Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The best school shoes: a mum's review

Toughees 'Pearl' school shoes
Like most children, my daughter Amy can be tough on shoes - particularly school shoes. Plus she grows so fast you can practically hear her stretching (a bit like rhubarb!). So buying shoes for school is a regular occurrence for us, and one that’s often a bit, well, fraught!

Girls of course, have an extra agenda: fashion/style/heel height. Oh, the battles over high heels, flimsy thin souls, patent leather, and slip on versus strap… So, this is my list of what I need from a decent school shoe:
  • Mustn’t cost the earth (I hate the fact that most ‘decent’ children’s school shoes are now in the £35-£45 bracket - kids grow so fast you are often in that frustrating spot of having shoes that still look absolutely fine but no longer fit.)
  • Mustn’t be too cheap either (because at the end of the day, you often get what you pay for)
  • Must be leather (so they can be polished when they get scuffed, and they will breathe a bit too)
  • No stupid high heels (she’s 10, she still wants to climb in the park and I also don’t want her tottering about - you’re a long time an adult, a short time a child, and I’ll be keeping her that way for a little while yet thank you shoe manufacturers!)
  • No thin souls - they wear away too quickly and you get wet socks all the time

So, basically all I want when I go shopping is a good mid-priced leather school shoe that is more practical than fashionable. Doesn't seem like that much to ask, but it often is. Here are the shoes we've tried and tested:

  • Cheap end: ie, supermarket shoes or cheaper high-street shoes (eg Stead & Simpson) - price around £15

Result: It’s rare to find leather shoes in the supermarket, they’re usually plastic or occasionally ‘coated leather’ (don’t be fooled, this isn’t proper leather and basically means they will scuff and wear like mad). We’ve found leather shoes in the high street for around this price, but the leather is low quality - it stretches and goes very baggy after a short amount of time (around 4-6 weeks we found) and ended up actually being too big. They usually need polishing every day to keep them looking good. The straps/fastenings don’t seem to hold up and tend to snap, fray and generally give up the ghost. We found they only last a couple of months before you end up thinking of buying new shoes again.
My rating: 2/5 (I’m being generous…)

  • Expensive end: ie, Clarks, Hush Puppies, etc - price around £35-£45

Result: The leather quality on this type of shoes is always much better - when they get scuffed they can be polished effectively, and will look really good. The Clarks shoes we’ve had (admittedly, only a couple) have been a bit, well ‘meh’. Not great, not bad. One gripe I do have about Clarks is that we go to the shop, see lots of shoes on the shelf, then they only have one (or two, if you’re lucky) style in the size you need. And invariably they’re not the style that you and/or your child want. We do really like Hush Puppies though. They seem to be a little bit chunkier, and they come with a selection of insoles to help adjust the fitting so you get a great fit. The ones we’ve had have lasted brilliantly (months, rather than weeks), and they polish up beautifully.
My rating: 4/5 (would have been 5/5 but they are so expensive!)

  • Middle End: ie, priced around £20-£25

Last September (approx 5.5 months ago) I wanted to find shoes that were more in this mid-price range - something good quality that might last. It was tricky, took a bit of scouring! But I think I may just have found the holy grail of school shoes… Toughees. This is a range of shoes that are made from extremely hard wearing leather, and are designed to go through the mill. They are made in non-polish leather, so a wipe with a damp cloth is often enough to bring them back to shine. You can polish them if you really need to though. We bought the “Pearl” design (which was a winner for Amy because it has a heel - high enough to excite her, low and wide enough for me!). It has a proper buckle rather than Velcro, and although this means it takes 5 seconds longer to put on, it does mean that you don’t end up with fastenings that have lost their stick (anyone who’s ever spent half an hour picking grass and fluff out of Velcro so that it sticks again will know what I mean!). Amy has been wearing hers to school every day, and they lasted brilliantly. She has only just worn them out (good timing as she's gone up a size again!), and the uppers still look almost as good as when we bought them (it was the sole that gave up in the end - just on one shoe, and probably due to riding her scooter and dragging her foot on the ground!). We paid £20 including delivery for hers from Amazon (in a junior size 5), and I think that’s pretty good value!
My rating: 5/5 (the winner!)

As her shoes have just given up I was really hoping that it would be a simple case of buying the exact same shoes again to see her through to the summer holidays. Alas I hadn't remembered that I was dealing with an aforementioned fussy little girl and it seems having the same shoes twice is not the done thing! So we've plumped for Hush Puppies again - but at least they were a half price bargain this time!

What shoes have you found to be the best for school? And which ones would you avoid like the plague (please name and shame!)? I’d love to hear about your own experience, so do please leave a comment and let me know.

Sarah :)

Edit - May 2016: I just wanted to let you know, in case you were wondering, that this post is entirely my own opinion based on my own experiences. It hasn't been sponsored in any way. And 3 years on, I still stand by Toughees - they're bloomin' good! Oh, and a little tip for you: if you get on their mailing list you'll often receive special offers ;) x


4 comments:

  1. Start rite usually. The only shoes that still do buckles over velcro. What I want to know is why boys shoes have reinforced toes and girls don't? Like they don't spend half the time digging in the dirt? grrr

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  2. Yes, that drives me mad too - girls shoes always seem so flimsy!

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  3. I'm South African and only wore Toughees or Buccaneers. Wasn't aware that I could buy it here so will definitely have a look around. My friends daughter is wearing a pair but it was bought in SA. Right now my daughter only wear Clarks but yes very expensive.

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  4. We bought Amy's from Amazon, but there is also the Toughees website here: http://www.tougheesshoes.co.uk/ :)

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