A Guide to Buying School Shoes for Primary and Secondary School

Children spend upwards of seven hours a day in their school shoes. They see them through class, breaktime, lunchtime and home time, so it’s important that they’re comfortable, fit well and are designed to withstand everything that’s thrown at them.

With all that in mind, we’ve created a guide to buying children’s school shoes, including how to get the right fit, choose the right colour school shoes and how to care for them properly. Read on to discover how to find the best school shoes for primary and secondary school.

Primary school shoes

When buying primary school shoes for your little ones, the most important thing to consider is the fit. Getting the right size is essential in supporting their feet as they develop and grow. Riptape shoes are great options for an adjustable fit as well as being easy to put on and take off. Find out more about what to look for in a primary school shoe further down the page.

Secondary school shoes

Girls’ secondary school shoes

While fit remains important throughout their school life, style becomes more of a priority as they progress through the year groups. Popular girls’ secondary school shoe styles include pumps, loafers and brogues – just make sure they’re still comfortable and durable.

Boys’ secondary school shoes

Black leather lace-ups are the most popular shoe for boys at secondary school, and as long as they’re kept clean, they’re by far the smartest option. Read on to find out how to keep them clean, with or without polish.

Getting the right shoe size

Children’s feet aren’t fully formed until their late teens, which means their feet are constantly growing and changing. This means getting the right fit is essential, as wearing ill-fitting shoes at a young age could affect the development of children’s feet and cause permanent damage.

Take advantage of our in-store fitting service, where our expert staff will measure your child’s feet and suggest styles that are best suited to their foot size and shape. Alternatively, you can order one of our foot gauges and measure their feet at home to ensure you choose the right size when buying kids’ school shoes online.

It’s important to measure your child’s feet every time you buy a new pair of school shoes instead of simply buying the next size up, as they may need a wider or narrower fit than before, or they may have only grown half a size – or even jumped two. Similarly, it’s important that you don’t buy a bigger size for them to grow into as the shoes need to be properly proportioned to their feet.

Once your child’s feet have been measured and they’re trying on shoes, ensure that their toes aren’t touching the end, that there’s room on either side, no pressure on the outside edges of the foot, and that they’re not too tight. Get your child to test them out for comfort by walking or skipping; they should move easily and naturally.

What to look for in a school shoe


Children spend a lot of time in their school shoes, and if they’re uncomfortable it could affect their ability to concentrate in class and the fun they have playing at breaktimes. Finding a pair that are comfortable will mean they can get on with their day without distraction.


Whether they’re running around the playground, playing football or climbing trees, your children’s school shoes need to be able to withstand all sorts of activities. Choosing a good quality pair will ensure they last longer and see them through the school year.

The right material

Leather is generally the best material for school shoes, as it can be protected and even repaired. Leather school shoes are durable, breathable, and long lasting. Patent leather is also durable and has a high shine finish that makes it easy to clean.

Some schools will allow school shoes made from other materials, such as canvas. Canvas is breathable and ideal for summer, and styles made from it are often machine washable – an easy way to keep shoes looking good as new.

The right style

Many primary and secondary schools will have guidelines regarding school shoes. Some may only permit smart black options, while others may allow black trainers and boots, so ensure that you buy a pair that fits in with their policy.

It's important that younger children can take their shoes on and off easily by themselves, so riptape is generally the best option for primary school shoes. Older children will start to get more style-conscious, so consider involving them in the shoe shopping experience so that together you can find a pair of secondary school shoes they’ll feel happy and confident wearing.

Find out more about choosing the best school shoes.

How to clean school shoes

Keeping school shoes clean is an important part of their upkeep. Not only will this keep them looking smarter, it will also ensure that they last for as long as possible.

Cleaning black school shoes with polish

The best way to clean black leather school shoes is with a leather cleaning kit, comprising a shoe brush, soft cloths or old clean t-shirt rags, leather cleaner and shoe polish.

Step 1: Remove the shoelaces to avoid getting polish on them, and give the shoes a good clean and buff with the brush. Then take your clean cloth and dampen it with water before wiping down the shoes and laces to remove dirt.

Step 2: Put a small amount of leather cleaner on a clean, dry, soft cloth and spread a thin layer on the school shoes.

Step 3: After 15 minutes or so, polish the shoes with another clean, soft cloth, using circular motions to slowly rub it in. Let this dry for 20 minutes, and if the shoes still look dull apply another layer.

Step 4: Buff your shoes again when dry and scrub them thoroughly to remove excess polish. Then use a damp cloth, take a tiny bit more polish and go over your shoes again in circular motions.

The shoes should now be looking as good as new.

How to clean black school shoes without polish

It’s also possible to clean black school shoes without polish. With a slightly damp cloth, simply wipe away any dirt from the surface, sole and sides of the shoe and let them air dry for several hours. You can also use cleaning wipes to get rid of stubborn stains (don’t use these on patent leather). To restore that new-shoe sparkle use our Quick Shine Sponge or our Patent Leather Restorer.

Caring for school shoes

As well as cleaning your child’s school shoes regularly to prevent cracking leather and unsightly stains, labelling your children’s school shoes is always a good idea to save them from getting mixed up with their classmates’. Stick a personalised shoe label under the tongue of the shoe, on the insole or on the inner heel to be extra safe.

Now that you know what to look for, explore our range of kids' school shoes, or read our guide to choosing the best school bags to ensure they’re sorted for next term.