School shoes are one of the most important purchases we make for our kids; they protect, support, and can make all the difference when it comes to the healthy growth of young feet.
Knowing which brands stand out in a crowd, and where to buy them for the best price is no mean feat, and the questions that come into play when making a selection can be overwhelming: Cheap or expensive? Leather or PVC? Trainers or a traditional shoe?
In this guide we shed light on common questions that come with choosing school shoes for kids, and point out the best brands to look for for 2019.
But first, let's take a look at what you should consider when buying a pair of school shoes.
8 Features of Quality School Shoes
For school shoes that are most likely to get kids through the year, and provide the right support that growing feet need, these are some of the qualities you should be looking for:
- Comfort. Kids need shoes that are comfortable to wear from the get-go. The idea of "breaking in" a shoe doesn't bode well for school kids; if their feet hurt, it affects their concentration, can damage feet (flashbacks to all those band-aids needed in term one!), and usually signifies the wrong fit or material. Further to this, kids shouldn't have to "grow into" their school shoes.
- Grip. Kids move around a lot, at varying speeds and on all kinds of surfaces, from wet ovals to slippery science labs. Good school shoes should have rubber soles with excellent grip. Look underneath the shoe and ensure there is reliable tread that will support kids wherever they walk, run, jump or skip.
- Material. Look for materials that allow the feet to breathe, like leather, canvas and suede. These will help to reduce sweating and odours.
- Growth room. Kids' need adequate wriggle or growth room in their shoes, and you should aim for a gap the approximate size of the thumb between the big toe and the front end of the shoe.
- Removable insoles. If you can remove and replace the insoles of a shoe if they become frayed or worn out, you extend the life of the shoe, and add some extra comfort.
- Flexibility. Kids crouch, climb, crawl and run in their school shoes, so it stands to reason that they need enough flexibility to allow feet to move freely. Ensure the front of the shoe is not so stiff as to be unable to flex adequately.
- Lightweight. Lighter shoes allow kids to move with more ease, and don't tire the feet and leg muscles the way heavy footwear can.
- Appropriate heel height. It's believed that a slightly raised heel helps to keep feet in a more natural position. Avoid shoes with no heel at all, or with an excessively high heel.
Now, that we've established what makes a great school shoe, let's take a look at the best school shoes in Australia for 2019:
Clarks School Shoes
Clarks is always top of mind when it comes to quality school shoes, and it has a number of styles that are consistent favourites with parents and kids year on year. Shcool shoes are made of quality leather, they come in whole and half sizes, and you can also select sizes by width, making it possible to find the perfect fit.
Daytona - This is the top selling school shoe in Australia, and comes in 184 different sizes across senior and youth ages. It is a lace-up shoe, with removable innersole, and leather upper, lining and sock. This shoe comes in brown or black and costs $134.95 - $139.95.
Petite - This Mary-Jane style shoe is perfect for younger girls because it has a single Velcro strap and Active Air technology that works to reduce impact on the feet. It has leather upper, lining and sock and a removable innersole. The Petite is available in brown or black, and costs $139.95.
Grosby School Shoes
Grosby has been making quality school shoes for over 80 years, and one of the drawcards of this particular brand is that the prices are very reasonable. School shoes are heavily tested for comfort and durability, and with features like double collars and extra grip, they're an obvious favourite for kids. Grosby shoes are sold at Myer, David Jones and Big W.
Grosby Hamburg Junior- As far as classic school shoes go, this one is a gem. With minimal design elements, it's a very clean looking shoe that always looks smart. The paddle ankle, arch support and lightweight design of this full-leather shoe makes it a perennial favourite. You can buy it for $35.
Grosby Mary Jane - With leather upper, cushioned innersole and an easy-use Velcro tab closure, this is a firm favourite for girls, not to mention one of the most affordable school shoes around. Sizes range from 10 to 3, and the price is just $29.
Airflex School Shoes
Airflex is the premium range of school shoes from Betts. The range is wholly dedicated to ultra-comfortable footwear that can be worn day-in, day-out, while standing up to the wear and tear of school life. One of the distinguishing features of Airflex shoes is that they are lightweight, in fact Betts claim they are 25% lighter than similar shoes.
NOTE: look out for 40% offAirflex school shoes during back-to-school time in January.
Raider - This full-leather school shoe features the Airflex "impact cushion technology", and comes in sizes for juniors and seniors. The lace-up shoe has sporty vibes and comes only in black. It costs $129.99 - $139.99.
Swing-DE- This is a traditional girls' school shoe packed with modern innovation for optimum comfort. It's a fully leather shoe that is "as light as a feather", making it a hands-down favourite in the buckle-up classics. It is available in black, comes in a wide range of sizes and costs $129.99.
Target School Shoes
Target's school shoes continue to get better and better, and in 2019, the range includes several all-leather options at some of the best prices around. These Target exclusives have a Dri-lex lining which is helpful in keeping feet dry and well ventilated, and they boast padded collars and tongues for extra comfort. When it comes to value for money, you can't really go wrong with these.
Earl Junior - This easy-wear school shoes have twin Velcro straps, and as such they're fabulous for busy kids who want to get moving fast. They have a removable innersole, a lightweight outsole, and a full leather upper. In sizes 10 to 3, this one is suitable primary school kids. The Early Junior is $35.
Eliza Junior - As far as T-bar shoes go, this one is a real stand out because it replaces the traditional buckle with a Velcro tab for even easier wear. It has a moulded footbed for comfort and a lightweight outsole. With a full leather upper, it's outstanding value at just $35.
Ascent School Shoes
Ascent school shoes come in one of the most diverse range of sizes around, including varying widths and toe shapes. Bringing a lot of innovation to the make of school shoes, this is the only brand endorsed by the Australasian Podiatry Council and recommended by health professionals.
Crusade- This is a durable formal school shoe, with some definite sporty vibes. In full-grain leather, it has an arch-support insole, free-fit lacing and a tough rubber outsole. One of our favourite features is the remarkable grip on the Crusade, which is guaranteed to keep kids stable and protected. You can buy this shoe for $99.95.
Prep2 - This shoe is one of our top picks for younger kids, because, as stated by Ascent, it's essentially a "sports shoe in disguise." It has an adjustable hook-and-loop Velcro fastening for easy on and off, and in calf leather it's a smart unisex shoe that is packed with comfort. You can buy it now for $84.95.
Roc School Shoes
Roc consistently provides long-lasting and on-trend school shoes year on year. With multi-fit innersoles, these are comfortable leather shoes with a huge dose of style. Roc shoes can be found at Myer, Mathers, Williams, Shoebox and David Jones.
Strobe Senior - This is a very smart school shoe that could easily been worn as a casual shoe outside of school. It's has a full leather upper and lining, is lightweight, and features a leather tongue and padded collar. Great design features make this one of the most stylish traditional shoes around. You can buy the Strobe Senior for $129.95 at Myer.
How to Save Money on School Shoes
- Be ready to pounce on Boxing Day and end-of-season sales. From December 26th, and sometimes earlier in some cases, most shoe stores and department stores have heavy discounts on offer. Make the time to grab your shoes then, rather than in the week before term one, when retail prices are at their highest.
- Use coupon codes for your favourite stores. Also called "promo codes", these could could save you cash, or even score you free shipping. See coupons here.
- Buy quality shoes. Yes, they're more expensive, but in the long run, you can end up spending less buying one quality pair than buying three or four cheaper pairs.
- Shop at stores with free shipping. No one likes paying for shipping, especially when it is usually $10 in Australia for footwear orders. Thankfully a lot of stores offer free shipping nowadays. Check the list here.
- Compare prices. Some brands of shoes are sold at a number of different retailers, like Grosby for example. Be sure to do a quick search online for the best price on the shoe you are interested in, and don't be scared to ask if a store will price match.
- Teach kids to look after their shoes so that they last longer. A few handy tips can help kids (especially the younger ones) realise the habits or activities that tend to inflict extra wear and tear on shoes. Point out things like scuffing and toe dragging, both of which can destroy shoes fast!
- Check marketplaces. Online stores like eBay and Catch can be the source of incredible deals on big brands, so ensure you always check them out before clicking the buy now button elsewhere. (Keep in mind that eBay will beat an identical price found elsewhere by 5%.)
Tips For Buying School Shoes Online
Nowadays some of the hottest shoe deals for kids are found online, which while great for our wallets, can be tricky when it comes to establishing the comfort and fit of a shoe.
- Read reviews of the shoe you are interested in. As you will see from our roundup of the best school shoes for 2019 above, there are some clear favourites that many Australian families already swear by. Read any associated reviews - they can be a big help in knowing if a shoe is likely to feel great on feet.
- Know your child's size. Good online shoe stores will have size charts posted online to help you with your decision. By measuring your child's feet just prior to purchasing (not months beforehand, as feet can grow fast and in spurts), you stand the best chance of scoring the correct size.
- Contact the store. Most popular online shoe stores and department stores have a customer service line. Phone them up and ask for more information about the type of fit, grip, materials and also how well the shoe sells. If it's a good shoe, it will likely have a solid track record of sales.
- Ensure you can return or exchange if necessary. With items like apparel and footwear, it's important to buy from stores with a no-fuss returns policy - especially when dealing with premium school shoes that can be costly.
Common Questions About School Shoes
Are expensive shoes really better?
Usually when it comes to school shoes, you get what you pay for. That said there are always some exceptions, and all children wear (or torment!) their shoes differently.
Higher costs usually come with more quality materials and extra workmanship. In general, leather shoes have been found to be more durable than synthetic options and therefore more likely to get you through the school year without needing a replacement. Premium features like double stitching can toughen up areas prone to breakage, and suede lining breathes better than polyester.
With cheaper shoes, the cost of manufacturing the shoe is lower, and this can indicate shortcuts are taken in the making of the shoes, and you are less likely to get the extent of wear out of them than you would a more expensive shoe. In fact, buy buying cheap school shoes, you could end up needing several pairs to see you through the year, as opposed to one quality pair.
Should I go with lace-ups, buckles, Velcro or slip-ons?
All of these are fine, except for slip-ons, which don't provide the right support for a school shoe.
Velcro is excellent for younger kids who haven't yet learnt to tie laces (or who are too busy to bother with them!), and buckles look smart and provide excellent support with little fuss.
How do I measure my kids' feet?
It's actually very easy to measure kids' feet yourself, and it saves the time and inconvenience of heading into a store to have it done.
- Have your child stand barefoot and upright on a sheet of paper.
- With a pen or pencil, outline both feet.
- Get a ruler and draw line between the farthest points of each foot, usually the big toe and the heel. (This will likely be diagonal.)
- Measure the length of the line for each foot. (There is likely to be a bit of a discrepancy between them, which is normal.) The longest length is your child's most accurate foot length, and can be used with online size charts to determine the best size.
Remember, when choosing sizes online to allow a thumb-size space at the toe for wriggle and growth room, usually at least one centimetre.