Those $15 school shoes may be tempting, but be warned – a cheap and ill-fitting pair could cause corns, calluses, foot pain, lower back pain, and lasting damage.
"It's endlessly sad. Poor fitting or poor quality footwear can contribute to kids coming home feeling tired, sore and irritable, not wanting to play sport, and sometimes in pain," says Dr Brendan Brown from A Step Ahead Podiatry.
It's back-to-school shopping time, and thousands of parents are deliberating over schools shoes, from $12 leather mary janes at Big W to $160 Torandos from Clark's.
Dr Brown says there are five features he always looks out for, and the cheaper the pair, the fewer of the features they are likely to possess. They are:
- Firm heel counter
- Doesn't flex at the middle
- Bends at the toe
- Doesn't twist
He recommends lace-ups, ahead of velcro, buckles, and slip-ons, in that order, because "laces can be tightened and loosened from your toes to your ankles, helping make the shoe fit more like a glove on your foot."
He's also a fan of black runners as an alternative, from brands such as ASICS and New Balance, which are increasingly moving into the market.
"Ascent has a range of school shoes they call 'sports shoes in disguise'," he says. "The biggest mistake I see parents making is buying shoes too big for their children's feet."
Karen Craig, retail director of Shoes & Sox, says black runners were a popular buy, with many children wearing school shoes for three days a week, and then swapping into more comfortable footwear for the other two days.
Clark's Daytona leather lace-ups continue to be hugely popular among senior students, most likely because it comes in six widths.
Among junior boys, Clark's Lochie velcro shoes with double straps are a common sight, while junior girls are exiting stores with a pair of Clark's Indulge mary janes.
"Prices can vary depending on construction and width fitting. Our cheaper ones around $90 don't have the range of width fittings," says Ms Craig.
"The more expensive ones are all leather, and leather lined. At $90, they may have a synthetic inner, but they're perforated, allowing the foot to breathe."
Ms Craig says shoes should be properly fitted and last an entire year – that's about 1300 hours of wear.
"You get what you pay for, because $30 shoes are tempting, but it's all about the construction issues that are invisible to the consumer," she says.
Ascent was able to nab the Australasian Podiatry Council's exclusive endorsement two years ago after making an application, passing lab tests, and paying fees.
Before that, Clark's enjoyed the industry's exclusive endorsement.
George Wilson, APC's business development manager, says the logo is meant to indicate to the public they can trust the product, "that's all".
"There's no therapeutic benefit from wearing any sort of school shoes, but they're well designed and do no harm, are well constructed, durable, and for those reasons they have our support," he says. "The endorsement works like the National Heart Foundation's tick."
Zoe Taylor, mother-of-three, says comfort, durability and quality are the most important factors when shopping for school shoes for her children Eland, 11, Asha, 8, and Carter, 6.
"With Asha, we tried on lot of pairs, because her feet are very narrow, she wanted a certain style and it took us a few goes to get one that was actually good," she says.