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the 9 best school shoes for your kids feet from melbourne podiatrist blog post

The Best School Shoes

These are the best school shoes according to podiatrists for your kids feet. Curated and updated July 2022.


Getting the best school shoes for your little or not-so-little ones used to be easy.

Our aim is to help bring that ease back to what has been an increasingly difficult task for parents. In the past we brought you the 5 Rules for School Shoes. In that post our podiatrist Gus explained what are the 5 most important things to look for when buying school shoes.

This time, we’re bring you the Best School Shoes.

We’re talking about the cream of the crop.

Purposely this post is for classical pure black leather school shoes. We’ll come back another time with the best sports shoes for school or different activities. With all our articles we put a lot of thought and effort into these posts. The shoes here are chosen for a variety of reasons including their support, materials, price and longevity.

One thing we can’t assess broadly is comfort.

For this it’s always best to head into your local shoe shop and get fitted to get comfortable. I’m sure every parent reading this can recall that visit to a big department store or shoe shop back when it was our turn to get fitted for school shoes.

I can.

It was a bit terrifying the first time I came face to foot with the Brannock device. Why does it look like a medieval torture implement? This right of passage for Aussie kids is a little more tricky these days when online retail is a click away and we’re all so busy. But for those who are busy never fear, there are many great online retailers who offer free shipping and free returns if your sizing is a little off.

The 9 Best School Shoes

The Ascent Ones

Ascent are a great brand who do niche footwear very well.

Their workboot range and their school shoe range are outstanding. Using softer leathers than your traditional Clarks style shoes as well as supportive soles Ascent pitches their wide range as “runners in disguise”.

While you’re probably not going to see Eluid Kipchoge race a sub 2 hour marathon in a pair of Ascent Apex’s (or should that be Apices?) anytime soon, they’re a great option for active school kids.

Here’s what Ascent have to say about their shoes vs. cheaper shoes.

Ascent Apex

the 9 best school shoes blog ascent apex

The Ascent Apex comes in multiple widths (C, D, 2E) and a full range of sizes for both girls and boys.

There’s a few nifty features in these shoes that will make any parent happy. Firstly, a 6 month outsole guarantee (almost as good as our orthotic guarantee). Ascent guarantees that your little one won’t wear through the outsole to the midsole within 6 months.

I know this would have been put to the test back when I was tearing up the down ball courts as a young lad.

Speaking of midsoles, Ascent use an EVA midsole like most athletic footwear makers as well. This provides nice cushioning as well as moulds to the foot over time.

Finally by using a double black full grain leather it means that scuff marks don’t show through to grey like your old pair of school shoes used to.

Ascent Adiva

the 9 best school shoes ascent adiva

It’s conflicting writing about masculine vs. feminine styles of footwear for school kids.

Yet here we are.

The Adiva is almost identical to the Apex above but with a flatter lacing system, more tapered forefoot and a swirly flower like pattern on the outsole. As far as this shoe goes, it’s a ripper.

If you like the look of this one more than the Apex, go for the Adiva. If you’re a boy and you like the Adiva better, go for it son.

There’s less options to get a specific fit or width in the Adiva range compared with the Apex and at this stage they do not come with the outsole guarantee.

Ascent Academy

the 9 best school shoes ascent academy

Remember how hard it was to tie up laces when you were in kinder or prep?

Well, the Academy is the shoe for those little fingers which haven’t yet mastered the art of lace tying. Double Velcro straps make these a supportive shoe that is easy to get on and off.

They do come in 2 widths however they top out at a size 4 US so you’ll need to start practicing tying bows as your kids feet grow.

Ascent Adela

the 9 best school shoes ascent adiva

A Mary Jane style school shoe with the same mid and outsole of the Adiva.

Available in both B and D widths, the Adela comes with either a plain Velcro strap, or a Velcro strap with a decorative buckle. Much better than other expensive shoes that are the T-bar style of flat shoes that are not as supportive for your child’s feet.

The Other Ones

Ecco Cohen Kids Shoes

Ecco are a Danish brand of shoes that if you’ve ever worn before, you know how comfortable they can be.

Renowned for comfortable, durable and quality shoes, ECCO’s best school shoes are harder to find in Australia but worth it. The Cohen is available as a lace up only and ranges from a US 4 to US 7.

For kids who like to copy the style of Mum or Dad’s professional attire these shoes are probably the sharpest looking and very comfortable… for the right sized foot. Their leather upper has the shine and polish of their adult business shoes. They did used to make a Mary Jane style as well however this has disappeared from Australian stockists in recent years.

Clarks Descent

Back when I was in school it was all about the Clarks Daytona. (pictured above, the Descent is yet to make it to Insta)

The Descent gives the classic school shoe look of the Daytona but with a softer more supportive sole.

As always Clarks delivers more widths to get the best fit possible for a variety of different feet. Starting at a narrow C width and going all the way through to an H width (Clarks use a slightly different system to most, the H width is more like a 2E or 3E from other brands).

Us podiatrists always appreciate a shoe with a removable liner to accommodate an orthotic if required which the Descent allows with ease. As far as traditional school shoes go, the Descent can handle pretty much any foot shape, has a durable leather upper, leather linings and a padded collar for comfort.

Grosby Hamburg 2

The classic school shoe from Grosby.

While not quite as supportive as the Clarks, Ascent or Ecco options; Grosby manages to deliver a great school shoe for a very reasonable price.

A single width only makes this unsuitable for narrow feet or wide feet. While we prefer the Ascent school shoes for many kids with a pretty “normal” shaped foot these are comfortable school shoes and a decent option at a less expensive shoe price.

Alpha Jax 2

Similar to the Ascent options the focus for Alpha here is to provide a supportive and sporty school shoe.

With a single width available can be tricky to fit every foot, the main stockist for the Alpha Jax 2 (The Athlete’s Foot) has a variety of other options including the Ascent range to compare to.

Makes the list on a combination of solid support and attractive pricing.

Doc Martens Junior 1461T

Ok, I’m still not cool enough to pull off the classic Doc Martens look but if your kid is, this is a great school shoe!

With the Doc Martens air cushioned (and oh so trendy) sole and quality leather upper, this shoe is a solid all rounder. These are popular girls school shoes but are by no means exclusive. As a shoe for boys they’re a rock solid option. 

Doc Martens are not what most people think of as a school shoe brand however their junior range (in the black leather are great hard wearing school shoes.

But – be mindful if buying online – Doc Martens come in a range of sizes but use UK by default whereas most Australian stores use US.

Also there are no width options for wide or narrow feet and this shoe can be a touch shallow to fit some orthotics + feet into.

Before you go…

Now you’ve found the best school shoes for your child, it’s worth checking out two important pieces of information. The first, there is a very common type of heel pain that kids can get between the ages of around 8 – 13, it used to be called Sever’s disease but is now known by another name. And the others is about orthotics for children, one of the most misunderstood treatments in all of podiatry.

Best School Shoes Quick Round FAQ

How long do school shoes last?

Something about a piece of string??? It really depends.

Sometimes our kids go through rapid growth spurts and require a couple of pairs in a year. Other times our kids don’t grow out of them, but absolutely destroy them.

Usually kids will burn through school shoes faster when using them for other activities, playing sports in them at lunch or skate boarding or scootering on the way to school.

To get the longest lifespan out of your quality school shoes it’s recommended to use school shoes for school and have other sports shoes for sports.

When kids are growing and developing having a variety of different shoes (and often barefoot) is really important. This variety also helps school shoes last longer.

How do I stop school shoes from scuffing?

You can’t really as kids will scuff and scrape their shoes on things at times, particularly if they’re using their school shoes for games and sports.

Using the double black leather like Ascent does helps hide scuff marks but getting a quality leather care routine happening in your household can really help.

There are plenty of kids who will enjoy learning how to take care and polish leather school shoes if you take the time to teach them.

And if you’re really lucky you can get your work shoes polished as well… Not a bad way for someone to earn some pocket money at home?

How do you clean dirty school shoes?

Never put them in the washing machine!

Washing machines and standard detergents damage the EVA midsole (if the school shoe has this) and the leather.

Best practice is to wipe down with a damp cloth, if needed using a small amount of dish washing detergent only.

Finish by polishing with an appropriate leather care product.

How do you soften new school shoes?

The shoes on this list are intentionally chosen to have softer leathers than those of yesteryear.

But.

If this is your child’s first pair of leather school shoes after only being barefoot or in runners then they are going to feel pretty firm. Even though they are the perfect shoe for your child, they can feel very foreign to little feet to start.

When first wearing them in make sure your child has thick socks on (a 2nd pair can help too).

You can also gently warm the leather (carefully so as to not damage the leather or burn your kids foot) with a hairdryer prior to wearing them around the house. This speeds up the wear in process and allows the leather to soften and shape to your kids foot.

What about my kids sore feet?

Sore feet are no-ones idea of a good time.

There are some growing conditions that our kids can get which can cause pain, and then there’s also some other overload or disease processes which can too.

If your child has a sore foot it’s best to get them assessed by a podiatrist who understands kids feet.

You can find your local PridePlus Health podiatrist over at our clinics page.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us on our social media or give us a call.

What should I look for in school shoes?

A key component of a supportive school shoe to look for is the sole. Both the midsole and outsole. 

A quality pair of school shoes for kids in their later years of primary school and getting into secondary school should be bale to handle a range of surfaces and allow for natural movement of the foot. As kids grow, their bones get longer first and then their muscle strength has to catch up. 

Having a shoe with a stable and supportive sole is a good way for your kids to have plenty of cushioning for shock absorption as well as reducing their chance of overuse injuries like shin splints. 

Choose a pair of shoes from this list for your kids that they’ll be happy with. Encourage them to keep them in great shape (yes, that means a bit of shoe polish) and you’ll have happy feet and shoes that last a long time.

Are expensive school shoes better?

While expensive school shoes are not necessarily better, they often do have useful features to help reduce your kids risk of getting sore feet.

Often cheap school shoes are made with non-breathable synthetic materials and are flexible shoes which can make feet, especially flat feet work harder. The Ascent video at the top of this article has a good cut away which shows the difference between cheaper shoes and these “running shoes in disguise”.

Should children and teens be allowed to wear runners to school?

Runners are great shoes for running in. The name gives then away. But they might not be the perfect option for your kids feet.

A lace up school shoe is often not just there to be part of a compulsory school uniform. As feet grow they require different things at different times. Support around the heel, the arch, the ball of the foot. Sometimes they’ll be needed to stand at assembly for what feels like hours. Other times they’ll be used to run around all lunchtime. 

Modern durable school shoes are built to handle all these demands whereas runners are made to move forwards in a straight line.

While black sport shoes might be useful for recovering from an injury or if your child is spending a heap of time running at school, you’ll most likely find that they wear out faster than durable school shoes.

What is the best school shoe brand?

As podiatrists we don’t like to play favourites with shoe brands. All brands have some exceptional shoes for your feet, as well as some shockers too. But those shockers might be perfect for my feet. We’re all unique and when looking for supportive school shoes it’s not different.

And in saying that, here comes the but.

But when it comes to a supportive school shoe Ascent have the widest range of shoes, great shock absorption, and guarantees too boot. The vast majority of kids who spend time on a range of surfaces, need plenty of cushioning for shock absorption and have a wide or narrow fitting foot will get a great result from Ascent.

School Shoe Shopping Leaving You Feeling Flat or Sore?

Finding the best school shoes is hard. Parenting is hard. Doing it all with the extra stress of an ache, pain, injury or chronic medical condition is even harder. Help is available. Both physiotherapists and exercise physiologists can help you.

But what is the difference between a physio and an EP?

We’ve created a free interactive quiz for you to find out whether a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist is the best person to help you.

About the Author

tim mulholland podiatrist melbourne and pascoe vale

Melbourne podiatrist Tim Mulholland has strong memories of trying on his first pair of black school shoes in the shoe department of Myer back in the day. With fiddling around with shoe laces and having supportive shoe fitters on hand being such a strong memory – it’s no surprise that he went on to a career helping others with their feet.

Tim’s mission, and those of his podiatry colleagues at PridePlus Health is to help you feel better. With this post we’re sure that your kids school shoe choices are going to be spot on. Happy kids, happy parent, everyone feeling good about their new black kicks.