Buying the school shoes

Regular readers will know I’m a huge fan of sorting school uniform out early – right  at the start of the school holidays, or possibly even earlier. But I do leave one thing until late – the school shoes. Because kids’ feet tend to grow in the summer and six weeks can make a real difference.

This year I left it even later than usual, but I was feeling pretty smug. Because I’d MADE AN APPOINTMENT. Go me!

It’s so simple, everyone can do it, but not many people seem to know about it. You just go on the Clarks website and book it. Then, when hundreds of stressed-out people are crammed into a small space, tripping over each other, with little kids crying everywhere, you just walk in all smug and say ‘I’ve got a 3 o’clock appointment’.

OK, so it wasn’t that easy to find a seat. There were people being measured on the floor. And, despite the fact that we had no wait whatsoever and they are 15, 12 and 10, my kids immediately started to argue. Why? Why do they always do that?

I knew my eldest wouldn’t be able to get shoes, because Clarks ‘only’ do school shoes up to a 10. And he’s over a 10. But I thought he could get them measured, just so I knew what size he actually was. But their equipment literally doesn’t measure above a 10.

‘You’ll have to get measured downstairs in the men’s department.’

So then it was my daughter’s turn.

Her feet hadn’t grown. And, to her credit, she didn’t make a fuss. This is a first, because my daughter really, really likes new shoes. Even school shoes. And she always gets upset when her feet haven’t grown.

And then the big one. Well, the wide one. My younger son.

His shoes have given me a headache since his very first pair.

Because his feet are very, very wide.

He measured a 7.5, but over an H.

The only shoes they do in an H are seriously ugly, clumpy things, which he refuses to wear. Quite rightly. He’s not at primary school any more. He’s at a grammar school wear people dress smartly and he wants to fit in.

So I told them we wanted shoes that were like smart office shoes in an 8 or 8.5G.

But they didn’t have smart office shoes in an 8G. They had slip-ons (which bizarrely were too wide and also generally horrible) and the clumpy shoes I’d specifically said we didn’t like. After trying on several pairs of horrible slip-ons, it looked like we were going to have to give up.

‘You could try the men’s department.’

So I took my 12 year old son to the men’s department. And I asked if my 15 year old could have his feet measured.

‘He needs to have them measured in the children’s department.’

‘His feet are too big.’

To say I felt seriously unwelcome in the men’s department was an understatement.

I looked at the shoes for my 12 year old and shuddered at the prices. £80. £90. Who can justify spending £90 on school shoes for a 12 year old who will outgrow them or get holes in them within six months?

Eventually I found some for £50. Could he try those on?

They didn’t have any in his size.

Well could he try anything at all in his size that was around the £50 mark?

‘The problem is, the kids keep buying the men’s shoes and then there’s no shoes for the men.’

Is that really my problem? I wanted to buy some kids’ shoes. If they don’t have enough kids’ shoes or enough men’s shoes or they don’t have the right sizes in MAYBE THEY SHOULD ORDER SOME MORE. Or maybe they should make kids’ shoes in styles that people actually want to wear. And I was buying shoes. And they’re in the business of selling shoes. And it really shouldn’t matter to them if I was buying them for a 12 year old or a 70 year old. If I thought I could face another shoe shop, I would have walked out. But I couldn’t face another shoe shop and I’d optimistically only paid to park for an hour.

Anyway, we got some shoes in the end. In a size 8. From the men’s department. For £50. They were approximately 100 times nicer than what we’d been offered in the kids’ department. But I still maintain there should be nicer shoes in the kids’ department for 12 year olds.

I left the shop feeling thoroughly frazzled after buying only one pair of shoes. I can’t imagine how frazzled I would have felt if I hadn’t made my appointment.

School shoes, Shoes, 365, 366

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Ah, the annual nightmare!!! I usually end up with a social media rant to Clarks which they ignore. My kids have wide feet too but really small so my son starting Dec school can’t get anything that fits in Clarks that doesn’t have Velcro – understandably he wants laces. This year I just went at the beginning, made sure there was plenty of growing room and went to Selfridges and John Lewis. Expensive kickers for one son, Start-rite for daughter and very reasonable John Lewis own brand for the other son kind of balanced it all out. Was quiet and stress-free this year even if it was a 2.5hr round trip to the Trafford Centre!!!

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    • That sounds pretty stress-free, despite the long journey! I’ve had a bit of a rant to Clarks and they did respond, although they wouldn’t be drawn on the lack of selection for wider feet. I hadn’t considered the needs of kids with small feet (that’s never been an issue in our family!). Nobody wants velcro for starting secondary school, that’s for sure!

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  2. my clarks rant I that for girls its unpractical mary jane flimsy type shoes or even the brogue style aren’t as sturdy as the adult version and fall apart within weeks. We now avoid Clarks and use John Lewis and ask the assistant to bring out anything other than Clarks shoes. Even JL own brand ones have lasted longer than the much more expensive Clarks ones.

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    • That’s interesting to know! Although we don’t have a John Lewis nearby. My daughter had some of the Clarks brogues and I was surprised at how thin the soles were, they weren’t very sturdy.

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  3. Ahh! We have been shoe shopping today! It was awful! lol
    I had to buy shoes for my teen from the ladies section today and there wasn’t much choice….She was not impressed. She wanted flimsy, slip on one’s but I said no….She walks a mile to school in all weathers and needed something that actually covered her feet. They are too sensible. She hates them and me….My youngest wanted Frozen shoes that I know would last two minutes with her….I said no so she hates me too. Oh joy!

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    • It’s always awful, isn’t it? There’s no way I’d let my daughter have the flimsy slip-ons either! Hope your daughters forgive you soon!

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  4. Clarks are really missing some huge tricks here. Surely they must get this kind of thing all the time? You’d think they’d branch out a bit more with kids shoes. And also stock up at this time of year knowing it’s going to be mental busy!! Glad you got some though. May they last all year!

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    • Thanks very much! I really hope they last all year too. They definitely need to improve their designs and stock a few extra pairs.

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  5. Oh how flipping ridiculous! I started off reading this thinking what a great experience having an appointment and by the end? Argh! Clarks need to get a grip on themselves. I hope they’ve read this!

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    • They certainly do! They have read it and say they’re going to take my comments on board. I think I probably made similar comments last year too…

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  6. I havent shopped at Clarkson for a long time since Olivia outgrew their width chart at 7! Nothing was wide enough staff were really unhelpful so I went to brantano instead! Not much better so now I literally just get what ever she feels comfortable in this year’s are from Asda for now!

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    • Poor Olivia! She sounds like my son, but I keep persisting and going back… We don’t have a Brantano near here. I ought to try shopping in M&S, Next or the supermarkets and see how we get one!

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  7. When you mentioned this shopping trip, it amazed me the response you got. Men buy shoes all year round, if they’re sensible they’ll not buy at school times. And surely shoe shops should realise from their sales that children’s feet are getting larger and therefore there’s a demand for either better kids shoes or sizes.

    Tbh, I get frustrated about N’s school shoe buying. Clarks don’t fit, Startrite choices aren’t great, and anything else properly fitted costs a lot. His shoes last year were £50 – and wrecked within a term! Thankfully I found a pair of Hush Puppies in Branano amongst all the Clarks. Fingers crossed they last longer this year.

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  8. It is my least favourite event of the back to school calendar and yes, mine all argue in the shoe shop too and usually start acting like wild animals. I don’t understand why they don’t cater for bigger feet, I know at least three of R’s friends have feet over a size 10. He is 7 so we are still okay but getting L’s shoes is tricky as he is a wide foot too. The appointment is a great idea though, that is really useful to know about

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  9. Urgh this sounds an absolute nightmare for you Sarah. They really should be more equipped and realise that kids feet don’t stop growing at a certain size. I fear I may be going back to Clarks this weekend, as Katie’s shoes are rubbing her and she has a huge blister on her heel, despite her getting fitted. All of the joys x

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  10. Sorry Sarah I know this was stressful but I have been laughing out loud at this!! I had one child who had very narrow feet (they never had her width in stock) and one with very wide feet (very limited choice) so I know just how you feel. Thank God my middle daughter has ‘normal’ width feet. Shoe shops really need to re-think their stocking strategies – lads have big feet these days!!

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  11. This is a very stressful subject! It’s so hard shopping for children with non-average feet. Mine have orthotic insoles and the hospital told us to avoid Clark’s due to quality. We often buy German brands in small specialist shops at about 20% extra cost as nothing else fits. Often the sales staff give up and send us away. Once or twice we’ve found no shoes to fit in the entire town. I can’t understand the uk shoe industry, it’s crackers! But our local Clark’s staff are all sweethearts, you’ve been unlucky.

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  12. This is very funny and I am so with you! Shoes were an oversight for us this year. Blisters were evidence of this parenting faux pas. We also exceeded the Clarks children’s sizes. This was a blessing as there was no way the leftovers were going anywhere near my daughters trotters. I have never seen her move so fast. Such a gap in the pre-teen shoes market. And the ability to be a different shoes size in every shop is quite remarkable isn’t it. I feel your pain with 3 to buy for!

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