How to find the perfect school shoes for your kids (without the fuss and tears).

The Athlete's Foot
Thanks to our brand partner, The Athlete's Foot

School shoes are arguably one of the most important back-to-school purchases on the ever-growing essentials list. So we’ve spoken to an expert on exactly how to find the perfect fit for your kids minus the stress.

My boys must go pretty hard at school. Their school shoes only seem to last six months before they’ve done irreparable damage to them. They are “toe-draggers”, a condition experienced primarily by adolescent boys. I’ve never heard of the term “toe-draggers” before but Kelly Burton, a Training and Medical Manager at The Athlete’s Foot explained it to me. She said it’s quite common. Are there shoes that can withstand my children?

“Nothing is indestructible,” she said, however she assured me that their two most popular brands – Clarks and Ascent – will certainly do their best to try and keep up with the running and the toe-dragging and the handball-playing.

She said school shoes are only fitted to last six to eight months anyway because children’s feet are growing and changing shape so we’re not doing too badly I suppose.

“Six months is good, eight is fantastic,” Kelly said, “but normally two pairs of shoes a year in that age group. Once they settle down with their growing, at around 12-13 for girls and 15-17 for boys, then they can go for a full year or even longer.”

Steel-capped boots wouldn’t withstand what my sons do to their school shoes, I suspect. My daughter’s shoes breeze through the year with barely a scuff mark.

buying school shoes
“My daughter’s shoes breeze through the year with barely a scuff mark.” Image via iStock.

Kelly from The Athlete’s Foot oversees staff training all over the country in preparation for the back-to-school season, spanning five weeks, which she describes as “hectic”.

But they are well-prepared for anything your children’s feet will throw at them, including grumpy kids who just aren’t in the mood to get their school shoes sorted that day. “Yes, our staff are taught how to engage with kids,” Kelly says. “They know how to handle different age groups, to mention common interests in order to build rapport at the same time as physically fitting the shoe.”


So how does the magic happen?

Once they have your kids talking, the experts at The Athlete’s Foot are already visually assessing their feet and they get through it all pretty quickly, starting with the old Brannock Device — the metal measuring device that measures the length of their feet, width and length of the arch. That’s where most shoe stores stop their assessment. But The Athlete’s Foot go much further.

They measure your children’s feet and they observe and assess all their fitting needs. They ask them questions about their feet and shoes before getting them to walk on their FITZI® machine that measures the pressure points under their feet.

buying school shoes
Cute when they’re at home, useless when at school. Image via iStock.

“So we measure, pop them across FITZI, find out fitting needs, pick the shoes and once we get them on check multiple areas to check fitting. We don’t just check the length. With little kid’s feet they are growing and the shape is changing. We check the heel, the top of the foot, the length, volume, depth and width of the shoe,” Kelly says.

They will ask your children to walk, run, hop, whatever they normally do in their school and sports shoes, all the while continuing their assessment.

“What we’re observing for is how the shoe moves with the foot, keeping their foot in a good position, looking comfortable and at ease with no slipping. We listen out for any slapping if they aren’t walking naturally.


Kids will tell you straight away if something is not fitting.”

Kelly refers to my seven-year-old son’s fat feet in terms of “volume” which is so cute. She says they see feet of all shapes and sizes.

“With kids, their feet are going to grow and change so the all over shape from birth to teens needs to be considered. We measure their feet each and every time to assess how much volume is required around the instep so as not to restrict him as he runs around.”

buying school shoes
“With kids, their feet are going to grow and change so the all over shape from birth to teens needs to be considered.” Image via iStock.

She also says that aside from the fact children’s feet grow and change constantly, the size of their feet is also affected by the weather, which I never even knew. “Their feet can swell by around half a size in the heat so you need growth room for weather changes. Alternatively, your feet can be smaller in colder weather.”

It can be hard for children to transition from their carefree school holidays during which they probably wear thongs and sandals only. Transitioning to the fitted feel of school shoes can be tough but Kelly says they will become more comfortable as the leather softens up through use.

Still, The Athlete’s Foot will ensure your children are as comfortable as possible in their new school and sports shoes thanks to their thorough assessment and variety of brands, matched specifically to meet your children’s needs. And that guarantee comes with no tears bonus (for you and the kids).

How do you ensure a fuss-free back-to-school school shop?

Here’s Jo’s experience getting her kids school-shoe ready: