Buying school shoes is a complicated and sometimes stressful exercise. There’s a huge array of styles and pricing and, at the end of the day, you want to do what’s right for your child at a price you’re comfortable with. We’re lucky we have a highly skilled Hills District Mum who can answer the common questions in the lead up to the new school year and that new pair of school shoes.
When’s the best time to purchase school shoes?
The best time is straight after Christmas or the first week of the New Year. This way you beat the crowds, your kids get the pick of their favourite styles, there’s plenty of sizes and kids have oodles of time to do their homework (wear their new shoes in!) before beginning school. If you’re going away over the break, make sure you get your shoes before you go away. Then you’re the ‘organised mum’ and don’t have to battle any crowds and avoid disappointment that the favourite style is not available in your child’s size. Cue tears from your kids.
On average, a child (once they reach school age) grows approximately 1 size a year, so although it seems like your child may have a growth spurt over summer, in fact it’s only one 12th of their annual growth done during this time. As your kids reach pre-pubescence, there can be a more rapid growth until they stop, so you might not quite make the year out of this pair unfortunately!
Trained shoe fitters can fit for about 9 months of growth over the school year, with most children getting the full year out of their shoes before needing new ones. The size will be the same whether you purchase on 1 January or 31 January and experienced fitters know how to fit and cater for the fact that the shoes won’t be worn until the beginning of February.
If you think your child might be an extreme fitting (for example, very narrow/wide, very small/large) or have an unusual request such as brown shoes or orthotics, then go shopping early for best fitting results and to avoid disappointment.
What to look for when purchasing school shoes
The first thing to look for is a friendly, expert fitter who is fully trained and qualified with plenty of footwear knowledge and experience. Someone who is able to answer all your questions and give you advice. As a fully qualified fitter, they will intimately know their stock and will be able to correctly fit your child in shoes that offer good support with growth room but not trip over room!
Look for shoes that are lightweight (you don’t want your child to carry a brick on each foot) with quality leather uppers, leather linings, full and half sizes and different width fittings.
Be sure to have your child’s feet measured and properly fitted for school shoes and sport shoes as your children will spend many hours in them and they need to be comfortable, otherwise they will get grumpy! Also, the better the fit the longer the shoes last. An incorrectly fitted shoe has stresses and bends in the wrong places so it breaks down or becomes misshapen and wears out faster.
Basically the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ has never been more true when it comes to school shoes. The more money you spend, the better the quality the materials that are used to manufacture the shoes. The better the quality materials, the better the durability. The better the durability, the happier the mother!
Sometimes we fall into the trap of purchasing a cheaper pair, only to find that they need replacing at least once throughout the course of the year. Add up what that would have cost and chances are if you spent just a little bit extra, they would last longer and it would be money well spent.
Correct fitting is more important to the overall heath and development of your children’s growing feet than getting a cheap price.
School shoes versus sports shoes? Then there’s lace up, velcro or buckle…
The first thing you need to do before offering your child ANY of these choices is check with your school regarding their uniform regulations!
Many times in store we have parents say they want traditional school shoes for their daughters but black sports shoes for their sons, because they run around so much. As a mother of 3 beautiful girly girls, I struggle with this notion as I NEVER see my girls running around any less than the boys! So what’s a mother to do?
Let me break this down for you…
- Traditional school shoes have been designed to be worn five days a week to school.
- Sports shoes have been designed to be worn 2 days a week to sport.
- Lace ups offer the best support, only if they’re done up correctly.
- Velcro is quick and easy in the rush of the morning and has more chance of being done up correctly by your small child.
- Buckles for little kids are not as easy to do up so try to leave them to the bigger kids.
- Mens’ dress shoes are becoming popular for senior boys – try to spend a bit extra on a good quality pair as dress shoes are made for the office, not school.
- If you have a high-schooler consider the science labs, food tech, metal and wood tech rooms – they want covered, sturdy leather shoes for health and safety.
If you decide to purchase sports shoes to be worn instead of school shoes, then be prepared to purchase two pairs over the course of the year.
Preparing for the first day of school
Now that you’ve spent the money on the best pair of shoes you can afford, your kids have a few responsibilities to look after their shoes.
Firstly, kids have homework before they even start school! New shoes should be worn in for a minimum of one hour 7 times (that’s a total of 7 hours) before wearing them for the first time to school. They don’t have to be walking – just having them on while eating dinner, watching TV or reading will suffice. Their body heat will soften the leather and help to prevent blisters on day one.
If you have already purchased school shoes earlier in the previous year and they still fit for the beginning of the new school year, we still recommend wearing them in again. Over the six weeks of Christmas holidays the leather firms up again as it’s not been worn on a daily basis and little feet have become accustomed to wearing sandals thongs or even no shoes at all! Putting your old school shoes on the day you return to school can feel very restricting so to avoid a meltdown on the morning of the first day, it’s a good idea to ease into it.
Taking shoes on and off
Teaching your child to put their shoes on and take them off correctly is worth the time invested. It will ensure they have the shoes on properly and also prolongs the life of the shoes.
- When putting shoes on use your finger or thumb in the back of the shoe and do not take your finger out until your foot is inside the shoe. This will prevent the back heel counter from being squashed down and ruining the support.
- Place your heel on the ground with your toe aimed high in the air to drop your foot into the back of the shoe. If parents are putting kids shoes on, ask your child to sit in a chair while you stand in front of them putting their foot between your knees. This will have the same effect.
- Starting with the laces at the bottom – closest to your toes – firmly pull the shoe laces working your way towards the top of the shoe. Tie the bow.
School shoes are a big investment so hopefully the above information provides you with some understanding of what to look for when making that all important purchase!
Jaythene is a Hills District Mum of 3 and knows kids’ shoes like the back of her hand. Her family has owned Sparks Shoes in Beecroft for generations and the store is a local institution. She has also written an article on looking after school shoes so they last as long as possible. Read it here.