Is it that time of the year again? Yes, the dreaded back-to-school uniform checklist is upon us.
If your child is just starting out on their journey, or moving to a bigger school, this is the perfect opportunity to spark some excitement for a new term.
While school rules differ on what types of shoes are acceptable – remember to check the uniform guidelines first – allowing your child to get involved in the process will ultimately keep all parties happy.
Children’s feet grow at record pace, so it’s imperative to get their feet measured, but fortunately for time-short parents, lots of shoe retailers have online tools, print-out sheets and even purchasable gauges to make sure you select the right size.
How we tested
We (alongside our mini testers covering every school age group) tested a whole host of styles to suit boys and girls. We scored them for style, durability, sizing, price and, most importantly, comfort. School is challenging enough without pinching toes or rubbing blisters added into the mix. Our round-up of school shoes will have your children starting on the right (and left) foot.
The best kids’ school shoes for 2021 are:
- Best overall – GloMove flare shine kid black leather: £48, Clarks.co.uk
- Best unisex school shoes – M&S kids’ leather freshfeet trainers: £28, Marksandspencer.com
- Best for active kids – Bobux venture: £59, Bobux.co.uk
- Best for comfort – Next tassel loafers: From £20, Next.co.uk
- Best for child-friendly details – Kickers adlar heart Mj infant: £40, Kickers.co.uk
- Best vegan school shoes – Start-Rite brogue snr vegan black synthetic lace-up school shoes: £54.99, Startriteshoes.com
- Best durable school shoes – Bobux brave black patent: £59, Bobux.co.uk
- Best cute school shoes – Kickers kick hi zip infant: £50, Kickers.co.uk
- Best for easy fastening – Start-Rite explore black leather boys riptape pre-school shoes: £42.99, Startriteshoes.com
Clarks glomove flare shine kid black leather
A school shoe round-up wouldn’t be complete without a trusty pair of Clarks. And while there are now many more strong competitors on the scene, it’s safe to say they still shine bright. In fact, these shine brighter than any others we reviewed, thanks to their “glomove” technology. There’s a clever motion sensor contained in the heel of each shoe, which triggers the light sequence on heel impact, lighting up the rainbow detailing and sole of the shoe.
We’re not sure what lit up more: the shoes or our five-year-old’s face when she got to put them on for the first time. Fortunately, there’s an on/off button on the outside of each shoe, which we’ve enforced must be turned off in the classroom.
But beyond the fun light-up feature, they’re actually a hugely reliable pair of school shoes. You can choose from two width sizes, and half sizes are available. The riptape fastening is perfect for our little reviewer to put them on and take them off. There’s extra cushioning around the ankle for comfort and they feel very robust. The hardest bit for us is getting her to take them off. Clarks is also lightening its environmental footprint wherever possible, so we were chuffed to see that 50 per cent of the footbed is made from recycled content.
M&S kids' leather freshfeet trainers
Best: Unisex school shoes
Our tester is about to return for her second year at “big school”, so we found her harder to please than ever when it came to choosing the right school shoe. Trusty M&S had the answer, and the best news is they’re one of the cheapest pairs we reviewed.
Available in half sizes, these are fit true to size and we’ve had no complaints, even after a full day of wearing (and walking to and from school), which is thanks to the squidgy foam insole. Our mini reviewer loves this trainer style, and they’re a good look for boys and girls as they have a chunky sole and laces. They claim to have a scruff-resistant coating, and a week in they’re looking in good condition, plus they’re non-marking, to protect floors. The breathable lining is designed to keep feet cool, too. We were also pleased to hear that the lining is made from recycled polyester and the leather is responsibly sourced, making them that little bit kinder to the environment.
Best: For active kids
In the likelihood that you’ve bought kids shoes before, then Bobux is a brand you would – or should – have come across. As big fans of the New Zealand-born kids’ shoe company, we were thrilled to hear it has launched a dedicated school collection for 2021. Expectations were high, and we’re pleased to say the brand has well and truly delivered.
Standout features for are the genius name label on the inside of the strap; the lightweight rubber sole, which has a great level of flex and a herringbone pattern that increases grip; and the plush leather insole with EVA and memory foam inner for comfort. The double riptape straps ensure a snug fit, while making them accessible for little ones. We applaud the durability too – the venture style is a robust pair of shoes and there’s been special attention paid to the heel and toe cap, with an additional leather coating. These kicks were created with active kids in mind – they’re incredibly comfortable and are ready for work or play.
Next tassel loafers
Best: For comfort
There was a smile on our 12-year-old tester’s face as she was presented with a pair of slip-on school shoes. No more faffing with laces or buckles – hoorah! At first glance, these tassel loafers from Next look rather rigid, but, to everyone’s delight, hiding inside is a plush padded lining and memory foam insole. The result? Super-comfy school shoes that you can order in standard (F) and wide (G) width fittings, alongside whole and half sizes for the perfect match. They have also added micro-fresh technology to keep odours at bay, and the chunky sole means you’ll get plenty of wear out of them, too. Plus the price tag is pretty favourable.
Kickers adlar heart MJ infant
Best: For child-friendly details
Before our five-year-old tester had put these shoes on, she was swooning over the silver heart detailing. And we couldn’t blame her, it’s a sweet touch indeed. Kickers is all about the finer details, and function meets form with the adlar heart Mj infant school shoes. From the imitation buckle, which is actually a more manageable riptap fastening, to the colour-coded accents (green for right, red for left), it’s a well considered shoe. There’s a good level of cushioning, and additional padded heel collars to avoid any rubbing. With a patent leather finish, we love how inherently girly and smart these shoes are.
Start-Rite brogue snr vegan lace-up school shoes
Best: Vegan pair
Start-Rite has been making shoes since 1792, so the brand has had years of practice. Traditional in style, the brand launched a vegan collection this year and has continued to add new styles and sizes. To the naked eye, you’d assume these brogue-style, lace-up school shoes are made from leather. The game is given away by the smell – or lack of – but we have to say the quality is all there. Durable, with a good level of flex, these shoes feel lightweight (even at a size 8).
They’re incredibly smart, and our tester commented on the padded ankles that ensured no end-of-day blisters. Available in half sizes, we found them true to size. You also don’t have to worry about rainy walks to school, as they’re water-resistant.
Bobux brave black patent
Best: Durable school shoes
Boasting many of the same fun and functional features that the aforementioned venture shoes possess, the brave models are another strong contender from Bobux. The T-bar design is a classic choice, but something out of the ordinary for the brand is the patent finish. We love it.
The shoes are crafted from full-grain leather and have finer details such as the heel counter and toe cap for extra durability in high-wear areas. The hook-and-loop style fastening is great for younger ones, plus the squidgy insoles have a left and right reminder to help little learners. Kids will look the part but stay comfy with these shoes; they’re a smart choice indeed.
Kickers kick hi zip infant
Best: Cute school shoes
Diddy school shoes are adorable, and they don’t come much cuter than these hi-tops from Kickers. They might not be the most practical choice, as there was no chance of our three-year-old tester putting these on independently, but they deserve to be included for the cute factor.
Kickers has been synonymous with school shoes for the last 50 years and for good reason. They’re supportive around the ankles, and there’s a padded ring around the top for comfort. They’ve got those cool Kicker branding accents, like the green and red tab and the fleurette tag. We also found these very durable – perfect for a threenager who is fast on her feet.
Start Rite explore black leather boys riptape pre-school shoes
Best: For easy fastening
The casual all-black explore shoe is part of Start-Rite’s “My first school shoe” collection. You want a child’s relationship with their school shoes to start positively, and you’ll be in good hands (or should we say feet) with this pair from Start-Rite. These shoes are super easy to put on and take off, which is a godsend when you’ve got a wriggly child to contend with. Our five-year-old tester commented on how easy the chunky riptape straps are to use.
Compared with the other pairs we tested, we did find the insole a little hard, and thought it would benefit from some extra cushioning, but there’s a good level of padding around the ankle collar. They look and feel durable, and come in two widths and half sizes, for the perfect fit.
The verdict: Kids' school shoes
The GloMove flare shine school shoes showcase Clarks doing what Clarks does best... stylish school shoes with a good measure of substance. Yes, the light-up feature is a bit of fun, but beyond that these shoes are durable and comfortable. We were also hugely impressed with Bobux’s new School by Bobux collection, which launches on 13 August.
For the latest discount on kids essentials, try the links below:
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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.
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