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The best school shoes to buy in 2021

Embarking on the yearly hunt for the perfect school shoes? Look no further than our roundup of the best school shoes to get you ready for September. Walk this way...

By Poppy O'Neill | Last updated Sep 8, 2021

Kids wearing school shoes

School shoes are an essential purchase every year, and considering your children will be wearing them five days a week for six hours a day, finding the right pair is extremely important. 

The delicate art of predicting how fast your child’s feet are going to grow needs to be considered - there’s a balance to be struck between investing in good quality shoes, and being realistic about how long they’ll fit. 

Factor in each school’s subtly different uniform guidelines and school shoe shopping can become a bit of a minefield. Thankfully there are loads of retailers out there with footwear ranges specially designed for school. We’ve scoured the Mumsnet forums and online reviews to take the leg work out of searching for school shoes. 

Here are the best school shoes for 2021. 

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1. Best overall school shoes: Clarks Etch Spark

Clarks Etch school shoes

Price: From £25 | Buy now from Amazon

"School shoes are expensive. I do Clarks outlet which makes them a fair bit cheaper. But they last the whole school year, worn every day, playing football at lunchtime… you do actually get your money’s worth" -  OkOkWhatsNext

Clarks has been making kids’ shoes for over 70 years, so it’s no surprise Mumsnetters rate it as the best place to buy school shoes. Classic, dependable and comfortable, Clarks shoes are made to withstand daily wear thanks to their flexibility and quality materials. 

Getting kids’ feet properly measured in-store is a back-to-school ritual that means they’ll fit just right, with room to grow. While Clarks shoes can be pricier than other high street options, it’s easy to see where the extra expense goes. We love this Etch Spark style for its substantial, flexible sole, cute star and easy-on velcro fastening. 

Key specs

  • Size range: Infant 2 - 2
  • Material: Leather 

2. Best budget school shoes: Asda Black Star Laser Cut Shoes

Asda Black Star school shoes

Price: £12 | Buy now from Asda

"Around £14-£18 and they always last my dcs half a school year. Never bothered with Clarks. Asda all the way!" - sarahfairy

"We went with the Asda ones and they are well made, sturdy & will wear out eventually but even two pairs of them are cheaper than one Clarks set" - PsychoPumpkin

At only £12, these Mary Janes from Asda are less than half the price of most high street brands, and just over a quarter of the price of a pair of Clarks. We’re impressed with the quality of these, so they’re a great budget option if you need an emergency pair. While the 

saying goes “buy cheap, buy twice”, even if they do need replacing before the term is through, you might still end up quids in. 

With sparkly star details, a padded heel and an odour-resistant insole, they’re very good value for money. Reviews are mixed about how robust they are though, so if your child’s very active these probably won’t last. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 8 - 11 child 
  • Material: synthetic

3. Best leather school shoes: Start-Rite Luke

Start-Rite Luke school shoes

Price: From £40 | Buy now from Amazon

"Big fan of Start-Rite shoes as they are so hard wearing and have excellent customer service. Buying cheaper shoes can actually be more expensive in the long run as they don’t last as long" - HerkyBaby

With a reinforced toe and heel, plus a super grippy sole, these school shoes by Start-Rite are among the toughest around. 

Startrite is another classic school shoe brand, with in-store fitting available at most stockists. With extra padding around the ankle and a lightweight sole, they’re comfortable and great for running around in. Scuff-proof leather will keep them looking smart too. 

With prices similar to Clarks, Startrite school shoes feature the high quality and robust materials you expect and these should last you a full school year (growth spurts allowing).  

Key specs

  • Size range: 1 Infant - 2.5 
  • Material: leather 

4. Best school shoes that don’t scuff: Marks & Spencer

Marks and Spencer Toe Bumper school shoes

Price: From £32 | Buy now from Marks & Spencer 

"M&S have seen mine through the whole year with barely a mark on them. Look for ones with a rubber bumper" - applepieicecream

"We're fans of M&S. Easily as good quality as Clarks but cheaper" - SeraphinaDombegh

The toes on school shoes take a real pummelling at playtime, and these shoes from Marks & Spencer have the best bumper we’ve seen. With a specially-shaped sole that protects the leather all around, these won’t let you down. 

Mumsnetters love Marks & Spencer school shoes because they’re typically cheaper than traditional brands, while still offering great quality and a choice of three different width fittings. With coated leather, non-marking flexible soles and a recycled polyester, anti-odour lining, these shoes are deceptively high-tech. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 13 Infant - 9
  • Material: Leather

5. Most comfortable school shoes: Dr Martens Everly

Dr Martens Everly school shoes

Price: From £35 | Buy now from Amazon

"Spend £50 and get Doc Martens. My DD is a shoe wrecker and these are the only ones that don't get ruined in weeks!" - whoami24601

"Doc Martens. I wouldn't even entertain any other shoe. My daughters still look brand new" - MonstranceClock

Unisex, practical and stylish, Dr Martens’ Everley is an enduring classic and a great choice for a fashionable school shoe that fits all the uniform rules. 

With its roots in workwear, Dr Martens produces incredibly well made shoes and the distinctive bouncy soles make them super comfortable. The soft, full grain leather is extra supple, so you won’t need to worry about blisters and they’ll fit your child’s feet like a glove. However, reviewers say these shoes do need a regular polish to keep the leather looking smart. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 10 Infant - 2
  • Material: Leather

6. Best trainer-style shoes: Nike Court Borough

Nike Borough Court school shoes

Price: From £24| Buy now from Amazon

“Our school allows trainers. I've bought these for the second year as they lasted perfectly - could do another year if not for the size” - Kiki22

If your child’s school allows them, trainers make affordable, comfortable school shoes. These Nike Court Boroughs are all black so they tick all the uniform boxes, plus they have the sporty elements you’d expect from trainers including a shock-absorbing sole, all-round padding and the classic Nike branding. 

A great choice for teens, these unisex trainers are designed for activity rather than looking smart, so they’ll last well, however your kids spend their breaktimes. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 10.5 Infant - 6 
  • Material: Synthetic

7. Best velcro school shoes: Ricosta William

Ricosta William school shoes

Price: From £40 | Buy now from Amazon

"DS has just finished school. He has had the same pair of Ricosta shoes since last September. My children’s school shoes have always been in pieces by the end of the school year, and we’ve always thrown them away on the last day. I’m keeping DS’s shoes though, there is still life in them. If they still fit in September, he’s going back in them" - BikeRunSki

If you’re looking for something on the more formal side, Ricosta is a safe bet. This William style is made from breathable leather and boasts a washable insole and soles moulded directly onto the upper, making them super hardwearing. 

With a double Velcro fastening, they’re easy for kids to get on and off, and the grippy soles mean they’re great for running around in. The soft, smooth leather does need a polish to keep it in tip top condition, but if you care for these shoes Mumsnetters say they’ll last and last. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 9 Infant - 9
  • Material: Leather

8. Best school shoes with laces: Kickers Kick Hi Classic Boots 

Kickers Kick Hi school shoes

Price: From £42 | Buy now from Amazon

"Kickers hi tops from Amazon. When they grow out of them I get the next size up. They are indestructible" - VolcanionSteamArtillery

With their iconic red and green labels, Kickers’ ankle boots are a timeless school classic. Living up to their name, the chunky sole, triple stitching and great quality leather mean they’ll withstand any and all playground antics. 

The smaller version of the Kick Hi has a side zip, so you won’t need to worry about little ones tying and untying laces. The sole is bouncy with really deep treads, so these boots will see you through all seasons. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 1 - 6
  • Material: Leather

9. Best slip-on school shoes: Next Leather Tassel Loafers 

Next Leather Tassel school shoes

Price: From £32 | Buy now from Next 

"We've found Next school shoes to be pretty good. Cheaper than Clarks but not real cheapies which don't seem to last long here. We have 2 girls and a boy between 7 and 12 so have been through a few pairs!" - Borntoflyinfirst

For a school shoe that’s easily slipped on and off, check out these tassel loafers from Next. They’re made from breathable leather with a memory foam insole and they’re available in three width fittings, whole and half sizes. 

Next has an impressively broad range of school shoes, with prices ranging from £17 for synthetic styles, through to leather pairs like these ones at £30 - £40. The quality is high and Next shoes look more expensive than you’d expect from the high street.

Key specs

  • Size range: 9 Infant - 7
  • Material: Leather

10. Best breathable school shoes: Geox Savage 

Geox Savage school shoes

Price: From £43 | Buy now from Amazon

"DS2 is heavy on his shoes but these last him until his feet grow. Well worth the money" - Muchtoomuchtodo

With a super grippy sole, heel and toe bumpers, we fancy the Geox Savage’s chances on the playground. Featuring a breathable lining and perforated sole that’s unique to Geox, there’ll be no sweaty feet in these tough trainer-style school shoes. 

While they’re on the expensive side, Geox has a very loyal following, with many Mumsnetters swearing by them for comfort and durability. Thanks to the extra rubber bumpers, the leather is protected in all the right places, so reviewers say they can withstand a full school year’s worth of wear. 

Key specs

  • Size range: 8.5 Infant - 7
  • Material: Leather

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How to choose the best school shoes

Look for a chunky sole that offers a bit of toe protection, as this is the part of the shoe that gets bashed the most. It’s wise to strike a balance between price and quality, as kids’ feet can grow overnight. So leave it as late as you can before buying shoes for school, make sure they fit comfortably and have a bit of room for growth. 

Do schools have different rules on school shoes?

Yes - some are stricter than others when it comes to stitching, trainers and heel height, so do double-check your school’s policy before buying. 

What’s the best material for school shoes?

Leather - it’s comfortable, breathable and softens with wear to avoid blisters. 

What are the best school shoes to buy?

Clarks make the best school shoes thanks to a combination of quality materials, expert fitting and affordability. We rate the Etch Spark style for its flexible sole, cute star and easy-on Velcro fastening. 

How we chose our recommendations

Because we know that there’s nothing like a real recommendation, we first headed to the Mumsnet forums to find out which school shoes parents were recommending and had bought for their kids.

We then did some research across the wider web, looking at which school shoes had won accolades or been featured in ‘best buy’ lists across websites, and what customer reviews said about them. Having collated all that information, we then narrowed our list down to the top 10 school shoes on the market.

Why you should trust us 

We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.