October 25

Cutting The Cost Of Kid’s Shoes

Tackle One Big Spend

How To Pay Less For Kids' ShoesChecking through the past year’s spending, I noticed a Big Spend I have never really thought about before – shoes for the Tartan Kids. I can spend a hundred quid or more on one shoe-shopping trip with my boys. And then, in a matter of months, I find myself doing it all again because their feet have grown or the shoes have died in very active service. That’s several hundred a year – ouch. Time to tackle this Big Spend. I have spent the past month researching and pondering the question of how to reduce my kids’ shoe budget – here’s how I got on.

Do we really need or want this?

big spend q1 - New PageShoes for kids are a complete essential. It rains, in winter it gets cold – I want their feet to be warm and dry. The pavements are hard on feet and sometimes covered in sharp things, or unidentifiable squishy stuff. (Or identifiable squishy stuff, which is worse.) I want their feet to be protected. Kids are very active – I want them to have shoes to support hours of running around, jumping about, and general adventuring. But I do not want their shoes to create new problems for their feet. And if the podiatry sites I have read this month are right, the wrong shoes could set them up for athletes foot, bunions, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, a lifetime of back-ache, and more.

So yes, the kids need shoes. Good shoes, that take care of their feet and don’t fall apart before they have outgrown them. How many do they need, though?

Can we live with less of this?

Copy of big spend q2 - New PageWe can’t really cut the number of shoes we buy – they only have a few as it is. We could compromise on quality – but what’s the point? A poor quality shoe – aside from not taking care of their feet – will fall apart more quickly and need to be replaced sooner. So I want to buy the same amount of shoes, at the same quality. Do they have to be the same brands though? Do we have to buy in a “good” shoe shop? Can you get Startrite quality in supermarkets?

Can you get Start-Rite quality in supermarkets?

I have a strong suspicion that when I shell out for Clarks I am really shelling out for a sort of Mothers’ Badge Of Honour that tells the world I care about my children’s feet, rather than for a shoe which I can say with certainty is definitely better than any other. Are they really better than M&S? Better than Asda? Better than Shoe Zone? Or am I just a shoe snob?

I trawl old discussions on Mumsnet and Netmums and uncover many tales of pricey shoes that didn’t deliver – and cheap shoes that did. Then again, I also find many stories of cheap shoes that turned out to be a false economy. And I discover that I am not the only mother anxious about getting “good” shoes on a budget. I need to find out how to spot a quality cheap shoe and how to dodge a bad shoe in a “good” shop.

converse trainers on the beach by tartan thriftyI reckon – after reading around (and around, and around) this subject – that it comes down to two things: knowing how to fit a child’s shoe, and understanding a little about shoe design. A carefully designed shoe that doesn’t fit your child’s foot will do exactly the same amount of damage as a cheaply made one. So learning how to fit your kids’ shoes yourself will help to protect your child’s foot. Come to think of it, if providing the services of professional shoe fitters in-store is one of the features that contributes to the higher price of good shoe brands then being able to fit your own will free you to shop around elsewhere. You can buy a shoe-fitting gauge for only a few pounds to measure your kids’ feet at home – Start-Rite even offer a free online fitting service. There are good guides to checking a shoe for fit once it’s on your child’s foot on the Startrite website, APMA, and Wikihow . I have had a good look at all three and – guess what? It turns out it is not rocket science.

there are just ten simple checks you need to make to weed out substandard shoes

As for shoe design – it turns out that shoe design is not really that complicated either. Take a look at the checklist below. It sums up everything I picked up in a month of reading what podiatrists, paediatricians and professional shoe fitters have to say on the subject. And, actually, there are just ten simple checks you need to make to weed out substandard shoes. I will be printing it out and taking it along with me on our next shoe-shopping trip. (Possibly with a clipboard – I do think a mum with a clipboard commands a certain shoe-shop respect, don’t you? Although it is unlikely that Tartan Boy will agree to come into the shop with me if I do…)

So, yes, we can live with shoes from shops other than “good shoe shops”, if I learn to fit them myself and use the ten steps below to keep me on track as I sort the good from the bad and the ugly.ten steps To A Great Shoe

Can we get this for less?

Copy of big spend q3 - New PageThere are many ways to buy shoes at reduced prices, apart from the obvious seasonal shoe-shop sales. Brand outlet stores, Shoes For Kids which sells branded shoes at significant reductions, Shoe Zone – armed with my new knowledge about how to fit and choose good shoes I will be trying them all!

(Sadly, I will be more cautious about the cheapest shoes of all – free hand-me downs from older friends and family – after reading what Free Our Kids had to say on the subject.)

retro lady fro www.thegraphicsfairy.comAnd we will be using Amazon and Ebay  – but only for designs we have already checked over in a shop or for brands we trust  and whose fit we can rely on. Alternatively, we will make sure we buy from suppliers who provide free returns – and anticipate a few false starts before we find The Ones. The thing I am looking forward to most, though, is being able to pick up a shoe in a supermarket and know right away whether it is a well-made shoe or not. A little knowledge is a powerful tool for thrifty mothers!


DISCLAIMER – The Tartan Boys are aged 5 and 12 and this post only refers to buying shoes for that age group. If you are buying shoes for toddlers I strongly suggest you google advice on shoe-shopping for this age group – little feet have special requirements.

Copyright © 2015. All rights reserved.

Posted October 25, 2015 by tartanmum in category "Tackle One Big Spend

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