When it comes to buying school shoes, you don't want to put a foot wrong so we've created a helpful guide to finding the perfect shoes for the classroom, whether you’re buying online, in-store, for a primary schooler or a teenager. After months at home, Britain's children are finally heading back to school in September. As most of them haven’t stepped foot in the playground since March, it's likely the first thing they'll need for those growing feet is a new pair of school shoes…and probably some trainers too.
You might have caught the online bug in lockdown and prefer to buy straight from a website, or be excited about the thought of going into a shop again for a bespoke fitting. Whichever method you choose, here are some handy hints to getting them the just-right pair of shoes so they can start this important term looking comfortable and stylish.
Tempting as it may seem, don't leave buying school shoes until the last week in August. Everyone thinks this is the best time as children's feet grow over the summer holidays. While this is true, try and get them measured slightly earlier in mid-August. It will be significantly less busy in-store and, if you buy online and leave it to the last minute, you risk finding that there are limited styles and sizes left.
School shoe policy
Your first stop when buying shoes for the new term should be the school uniform guide. All school policies differ when it comes to the colours and styles of footwear allowed. Some may not permit embellishments like diamantes, flashing lights on the soles or elaborate stitching, while others will be quite happy letting their students express their stylish side.
Lelli Kelly embellished girl's shoes, £56, John Lewis
Kurt Geiger Mini Freya shoes, ages 8 - 13, £44, Selfridges
Online or in-store? It's still all about the fit
It's imperative that your kids' school footwear fits, is comfortable and will last as long as possible. Remember, these shoes are going to be worn all day, every weekday, for between a term and two terms, depending on your child's age and how fast their feet grow. Getting the right fit is crucial. Traditionally, shopping for school shoes involved getting children's feet measured in-store by a shoe specialist. Several shoe stores offer this service. At Clarks, it's advisable to book a 15-minute appointment to avoid a long queue: clarks.co.uk.
Alternatively, you might prefer to avoid the chaos, face masks and crowds of the high street and measure your children's feet for yourself. Helpfully, Start-Rite now sells measuring gauges that can be used to find your child's size so you can order online from the comfort of your sofa.
Start-rite shoe fitting gauge, £10, John Lewis
Check the school shoes fit - here's how
Once your children's shoes have arrived, don't remove any labels until you've checked that they do fit, preferably in a carpeted room. First, test for the heel grip by holding the ankle with one hand and pulling down gently on the heel of the shoe. Does it slip or stay in place? Use your fingers to feel around the top of the shoe and check there are no gaps, especially between the shoe and the heel. Then, feel around the ankle to make sure the shoe does not touch the anklebone, as, if it does, it could rub. Finally, feel the top of the shoe to locate the end of your child's longest toe. Apply a little pressure to check the toe is not pressing against the end of the shoe. There should be a little growing room – but not too much.
Opt for velcro for younger kids
When looking for the perfect school shoe, one of the most important considerations is age. Younger children in preschool, Reception and Year 1 are unlikely to manage a shoelace or a fiddly buckle, especially if they are being rushed to get changed and go to their next lesson. Save them and their teachers' time and stress by opting for shoes with a Velcro fastening that can be quickly done up and undone again.
TU black patent light-up unicorn school shoes, £17, Sainsbury's
Boys toddler black leather shoes, £38, Clarks
Teenage shoes need to be more than just fashionable
For teens, look for shoes that will be hard-wearing. Shoes with scruff-resistant leather are great for those with a penchant for dribbling a football around the playground, while back-collar padding helps shoes keep their shape no matter how many times they get kicked on and off.
School shoes for teenage girls, £55, Geox
Kids' leather lace up school shoes, from £32, Marks & Spencer
If trainers are allowed, choose wisely!
For trainers, look for styles with antibacterial technology to keep feet fresh, even after several laps of the athletics track.
Clarks children's scooter speed school shoes, £46, John Lewis
HELLO!'s selection is editorial and independently chosen – we only feature items our editors love and approve of. HELLO! may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. To find out more visit our FAQ page.