School’s Back in Session: A Shoe Guide for Outfitting Your Kids for Class and Fall Athletic Activities

school in session - shoe guide outfitting kids fall activities

Summer’s drawing to a close, and the days are drawing shorter as fall approaches. After all, the kids are going back to school, and now is the time to get their wardrobes ready for the classroom and athletic field. Smart footwear choices will help your little ones make the most of every activity of the season.

However, knowing you want to choose the right children’s footwear is one thing. Understanding what that entails is another. Here, we’ll go over everything you need to know about buying back-to-school shoes, including great design, the ideal fit, and what essentials should be part of every child’s closet.

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Why Is It So Important to Buy the “Right” Kids Shoes?

Sensible, supportive footwear isn’t just necessary for fully grown feet. It’s especially important that children wear the right shoes. Every part of your little one’s body is still growing and developing, including the delicate bones, joints, ligaments, and muscles in their feet. The right shoes help protect their feet as they grow, and they also help your child stay coordinated and safe throughout the day.

shoe recommendations infographic

What makes the difference between the right or wrong shoe? We always recommend speaking with your child’s doctor to see if he or she has any personal recommendations. However, it’s hard to go wrong with shoes that meet the following criteria.

number 1 graphicWell-Ventilated

Even the quietest, most serious children tend to be little balls of energy by adult standards. Little feet can easily become damp, sweaty, or hot, so breathability is critical when it comes to children’s shoes. Not only does opting for breathable materials help keep your child feeling comfortable, but you’ll be keeping odors at bay as well.

number 2 graphicSupportive

Going back to school is much more than just sitting at a desk and listening to the teacher. The average school day also involves children running and playing at recess, walking home from the bus stop, or engaging in a wide variety of afterschool activities. Their shoes need to be supportive enough to see them through all of those exciting adventures. That means selecting options with excellent heel and arch support, in particular.

number 3 graphicFlexible

Flexibility is important in all children’s shoes, but this is especially the case for sneakers and athletic shoes. Children need footwear that bends with their natural stride while protecting delicate muscles and joints from impact. Always pay special attention to the soles of your children’s shoes. They should bend easily, especially in the toe area.

kids with tennis shoes

number 4 graphicLightweight

The ideal children’s shoe is lightweight and easy to wear, not bulky and clunky. Shoes that are too heavy can impede proper movement, especially when it comes to sports that call for agility and speed. Lightweight shoes will not only lower your child’s risk of injury but improve his or her ability to complete active tasks well.

number 5 graphicSlip Resistant

No one likes to think of their children slipping, falling, or otherwise hurting themselves. Footwear that’s slip resistant can help make sure that doesn’t happen, especially when the weather becomes challenging. Look for soles that feature traction-savvy textures like grooves, ridges, or bumps.

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What Kinds of Shoes Are Essential for Back to School?

young kid old kid walking together

Today’s children’s footwear collections can be extensive. For that reason, it can be hard to distinguish between absolute essentials and specialized gear. Kids’ shoes that are ideal for back to school tend to strike a good balance between comfort and function. As far as styles go, the following cover all the bases.

number 1 graphicSneakers

Every child should have at least one good pair of sneakers in their closet, and with good reason. Most school curriculums include recess or physical education, and you can’t beat sneakers for staying comfortable through a wide variety of activities. In fact, a supportive pair of sneakers will probably be worn more often than any other pair of shoes you’ll buy for your child, so invest the most money in this hard-working option.

number 2 graphicEveryday Casual Shoes

After sneakers, a good pair of everyday casual shoes will be of the most use to your child. Think sturdy footwear that’s durable enough for your children to play in, but a little dressier than a sneaker or athletic shoe. Wise choices will be constructed from tough but comfortable material like leather. Go for neutral colors like black or brown that will blend with the majority of your child’s wardrobe.

number 3 graphicDress Shoes

Every child needs a good pair of dress shoes to wear to events like school recitals, class picture days, or parties. They can get additional wear out of them when it’s time to attend a family wedding or formal event. While quality is always important, you can probably afford to opt for a less expensive dress shoe if your budget is tight, as your child won’t be wearing them on an everyday basis.

number 4 graphicBoots and Booties

Sooner or later, the weather will go from balmy and pleasant to chilly and damp. That’s when it’s a good idea to have a pair of boots on hand as well. Again, most children spend a good amount of time outdoors, even when it’s cold and wet. Consider the climate where you live when choosing a pair of children’s boots. The harsher the winters, the more important it becomes that boots are warm, sturdy, and weatherproof.

number 5 graphicAthletic Shoes

For most children, the school year includes their favorite sports activity. However, it’s important to realize that each sport calls for its own specific shoe, so keep that in mind when assembling a fall wardrobe. Dedicated athletic shoes are not the same as sneakers for everyday wear, nor are they interchangeable when it comes to different sports.

coach and youth baseball player

For instance, don’t simply assume that a tennis shoe is “good enough” if your child plans on trying out for basketball or baseball. At best, their performance could suffer or even sustain an injury. Children who run track or cross country really need running shoes, just like soccer players need cleats. If you’re unsure of what to buy, consider speaking with your child’s coach or instructor and asking what’s required.

number 6 graphicAdditional Options

Some of today’s most popular shoes for children don’t fit into any of these categories. However, they’re still worth considering because of how versatile they are. Crocs and mesh shoes, while not absolute necessities, are excellent examples. Kids love them because they are comfortable and colorful. Parents love them because they’re waterproof, easy to clean, and affordable on even a modest budget. Consider adding them to your child’s wardrobe if you want to cover all the bases with one shoe.

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Additional Kids’ Shoe Shopping Tips to Keep in Mind

Now that you know what kinds of shoes are perfect for back to school, it’s time to address a strategy for narrowing down your choices. Keep the following tips in mind as you shop, and you won’t be able to help but make wise decisions.

number 1 graphicExpand your options as much as possible.

This time of year, every shoe store in town is likely to be having a back to school sale. You’re naturally not going to be the only parent looking to snag the right options, though. If your child wears a common size or you’re after a specific style that’s very popular, you could be out of luck if the crowds beat you to the punch.

If you prefer shopping at brick and mortar establishments, make sure to do your shopping as early as possible. Alternatively, you can find kids’ shoes online, so you can beat the crowds and enjoy a wider selection.

number 2 graphicPrioritize function over style.

While kids and parents won’t always agree when it comes to shoe style, it’s important to stand firm and insist on what you believe to be the best option. Luckily, many of the trendy shoes for kids today are also supportive and comfortable enough to be practical. Think colorful sneakers, comfort fit casual shoes from top brands like Converse, just to name one iconic brand.

female holding worn converse

number 3 graphicKnow what makes for a good fit.

Choosing a good quality shoe that won’t break the bank is only part of the battle when it comes to buying back to school footwear. Ensuring a perfect fit is another matter altogether. Keep the following points in mind when evaluating your options.

  • Though young feet call for some extra room in the toe box, it’s important to make sure there’s not too much. Aim for about half an inch between the child’s longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  • Make sure the widest part of the shoe corresponds to the widest part of your child’s foot.
  • Make sure the heel is nice, snug, and comfortable as well. Check for any slippage as your child walks in the shoes and always prioritize shoes with stable, sturdy backs.
  • Straps, Velcro, and other fastening mechanisms should be capable of holding the child’s foot firmly in place at the back of the shoe.
  • Check to make sure your children can wiggle their toes freely inside the shoe. Toes shouldn’t hurt or feel cramped, nor should you be able to see their toes causing bulges on either side of the shoe.

number 4 graphicUnderstand how long shoes should last.

All parents understand that children grow quickly and can size out of their clothes and shoes often. It can be a challenge to replace footwear frequently. Once your child is older than three, you can expect their feet to grow about half a size every six months or so. That means you can usually expect a pair of school shoes that fits well to last an entire school year.

Just keep in mind that children occasionally go through growth spurts. If that’s in the cards for your child this year, it’s possible they might need new shoes before the year is up. Make sure to re-evaluate the fit of children’s shoes often and replace them as soon as it’s necessary.

number 5 graphicGo for quality whenever possible.

Children’s shoes are just like any other important purchase. They should be regarded as an investment in your child’s school wardrobe and their health as well. That said, it’s important to go for higher quality footwear whenever you can, especially when it comes to sneakers, athletic shoes, or other shoes your child wears on a daily basis.

It’s also worth noting that while investing in higher quality shoes may cost you more up front, it’ll likely save you money in the long run. Better shoes simply last longer and wear better than cheap alternatives. Always buy from brands and merchants you trust to ensure a product that offers a great value for the price.

Getting your kids ready to go back to school on time can certainly be a challenge. However, it’s far from impossible when you’ve got a solid plan for what to buy, where to buy it, and how to make the right selection. Get started today! Your little ones will be ready to step into fall in no time.