Can you really get away with buying $15 school shoes?

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We're more than halfway through the school holidays which means that for many of us, back-to-school shopping is already in full swing. But while choosing a new lunch box and school bag might be easy, choosing the right pair of school shoes for growing feet can be quite confusing.

With so many different styles and price points on offer, it's hard to know where to start. The $15 option from ALDI might be a steal but can we really get away with spending so little on something kids wear for about 30 hours hours per week? And what's the difference between the more expensive ALDI choice and brands available at Kmart or Target.

Pediatric podiatrist Rudo Makuyana of The Foot Hub says that before rushing to buy new shoes for this school year, parents should look at last year's pair first. "If they still fit and they're not worn out, there's no need to replace them," Ms Makuyana tells Essential Kids.

And while it might be a while since you've shoe polish on your shopping list, Ms Makuyana suggests stocking up. "I find that we no longer polish shoes," she says, adding that doing so helps increase their durability, water and dirt resistance and protects them from scuffs and scratches. "This is why some school shoes 'don't last long' because we no longer look after them and expect them to last for a long time."

If your kids have had a growth spurt over the summer, however, and need a new pair of shoes, what do parents need to consider?

When it comes to cheap options like ALDI, Ms Makuyana explains that while the shoes are usually OK, the issue is often with sizing. "Sizes run out," she says, "and parents will try to fit bigger or smaller to get that shoe. And that's where things can go wrong."

Ms Makuyana notes that as more traditional school shoe companies like Clarks and Ascent have perfected their product over many years, "you can't go wrong with these brands."

That said, if you have young children who are rapidly changing shoe size, Ms Makuyana says there's nothing wrong with choosing cheaper options. "They will probably wear out in time for a new size, so a $15 option is an excellent economic decision for some families."


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And while the soles of cheaper brands might not last as long as a sturdy Clarks shoe, for young children that's not necessarily a problem. If you're shopping for teens, however, with more consistent sizing, Ms Makuyana recommends a more durable product and good shoe care.

"The problem I tend to see in pediatric patients is where a black dress shoe is worn as a school shoe," she continues, adding that it's more common in teenagers who wear trendier brands that aren't school shoes. 

"The school shoe market is competitive, and new brands are coming out at a lower cost but can also be excellent quality," Ms Makuyana notes. "If I had a young child and they fitted into the Aldi Airflex shoe, and they found them comfortable, I would purchase it." she says. "ALDI's model of bulk allows them to sell a good product at a really affordable price."


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Aussie Mum Kate managed to nab a pair of the $14.99 shoes during Wednesday's back-to-school sale.  Her daughter wore the shoes last year after the mum found a pair in the "bargain bin" for $3.50. "We had more expensive shoes and she didn't want to wear them as they didn't look 'girly' enough," she told Essential Kids. "She still loves them and even wears them during the school holidays."

Kate says the shoes also have an insert which serves as a half size. " We're very happy with them and we are set for at least this year. I would obviously rather all the materials be natural (only the leather part is real leather)," she adds. "But [my daughter] loves them and finds them comfortable. And for $14.99 it's a ridiculous bargain."

A CHOICE investigation conducted in 2018, compared school shoes of various prices ranging from $35 to $140.

Their team of expert podiatrists assessed the shoes and broke down the key differences.

While Clarks shoes were identified as being the gold standard, both experts highlighted the expensive price tag, particularly for growing kids. 

 And while both the Grosby Shoes (now at Big W) and Target options were rated both poor by one podiatrist, the other noted that the Target shoes would be OK for kids going through a growth spurt, meaning wear and tear is unlikely to be an issue.

Find the full report here