School Shoes: Expensive or Budget, what’s the best?


School Shoes

Today on Tots100 we’re talking School Shoes. Specifically, we’re using real-life experience to determine where the smart money goes. Have the cheaper supermarket brands achieved the quality of the more traditional school shoe shop suppliers? How do these cheaper shoes stand up to the battering that children subject them to daily? (How do the expensive ones cope?) Does it pay to invest in good shoes, or not?

As the mother of a size-8-footed 12 years old daughter, and a size-6-footed 10 years old son, I cannot find shoes that last beyond a term. Clarks, Kickers, Next, Dr Martens, Timberland, budget ones from Sports Direct – I’ve tried them all. From £18 (Sports Direct) to £120 (Dr Martens), they’ve all fallen apart after just 1 term ☹ So we asked the Tots100 community for their views, hints and tips on buying school shoes, and the response was really interesting.

First, there’s the parents who champion investing in good quality, high end, school shoes.

Paying for Quality

Emma from BubbaBlue & Me

I buy decent quality proper fitted school shoes and apart from reception, they’ve always lasted until he grew out of them (usually summer half term, when I switch to cheapo Tesco or Matalan ones as it’s only half a term of wear so not worth paying more). We’ve had dual sized Superfit, Startrite and this time Ecco. I shop in an independent children’s shoe shop because I want the best fit. However, his feet grow slowly and they last because his school only wear their school shoes indoors and on school trips/events. Trainers or boots outside. So, they’re not playing football or destroying them. We had two years of him growing out in summer half term but the shoes were still fine, and last year they lasted the full school year. This year’s pair are going strong even without a reinforced toe bumper. 

The only year they cost me a lot was going through three pairs in reception class. He never remembered to change into outdoor shoes to go to after school club so would scuff them while scrabbling around on the floor. 

I’d much rather got through three pairs of trainers for a cost of £70 a year, than three pairs of school shoes at £50-60 a go.

Amy from All About a Mummy

With two girls it is so bloomin’ hard to find shoes with reinforced toes. It’s like the shoe manufacturers think it is only boys who chase around the playground like lunatics. I’ve tried supermarket shoes and the high street brands and the only ones I have found which last more than a term are Clark’s patent shoes. I completely begrudge paying the extortionate amount for them but I have to admit they do last even through the assault course my eldest puts them through. I’ve even put away some pairs for my younger daughter when she is bigger as they have lasted so well. Don’t make the mistake of going for the standard leather, it’s patent which lasts.

Hannah from Chasing Symplicity

We try and go for quality, but always get them fitted and shop at outlets/sales for a better deal. We tend to stick to Clarks now as I love their fitting service and choice of widths, and at outlet prices we usually pay £20 a pair. I think it helps to know your child too – My littlest ones always crawls along the floor so patent leather shoes last much longer than others. My son hooks his legs around the front legs of his chair at school (scuffing the fronts of his shoes) so it’s better to find ones with a lip around the front or reinforced toe panel to help them stay scuff free for longer. We have four children so buy a LOT of shoes, and this way they usually last a year and we move up due to sizing changes!

Daisy from Inspire Create Do

This year I bought Vivo Barefoot shoes for both our boys, because I’d read about the benefits of barefoot shoes. They wear them every day, and after 5 months still look as good as the first day they put them on. They absolutely love them, and say they can run and jump in them at playtime and are still comfortable wearing them in the classroom all day too. Plus, the Velcro is super easy for them to do themselves. They cost the same as Clark’s, and have a good resale value, plus a 100-day guarantee so if your child doesn’t like them, you can send them back. Although I really don’t think you will – my boys love them!

School Shoes

Jan at Falcondale Life

My children wear orthotic insoles for flat feet, which makes finding shoes very difficult as the insoles add so much depth. Because of the insoles, the hospital specialist instructed me to buy continental shoes. He warned us to steer clear of cheap British high street footwear which doesn’t support the foot in the same way. Luckily there are two boutique shops in our town which sell children’s shoes from Germany, Italy and more. The continental shoes certainly are a cut above the rest but we’ve had to buy them now for the last 14 years and I dread to think how much we have spent. They are never less than £40 a pair. Some of the brands we usually buy are Richter, Ricosta and Petasil. We do let the kids buy cheap shoes for parties or the beach, but for long-term wear they need 
something supportive.

Natalie at Plutonium Sox

My big bugbear with school shoes is that girls’ shoes just aren’t robust enough. When they’re at school, girls want to run around in the playground just like boys. So, wearing school shoes that are designed for looking pretty and not much else is never going to be acceptable. I wrote last year about how gender stereotyping costs businesses money and this was one of the examples I used. In the end, we started buying Kickers boys’ shoes for my eldest daughter. These were a lot more robust and lasted well. Thankfully, by the time my youngest started, the school allowed children to wear smart trainers. So now, both girls have boys’ black trainers for school. They last better, they have better grip so they’re safer for the playground and they are a lot cheaper. 

Sinead from Sinead Latham

We’ve done two school years with two pairs of shoes. I invested in some Dr Marten T bars for my boy both years and have been worth every penny. We only had to buy another pair because his feet grew 😂 Compared to the price of Clarks I’d say they are more than comparable and twice as cool.

Jenny from The Brick Castle

I’ve been a parent of school aged children now for 21 years and with seven kids, that’s a lot of shoes. Some kids are heavier on them than others and my youngest really is the worst. He destroyed two pairs in the two months before we spotted Treads asking for reviewers. We got them last April and in almost 10 months they have not come apart at all. No holes, good tread and both boys are at school in them right now. I can even confirm they’re good in snow! I seriously wouldn’t bother with anything else now 😊 They cost £45 a pair, but buying more cheaply really has never proved financially advantageous to us.

School Shoes

Sally from What Sally Said

I really think it does pay to invest in shoes. Recently I went for a cheaper alternative shoe as I simply couldn’t believe the prices of the leading brand shall we say! Anyway, I brought them for the start of term in September and by Christmas they were literally throw away and I had to go out and buy the more costly ones. Also, I think it’s really important to look after little one’s feet and get them properly measured. Why take chances on something so precious?

Jo from A Rose Tinted World

We always get measured at Clarks and then I buy new or used good condition ones from eBay. I also ask for shoe vouchers for Christmas, as it is the most expensive part of my LOs wardrobe! She grows too quickly to wear them out at the moment though!

Lianne from Ankle Biters Adventures

I think it’s best to spend money and invest in them – we had a cheaper pair and by November I had to buy more! I went for Clarks this time and they are going strong!

Jaime from Our Family Homestead

I always went for mid-priced shoes but they never lasted a year – so this September I paid £50 for ‘Kickers’ and by January I had to invest in some new ones! – needless to say I was gutted.

Clare from Emmys Mummy

Reinforced toes are the way forward. I’ve tried so many shoes with my kids but the pair I adore and have stood the test of tree climbing, football and a boy who refuses to lift up his feet are the Start-rite pair my son has. He has had these since July 2017 and they still look as good as new.

School Shoes

Lucy from Real Mum Reviews

I’ve had both extremes – cheap and impressive and expensive and rubbish! Our favourites have been the patent Lelli Kellies – despite a big price tag they’ve withstood everything that my daughters thrown at them!

Becky from Thrifty Home

We are vegetarian and don’t wear leather so school shoes have always been manmade and my kids go through a pair each half term. Cheap but a bit rubbish. Then I managed to get some vegan Dr Martens for my daughter. They are cool, sturdy and absolutely fantastic quality. Worth every single penny – they will definitely last till she goes up a size.

School Shoes

You then have parents who’ve tried the expensive shoes, been disappointed with them and so now buy cheaper shoes knowing they’ll probably won’t last the school year.

Choosing the Cheaper Options

Rachel from Coffee Cake Kids

All three of our boys had ASDA shoes in September. Most expensive pair was £16. They’re scuffed but I think they will easily last until Easter unless they have growth spurts. The kids are 7,6 and 4. 

Maria from Happy Mummy

We bought Clarks shoes in September for start of term and they got pretty worn out straight away the first week. When it came to winter boots we just got cheapies from Matalan and the decorative buckle snapped off last week. I now think that the price doesn’t matter they will get ruined quickly anyway so I will probably stick to cheaper ones that I can replace more often if needed.

Carly from Mom Of Two Little Girls

We bought ASDA shoes and they got scuffed pretty quickly. Recently I bought them a new pair of shoes from M&S and they seem to be holding up really well. My eldest even made mention of the fact that she likes the cushion sole so they must be comfortable too. Personally, I’m not convinced money is what makes the difference, sometimes it’s just how tough the child is on the shoes.

Yvette from Uplifting and Inspiring Content

I’ve stopped buying expensive shoes because they only last a couple of weeks. My favourite shop now is ASDA. Most of the school shoes are under £20. 

Leigh from Dad Geek

I have three children. Two seem to go through shoes at a sensible rate but the eldest has found a way to destroy shoes in a matter of weeks. We never buy expensive shoes, it’s always ASDA George or similar for our school shop!

Eva from Captain Bobcat

So far – second term for us – bought shoes from Marks and Spencer. First pair was a little better quality, £28 but not leather, which lasted the term, but not more. Second pair I’ve opted for a cheaper one (£18), based on the previous term – but this pair started to break three weeks into the term – looking like it’s not going to last!

Laura from Wafflemama

We get reduced walking shoes from Go Outdoors for our son and for around a tenner in the sales they last until they wear out! Actual school shoes I’ve had £5 ones and £50 ones for him and honestly find them all as bad. My daughter though, she doesn’t seem to actively destroy them so she can pretty much have whatever!

Lara from Adventures of a Mum

I’ve always been told that you should buy expensive shoes for them to last. But the truth is the three pairs of Clarks shoes I’ve bought my son have all fallen apart as quickly as the supermarket ones that are less than half the price. The supermarkets have all developed so much over the past few years that they offer some brilliant alternatives. I still like to ensure the children’s feet are measured correctly, but it’s great to be open to buying them from the high street, supermarkets and even Aldi’s ‘aisle of wonder’!

Hmm … lots to think about, but the main point I’m taking from this post is that you need to buy styles that suit the way your child wears their shoes … my daughter manages to scuff her shoes (so we need to look for patent leather); my son wears out the toes, so I need to look for shoes that are reinforced around the front. At least, if I achieve this, there’s a glimmer of hope that they might last just a little bit longer than usual!

Where do you buy school shoes? How often do you have to do a school shoe shop? Let us know below.

Tracey is the Contributing Editor for Tots100 and Trips100. She also blogs at PackThePJs. Tracey writes mainly about family travel; from days out to road trips with her pet dogs, to cruises and long-haul tropical destinations. Her family consists of her husband Huw, a science and technology writer, Millie-Mae (12), Toby (10) and Izzy and Jack the spaniels.

Discussion1 Comment

  1. It’s great to hear other people’s opinions and tips!! I’ll be buying double come September so always looking to save money and buy the best! Thanks for the article x

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