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children trying on the best school shoes with a guide from expert melbourne podiatrist

The Best School Shoes

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.

Last year 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 going with 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.

Now, as 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 it’s still best to get your school kids fitted for their shoes. 

Give them the opportunity to meet the Brannock and choose on their personal comfort level. 

With that being said, if you’ve read the 5 Rules For School Shoes then you’re ready for best here.

The 9 Best School Shoes

  • Ascent Apex 
  • Ascent Adiva
  • Ascent Academy 
  • Ascent Adela
  • Ecco Cohen Kids Shoes
  • Clarks Descent (Uni)
  • Grosby Hamburg 2
  • Alpha Jax 2
  • Doc Martins Junior 1461T

The Ascent Ones

Ascent are a great brand who do some niche footwear perfectly.

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 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.

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 downball 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 they used to.

Ascent Adiva

It’s always 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 of fit and widths in the Adiva range compared with the Apex and at this stage they do not come with the outsole guarantee.

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 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

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.

The Other Ones

Ecco Cohen Kids Shoes

Ecco are a danish brand of shoes that if you’ve ever worn before, you know.

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.

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 the 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.

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.

Alpha Jax 2

Similiar to the Ascent options where 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.

Be mindful if buying online – Doc Martens use UK sizing 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.

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 reccomended 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. 


If this is your childs first pair of leather school shoes after only being barefoot or in runners then they are going to feel pretty firm.

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

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.

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.