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School shoes are an essential purchase every year and considering your children will be wearing them five days a week for more than six hours each day, finding a good pair that fits well and is durable enough to withstand plenty of activities 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 school shoes and being realistic about how long they’ll fit.
Also, factor in each school’s slightly 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 – whether it be for PE sessions, outdoor play or walking from one class to the next.
We’ve scoured the Mumsnet forums and online reviews to take the leg work out of searching for the best school shoes.
Here are the best school shoes for children in 2023.
What are the best school shoes for children?
Best overall school shoes: Clarks Magic Step Lo Kid Patent Shoes
Best budget school shoes: ASDA Black Patent Mary Jane Shoes
Best leather school shoes: Start-Rite Rhino Warrior
Best school shoes for PE: Adidas Tensaur 3 Trainers
Best plimsoll school shoes: John Lewis & Partners Children’s Riptape Plimsolls
1. Best overall school shoes: Clarks Magic Step Lo Kid Patent Shoes
Price: £46 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners
“We have a booked appointment with Clarks. Always go there for school shoes and never had bad service or shoes.” MrsJonesAndMe
"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 high 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 the Magic Step range with its substantial, flexible sole made from durable leather and rubber, cute heart and magic key design and easy-on rip tape fastening that can be adjusted to suit your child’s foot.
The PU (polyurethane) foam footbed also offers lasting comfort for your child’s feet throughout the day. While this is a classic school shoe design for girls, it may not be suitable for colder months.
Size range: 7 – 12 ½
Material: Faux leather
2. Best budget school shoes: Asda Black Patent Mary Jane shoe
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 a slick patent finish, thicker, sturdier heel and an odour-resistant insole, they’re very good value for money. Plus, many parents have pointed out that this pair offers supreme comfort for hours of walking. Reviews are mixed about how robust they are though, so if your child’s very active these probably won’t last.
Size range: 10 - 5 child
Material: Synthetic patent leather
3. Best leather school shoes: Start-Rite Rhino Warrior
Price: £60 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners
“Start-Rite Rhino school shoes and can second Ricosta - both a bit pricey but do last.” kathmacc
"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 for extra protection, plus a super grippy sole and breathable linings to keep feet fresh, these school shoes by Start-Rite are among the toughest, most comfortable school shoes around.
Start-Rite 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 great for running around in. Scuff-proof leather will keep them looking smart too.
With prices similar to Clarks, Start-Rite school shoes feature the high quality and robust materials you expect, and these should last you a full school year (growth spurts allowing).
Size range: S2 – L11
4. Best school shoes for PE: adidas Tensaur 3 Trainers
Price: £20 | Buy now from Sports Direct
“We go to Sports Direct and they usually choose Nike / adidas etc. As long as the soles are non-marking most schools don’t seem to mind what you have.” Legoninjago1
For under £30, these versatile black trainers are an absolute bargain. And when it comes to designing comfortable sports shoes that can withstand many gruelling PE sessions, adidas is one brand that always comes out tops. The Tensaur 3 trainers are a firm favourite amongst Mumsnetters due to their durable construction and solid rubber sole that provides ample comfort for little feet.
The breathable mesh fabric is also easy to clean, and we like how simple the shoe is to get on and off fast thanks to the double hook and loop tape straps. adidas has also done a great job of caring for the environment by reducing plastic waste- as these shoes are made from 50% recycled materials.
Size range: 10 – 2 child
Material: Synthetic leather
5. Best plimsoll school shoe: John Lewis & Partners Children’s Riptape Plimsolls
Price: £4 | Buy now from John Lewis & Partners
While plimsolls don’t traditionally offer much foot or ankle support, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the John Lewis Children’s Riptape Plimsolls are made with reinforced rubber soles for extra stability and a wider riptape fastening that’s simple to secure.
Coming in at under £10, we were also impressed with the slightly thicker textile fabric that’s ideal for an all-round school shoe, suitable for both the sports field and the classroom. However, you may find that they’re not as waterproof as your child needs them to be in cold, rainy weather. The good news though, as that most children find them comfy and easy to slip on and off
Size range: 8 – 1 Junior
Material: Woven textile fabric
6. Best school shoes that don’t scuff: M&S Collection Kids’ Leather 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 M&S 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.
Size range: 13 Infant - 10
7. Best wellington boots for school: TU Navy & Red Unisex Wellies
Price: from £9 | Buy now from Argos
“We’ve had Sainsburys wellies for 4 years and never had a problem.” SquirtleSquad
These classic navy wellies with red trim are plain enough for school and suitable for boys and girls. They are made with a sturdy 2cm raised heel to offer a firmer grip on muddy ground in the forest or on the playground.
We also like the simple wipe clean fabric – a much-needed feature for busy parents, and Mumsnetters agree that TU wellies are resilient, comfortable and waterproof – all at a fraction of the price of some competitor brands.
Size range: 6 Infant – 4
8. Best winter school shoes: Next Kids’ Leather Waterproof Riptape Trainers
Price: From £36 | Buy now from Next
If you’re looking for a waterproof school shoe that won’t let your child down on icy, wet winter days, then these black leather waterproof trainers from Next are a good choice. The biggest advantage of these shoes is that they’re made with good-quality waterproof materials and padded lining to keep feet warm and dry, plus they offer a slip-resistant sole, shock-absorbing base with an extra layer of memory foam to offer the comfort and support your child needs for multiple school activities.
The scuff-resistant leather and easy riptape fastenings are lovely additions too.
Size range: 7 Child – 5
9. Best summer school shoes: Superfit Heaven Ballerina
Price: From £35 | Buy now from Amazon
“If you can find anywhere that stocks a German brand called Superfit, they are light and hardwearing….” BikeRunSki
With many accolades behind their name, Austrian-based shoe company, Superfit are passionate about designing good-quality children’s shoes that last and these Heaven Ballerina’s are a good example of great craftsmanship. Made from supple Nappa leather (a type of leather that’s incredibly soft, smooth and strong) and a range of lightweight materials, these shoes provide optimal cushioning while supporting your child’s feet.
They’re also flexible and non-slip with a slightly thicker strap for the best hold. Plus, we can’t get enough of the pretty star and flower details with delicate stitching that make this shoe a classic for little girls.
Size range: 10 Child – 5
Material: Leather and patent leather
10. Most comfortable school shoes: Dr Martens Everly
Price: From £42 | 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.
Size range: 10 Infant - 2
11. Best trainer-style shoes: Nike Court Borough
Price: From £28 | Buy now from Sports Direct
“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. Plus, they’re leather – making them ultra-durable.
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 time at school
Size range: 10.5 Infant - 6
12. Best riptape school shoes: Bobux Venture School Shoes
Price: £60 | Buy now from Trotters
“Definitely get Velcro and try to get shoes that cover as much of the foot as possible! My daughter is going into Year 1 and I get Bobux school shoes for her.” Careerchange456
Designed for and tested by kids, the classic design of the Bobux Venture school shoe is sleek, tough and ready for school. We know this range is pricey, but they’re built to last – through all seasons.
We like that the quick-drying leather and patent finish gives the shoe a long-wearing, polished look, while the double-strap riptape fastenings (with a hook and loop) offer a comfy, adjustable fit. Other standout features include a thick rubber sole that’s non-marking, and a flexible design to shape to your child’s foot as they walk or run.
Size range: 27 – 33
Material: Patent leather
13. Best school shoes with laces: Kickers Kick Hi Classic Boots
Price: From £47 | Buy now from Amazon
"Kickers Hi Classic Boots from Amazon. When they grow out of them, I get the next size up. They’re 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. Another bonus is that they’re made with anti-odour technology to keep feet fresher for longer.
However, their casual style may not be suitable for all schools, so make sure to check your child’s uniform policy before purchasing these.
Size range: 1 - 6
14. Best slip-on school shoes: M&S Collection Kids Patent Leather Loafers
Price: From £30 | Buy now from M&S
“At my DD’s school they wear loafers - every girl wears them. They are leather and costly but DD has had the same pair for 4 years and walks home from school every day.” Annasgirl
For a school shoe that’s easily slipped on and off, check out these patent loafers from M&S. They’re made from scuff-resistant patent leather with a memory foam insole and they’re available in three width fittings including standard, narrow and wide, as well as whole and half sizes.
M&S has an impressively broad range of school shoes, with prices ranging from £28 for synthetic styles, through to patent leather pairs like these ones from £30 - £50. The quality is high and M&S shoes look more expensive than you’d expect from the high street.
Size range: 13 Infant - 7
Material: Patent leather
15. Best breathable school shoes: Geox Boys’ J Riddock Shoe
Price: £44 | Buy now from Amazon
“My two have worn Geox all through primary. I've no idea what styles they've had, but every pair has been hard-wearing. No complaints about comfort either.” IShouldProbablyHooverMore
With a super grippy sole and a durable toe bumper, we fancy the Geox Riddock’s chances on the playground. Made from good-quality leather and featuring a breathable lining and perforated antibacterial 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 around the shoe, the leather is protected in all the right places, so reviewers say they can withstand a full school years’ worth of wear. Another great feature is the easy riptape fastening.
Size range: 9 Infant - 7
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.
Also, with so many styles available, you’ll want to make sure the shoes you pick fit your child’s school uniform policy.
Do schools have different rules on school shoes?
Yes - some are stricter than others when it comes to stitching, trainers and heel height, so 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 Clarks Magic Step Lo style for its flexible sole, cute heart and magic key design and easy-on rip tape fastening.
For boys, you can’t go wrong with the Start-Rite Children’s Rhino Warriors.
How we chose our recommendations
Tried and tested by our users
Because we know that there’s nothing like a real recommendation, we first headed to the Mumsnet Forum to find out which school shoes parents were recommending and had bought for their kids. We took special note of what parents said about the overall quality, design and comfort level of the shoe, plus additional factors like the material used, heel height and fastening mechanism.
Celebrated best products
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 spent around 10-12 hours narrowing our list down to the top 15 school shoes on the market. We chose unisex school shoes as well as the best options for girls and boys in a variety of styles for all seasons.
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.