — more to himself than to anyone else — ‘they look like cupcakes.’ Because…well…they do. And with that, he put his cupcake shoes on and took off for parts unknown. The sweet smell of success!

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The biggest hurdle for Owen to overcome is always the stiffness that often accompanies a new pair of shoes. But besides loving the sugar high-inducing appearance of the Rio, we found the shoe — a boy/girl trainer made of Nubuck leather — to be quite malleable and easy for him to move around in, from the very start. Eleven designed its cushioned insole for comfort, and a premium leather inside lining means that Owen’s feet are being cared for on all sides. This was readily apparent to us by how easily he took to wearing the Rio. I thought he’d return barefoot from wherever it is he ran off to, but it didn’t happen. In fact, we’re having the opposite problem at the moment — he won’t take his Rio’s off.

We also tested the Martin shoe ($54, shown at left), and I’m pleased to say it was every bit the hit that Rio was, minus the cupcake factor . A navy suede leather desert-style shoe, Martin is incredibly versatile. It’s dressy enough to do brunch with the in-laws and sporty enough to handle a playground pitstop on the way home. Martin was flexible without needing to be broken in first, classic in its appearance and — most importantly — comfortable. Just as he did with Rio, Owen wore it without complaint.

Eleven is a sister company to See Kai Run, producing shoes in sizes 9-1, essentially See Kai Run leaves off. There are great features common to the product line, like all premium materials and construction (no worries about these shoes falling apart), really grippy soles (no skidding and sliding) and padded collars (no blisters — the best news of all!). Because the preschooler crowd is notoriously impatient when it comes to putting on their shoes, Eleven has ensured that each of the 11 pairs in its current collection are easy on and off, coming in either a slide style or secured by Velcro closures. Owen rarely will sit still long enough for laces, so we really appreciated the ease of use with Eleven; Not only can we put them on him in a flash, he can also do it all by himself — if and when he’s so inclined.

The sizes ran true, in our experience, but are not available in half-sizes so if you’re in-between round up. Shoes are each priced at $54, while sandal-styles are $48. And speaking of style, these styles are not to be missed. If Owen thinks the Rio is a cupcake, it’s a good thing he didn’t lay eyes on the sorbet-like Pixie (shown at right). The entire collection is positively bursting with whimsy and color, while retaining a certain level of European sophistication, making Eleven a great choice this spring.

— Missy