Books, backpacks, uniforms, shoes... as August winds down, parents need to sort through a long shopping list for the next academic year. One of the trickiest to be purchased is new school shoes. 

Mum-of-two Aser Ismail has been shopping for school shoes for three years. “As I buy from only one or two brands that I trust, durability or quality is never in doubt for me,” says the French expat who’s been living in the UAE for 25 years. “Therefore, it’s more about look and convenience. I look for Velcro because I want to make sure the girls are comfortable putting the shoes on themselves.”

Ismail’s next step is checking how much space there is between the tip of her daughters’ toes and the end of the shoe. “From what I’ve read, having a good support from the back of the heel up to the ankle is important. Even if the shoes will be outgrown in a few months, it’s better for the child’s foot development that the fit is just right.”

While it’s fairly common knowledge that tight shoes are a no-no, it’s also important that they aren’t too large. “A child shouldn’t wobble as they walk or run,” Ismail says.

Because school footwear needs to be worn for seven to nine hours a day, it’s essential it is both comfortable and durable. “A child spends the majority of the day in the shoes, so they need to be comfortable for them to walk and play in without any irritation,” says Jade Ampomah, a designer at Dubai-based footwear retailer Shoe Mart. She says features such as memory foam padding built into shoes and socks can improve comfort. 

A good shoe needs to have four properties, says Thomas Vangsgaard, Director of Ecco Kids. “It should be lightweight and soft, with flexible materials to give maximum mobility and comfort; it must have a purpose, with no unnecessary elements; it should be soft enough to cushion a child’s foot comfortably; and the footwear should use breathable material.”

With its EcoOrthoLite insole, the adidas Altasport range ticks the requisite comfort boxes. Its sock liner has an open-cell structure that the manufacturer claims is 95-100 per cent breathable, useful when it’s 40 plus degrees Celsius out. Meanwhile, Ecco’s Fluidform tech sees shock-absorbent material injected into the shoe mould at the manufacturing stage. Shoe Mart’s Start-rite and Barefeet school lines both feature memory foam that adapts to a child’s foot shape.

Experts advise trying on shoes with the insoles already in the shoes. Then check to see if there’s room for the feet to grow, as a child’s feet grow at their fastest rate in their first few years. Vangsgaard suggests checking every two or three months whether the shoes have become too tight. “It is important for smaller children as the nerve endings in their feet are not fully developed and therefore difficult for them to tell whether shoes are too tight.” 

Comfort, durability, style and room to grow — keep these watchwords in mind and your child will have happy feet.