Saturday, May 09, 2009

Cheap Shoe Shuffle

Children’s shoes have been the trial of mothers for generations, I’m sure. They grow out of them in no time, but good quality ones cost as much as adult shoes. Buy cheap ones and it is a gamble whether they will last until they are grown out of.

Faced with a barefoot Middle Daughter, who had grown out of all her shoes over the summer, with only three pairs of flip flops left to her name, the thought of equipping her with a winter wardrobe of good quality shoes was daunting.

I took the gamble. We went to Ackermans (the cheap and cheerful store, but still not the very cheapest) and bought her three pairs of shoes for the price of one good pair from Woolies. Trainers, pumps and a pair of pretty canvas shoes that were in the sale. That was the day that immediately on her return she gashed her arm and we had to turn straight around to get it sewn up at the doctor's in town. Perhaps that was an omen, a doom-laden peal foretelling the premature demise of the shoes, because five weeks later I was back at the store with my receipt and a pair of shoes that had perfect looking uppers (they might well still have been perfect-looking when excavated by archeologists in 200 years time, being about as biodegradable as the plastic chemicals they smelled of) but with deep cracks right across the soles. The trainers also had holes in the outer surface of the mock-leather upper that let the wet in, but my husband reckons he can use gaffa tape on that and I've twice stitched the strap back on the canvas shoes, so far, but I was only going to argue about the cracked soles of the mock leather pumps, which really were beyond remedy.

The cashier pointed at my till slip, which said a 30 days returns policy.
I argued.
The supervisor came and offered an exchange.
I said I didn’t want to buy shoes from them any more, as they are such bad quality.
She said "What do you expect? They’re cheap shoes. "
I persisted and eventually she got sick of me and gave me my money back.

And so duly chastened after my misguided attempt at economy, I sneaked back into the camp of ‘quality shoes are a must for growing feet’. If there had been a Clarks shoes over here I’d have legged it there, kissed the carpet and swooned over the leather shoes with width fittings. Here though we have Woolworths and that is about it. (If I’m wrong and there is somewhere else that does decent leather children’s shoes that fit, please, please tell me)

So today I took my barefoot princess to shop in Woolies in Canal Walk and Youngest came too. Another downside in the small market of South Africa is that shops get in their season’s stock and then that is it for the season. If a size runs out, it runs out. Canny Cape Town mothers have the Woolworths new season stock arrival date penciled in to their diary, fit their kids out for the season and then smile sympathetically and slightly smugly at less organized, belated and harassed mothers with two girls in tow, trying to find anything in a 2 or a 12, when the shelves are stripped bare of those sizes and now clearly only equipped for kindergarten aged tots.

Frustrated, as there were some quite nice looking leather sandals up to size 11, I found some white flowery leather ones in a size 2 and Middle Daughter tried them. Not comfortable. We drifted across to the rows of dull ‘school’ shoes and she happily enough tried them on too. Still no good. In the end she took matters into her own hands, wandered round the shelves, even into the boys section and came back with these.

And they fitted, are comfortable and, even better, they look like riding boots, so she can wear them for riding. So in one quick step I went from stingy, economical Mum to extravagant, profligate Mum and got a pair for Youngest too. It is only a matter of time before her trainers wear out, by which time there will be nothing at all left in Woolies shoe department, and she has no leather winter shoes and now I’m firmly back on the ‘leather shoes so the feet can breathe’ bandwagon. After a childhood of Clarks sandals myself I can’t really inflict premature bunions or foot rot on my own girls after all!

Anyone know how to stop children’s feet growing? These shoes need to last till summer now!


  1. Good luck! We've found that good children's shoes are impossible to find overseas--and I include France in that.

  2. Those black leather boots look great! I have done the cheap shoe thing too, and they always disappoint. We bit the bullet only yesterday and purchased an expensive pair for D, which had better last for months. While Germans do good shoes, I do miss Clarks too. L had her first pair of shoes from them: adorable red Mary Janes. I seldom see anything as pretty here.

  3. Woolies is normally my first port of call however I found that "Bata" have quite a nice range of leather shoes - our school shoes here in South Africa were known as "Bata Toughees" and boy were they! I hated getting a new pair after I had worked so hard on scuffing and stretching my old pair!

  4. I sympathize! My feet are small, but my kids both have normal-sized feet. My eldest daughter had outgrown all kids' shoes by the time she was 7. She used to look longingly at the Hello Kitty shoes in the children's section when all she could wear were shoes that grown women wore. Finding a pair of shoes that fit her but were appropriate for her age was a real headache and took ages.

  5. no remedy for growing feet, i am afraid, unless you want to nabdage them like they do/did in china ;-)
    we're lucky to have great shoe stores here, especially brand like ecco and geox which are always realiable! i wish i could send you some, but shoes really MUST be tried on...

  6. i obviously meant to "bandage" them... what's nabdage supposed to mean? i type as if my fingers were bandaged today ;-)

  7. Kit, I can't helo with where to buy as my 'little' girl has already reached my adult size six. BUt I can, and do, sympathise completely. She is growing out of her shoes at the rate of about 1 size per month at the moment. Help!

  8. What cute shoes! They look great, comfortable and practical! Good for you Kit for standing your ground with the cheap shoes store staff!

  9. I've given up on cheap shoes except for flip flops. My girls only have two pairs of shoes that fit them at any one tennis and one dressier, both of fairly good quality so that they'll last awhile.

  10. I love reading your blog!! No remedy for growing shoes, but if you find one let me know, my kids feet grow at an unbelievable rate!
    Gosh, I remember being in SA and always getting Woolies toooo late for the right size!! In Morocco, the cheap shoes are awful and the only option seems to be the French ones which shock horror, seem to be more than double the price of a good pair at Woolies. I got my daughters some Clarkes (on sale) in the UK when I went over and they have lasted the whole winter! Thank goodness we now have a few months of flip flops ahead of us!!

  11. I grew up in Port Elizabeth with Clark's school shoes - what a pity they don't seem to be freely available any more. Do Green Cross do kids' shoes? I ADORE their adult shoes. And you are so right - cheap shoes pretty much never live up to expectations...

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  14. One year later, I am in the same position again, caught short with only one good pair of trainers each, courtesy of my mother, so am off to the shops tomorrow in hope.

    Those good quality boots of Middle Daughter's lasted about two months before they too came unstuck. Woolies did refund the money without any questions though, but couldn't replace them, as they were by then out of stock... Youngest's have lasted out the year intact, but she has of course grown out of them.

    Wish me luck!


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!