written by Kim Jackson (M.S.S.F – Member of the Society of Shoe Fitters) and Director of Klodhoppers (Hove & Haywards Heath)
First of all if you are reading this now, in mid September – whoops, some of this advice may be a little bit too late! However some of the following advice, tips and hints could make you and your children’s Back to School shoe buying trip slightly less stressful than it needs to be.
To those of you in life who leave everything to the last minute – don’t!!
Where school shoes are concerned, it can send some parents into a wild panic during the last few days of August – I have seen many a mum almost come to blows with their pre-teen daughter when there are only a couple of pairs left to choose from in that child’s size, and mum wants her to have the more ‘sensible’, correctly-fitting pair, invariably the daughter wants the pair that clearly doesn’t fit properly because she likes the style more. Tantrums usually ensue! Sales are often lost when the parent isn’t in charge!
So please don’t leave the school shoe buying to the last week of the summer holidays! There are several very valid reasons for this, and not solely because we would prefer to have our business spread more evenly over the summer break.
Most of our school shoes tend to arrive at the end of July, as the schools start to break up for the holidays, so this is when we have a full selection of styles and size runs to choose from, i.e. the best of the collection. Moreover, if your child has a specific requirement e.g. very narrow feet, very wide feet, hypermobility, orthotics etc, then this is the best time to come and choose from the whole range. There will be a better selection and more options to suit your child’s specific needs, before the collection gets ‘picked over’.
There is also the myth that if you leave your school shoe buying to the last minute it will be the most cost effective course of action, “in case the child grows over the summer”. If I had a £ for every time a parent says this to me I would be a very rich woman!! To tell the truth it makes me want to scream – we will fit slightly bigger at the beginning of the season to allow for this potential summer growth spurt (which is a bit of a myth, and rarely happens!). In addition to this, if people do buy early from us we always advise them to keep their receipt, don’t wear the shoes outside, and if they are concerned about a big growth spurt over the holidays, then subject to availability, we will swap the shoes for the next half size up etc. It’s quite simple, and it makes things a lot more stress-free for the parents.
Some of our customers who go off to their holiday home abroad for the entire summer, buy their school shoes and uniform very early, the last thing they want to think about during the last couple of days before they return to work/school is going shopping for shoes, when it’s very slim pickings. These customers always shop early, and usually get the best choice.
As professional fitters we can always factor in that bit of extra growing room, but all school shoes have this extra space ‘programmed in’ to the size anyway. Most school-age children’s feet grow in rapid erratic bursts throughout the year, yet on average you only need to buy two pairs of school shoes per academic year. Of course, if your child is very ‘hard’ on their shoes, (they may climb a lot, play football, or use their shoe as a brake for their scooter of bike) then they may trash their shoes and need more than two pairs.
School shoes are not indestructible – children will always find a way to destroy them! School shoes should be sturdy, durable, comfortable and preferably breathable. If this is your child’s main item of footwear for 5 days a week, and for 6-7 hours a day, then it is a false economy and inadvisable for your child’s long-term foot health to choose a cheap, ill-fitting option. If you walk your child to school then invest in a pair of wellies for their journey and get them to change into their shoes when they get to school. You wouldn’t want to sit in wet shoes all day, so why should they?
So take the pressure off yourself and shop early in mid-August. Let’s face it you’ve had the kids off school and on holiday for 6-8 weeks, so there really is no excuse for shopping the day before term starts.
It also puts a lot of extra pressure on our staff, who want to measure and fit properly and give each customer the attention they deserve and expect, without feeling rushed. But when there’s a queue extending out of the door and down the road, it’s more difficult to do this.
You can help us by being prepared – bring the correct school socks with you for fitting your child’s school shoes. It’s amazing how many people turn up with their child in sandals or flip flops and it hasn’t even occurred to them to bring any socks. We can lend you some, of course, but if your child is already wearing socks, and ready to be measured then that can speed up things.
If you are the mum of a toddler, please avoid shopping for first walkers during the last week of August!! It’s too manic, the shop is very noisy and busy, and this can upset toddlers being measured and fitted for the first time. Besides, it gets too crowded with too many buggies! Also, in all honesty there won’t be very much new stock to choose from yet as most of the new autumn/winter styles are usually scheduled to arrive after the Back to School season, otherwise there’s no room in the stock room!
To get the best value from your new school shoe purchase, always clean and polish your child’s school shoes. This maintains the optimum condition of the leather and prolongs the life of the shoe. Why would you invest £30-40 in an item, and then not look after it properly? Most suppliers will guarantee a child’s shoe or boot for approximately 3 months normal wear and tear (then there is the likelihood of a growth spurt). The retailer is not responsible for excessive wear and tear, such as “scooter-toe” – if your child scoots then encourage them to wear an old pair of trainers for this. A leather school shoe, even one with a toe or scuff guard is not designed for that sort of hammering! (As far as I’m aware, they don’t make steel toe-capped boots in very small sizes yet!!)
Anyway, here’s to a stress-free Back to School shoe season to you all. Remember to look for the current Society of Shoe Fitters logo in the shop window, to ensure that you are putting your child’s feet in the best qualified hands. Your child only has one pair of feet to see them through life – make sure they are looked after with great care.
What challenges have you parents had with this school term? Was it getting the children to try on healthy, sensible shoes rather than the ‘fashionable’ ones? Did you feel comfortable with how your child’s shoes were fitted? Let us know your experiences….