Buying new school shoes can be stressful. You want something practical and well-made, while they just want to push the boundaries as much as possible.
Don’t always go for the sturdiest shoes – they can be inflexible and uncomfortable and nobody wants a blister on the first day back at school. A more light-weight and supple shoe is often kinder to growing feet.
Think about the time you have available in the mornings too. Your five-year-old might want lace-ups, but do you have time to do them up every morning or every time they come undone? On the flipside, lace-ups can be a good way of getting them to tie a bow from an early age.
Never buy bigger. Although it can be tempting to size up so that shoes last longer, the fact is that if children’s shoes are too big, it can cause bad walking habits and even injury.
Get your child’s feet measured professionally in a shoe store before buying, wherever possible. If you can’t, websites like Start-rite have some clear online guidance and downloadable measuring tools. Essentially, make sure there’s space between the tip of the shoe and the tip of your child’s longest toe, about the width of your thumb. Also make sure your child can wriggle their toes, but not the rest of their foot, while the heel should stay comfortably in place.
1. Clarks Tizz Fizz BL: £35, Clarks
These classic ballerina-style shoes are soft, comfortable and quick to slip on and off. Like all Clarks shoes, they are available in half-sizes and different widths, so it’s worth getting your child’s feet measured in a Clarks store before ordering (you can book appointments online). The bow and patent toe are a nice touch.
2. Start-rite Warrior Black Boys Riptape School Shoes: £49, Start-rite Shoes
Start-rite is one of the best brands for school shoes, particularly when it comes to durability, good fit and comfort levels. These boys’ shoes are lightweight, flexible and they have anti-bacterial linings to stop little tootsies getting hot and sweaty. We also like the padded ankle for comfort. If you’re unsure about fitting, Start-rite website’s has some useful guides, including a downloadable measuring gauge to get the size and width accurate.
3. Step2wo New Cindy: £49.50, Step2wo
This brand, which is all about combining quality and edginess, was set up nine years ago by Nick and Lulu Rayne, who are fourth-generation British shoemakers. Their school shoes range is more on-trend and less traditional than many, with our current favourite these Italian-made slip-ons that come in patent or plain leather. We found they came up slightly small so keep that in consideration if your child is between two sizes.
4. Chipmunks Girls Eva Shoes: £20, House of Fraser
These patent leather T-bar shoes won’t slip off, no matter how much they run around at playtime or climb trees after school, thanks to the adjustable and secure buckle opening. The brogue detail gives it a nice finish and although we can’t promise they won’t scuff, a soft damp cloth helps keep them clean.
5. George Boys School Leather Loafers: £16, Asda
These smart-looking slip-on boys’ shoes couldn’t be easier to take on and off and they are nice and hardy too. The leather is supple and the micro-fresh technology is a godsend for boys prone to sweaty feel. They are great value too.
6. Geox J Casey: £55, Geox
The leather used for these quirky, fashionable shoes is more supple than it looks, and they are highly breathable too, thanks to the micro holes in the rubber sole, which have a special lining to keep feet dry – ideal for feet prone to getting hot and sticky. We love the face-themed design too.
7. Chatham Skipper Children’s Boat Shoe: £39, Chatham
This footwear brand uses traditional craftsmanship to produce some adorable British styles of shoe, drawing inspiration from popular adult designs. They are extremely hard-wearing, with rubber soles for extra grip. This nautical-themed pair is classy, yet casual, and is true to size.
8. Angry Angels Impulsive Girls Lace-up Leather Brogues: From £44, Charles Clinkard
These shoes, which come in patent and non-patent, look really smart and are so well-made that your child is likely to grow out of them well before they start to show serious signs of wear and tear. They are a great fit and the customer service is personal and efficient, with quick delivery. Ours came with a spare set of leopard-print laces.
9. Next Black Clean Lace-up Shoes: From £20, Next
It’s no mean feat to make school shoes appear cool, but these do the job pretty well, with a style so casual that they are halfway to being trainers, but staying on the right side of smart to keep the head teacher happy. They are comfortable, true to size and as a leather shoe, good quality for the price.
10. John Lewis Victoria Flower Mary Jane Shoes: from £26, John Lewis
Traditional Mary-Jane shoes look great on younger girls and this pair is both fantastic value and robust, with scuff-resistant leather. We found them a good fit and our little testers like the pretty flower appliques on the front, as well as telling us they are comfortable and breathable.
11. Dr Martens Children’s Jerry Riptape Shoes: £50, Dr Martens
Parents of a certain age will remember Dr Martens nostalgically and the good news is that the brand is still going strong and makes some fabulous kids’ footwear, which all manage to retain that little sense of rebellion combined with stylishness. We love these rip-tape ones with air-cushioned soles that last and last.
12. Hush Puppies Helene JP School Shoes: £35, Brantano
Most British schools that have a school uniform insist on plain black shoes, but you can probably get away with these patent shoes that have a few pretty pink flowers to brighten them up. They have a secure buckle fit and even the inside is more vibrant than most, with colourful stars against a black background.
13. Marks & Spencer Kids’ Freshfeet Leather Lace up School Shoes: from £30, M&S
A great pair for older boys who prefer (or whose school prefers) the smarter look, these lace-up shoes feel nice and spongey on the feet, as well as fitting comfortably without a blister in sight on our young testers. Good quality that should see you through a whole school year.
14. Kangol Harrow Strapped Shoes: £17.50, Sports Direct
Older boys will like these shoes that have two riptapes, without looking babyish, and parents will love the price. Granted, they aren’t quite as well made as some of the shoes in this roundup, but they’re great if you’re on a tight budget.
You can never go wrong with Clarks shoes for kids, and we love its Tizz Fizz BL style, which are well-made, comfortable, true-to-size and long-lasting, while our favourite for boys is Start-rite Warrior Black Boys Riptape School Shoes, which tick all the same boxes.
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