Life with a smile: Buying children’s shoes can be a full-time job

Published 6:07 am Saturday, August 25, 2018


Contributing writer

By my estimate, I spent approximately $84,000 dollars on children’s footwear this summer. Or maybe it just felt like that much money. But it definitely seemed like I was buying shoes every other day.

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I spend a significant portion of my parenting emotional bandwidth on dealing with shoes. The rest of my children’s wardrobe is a non-issue in my life. I gave up trying to dictate what my kids wear as soon as they were old enough to have an opinion and now make only general weather-related rules (such as not wearing wool dresses to church in August).

But shoes are another matter. Shoes are the bane of my existence.

For one thing, good shoes are stupidly expensive. I’ll shell out $100 for my own footwear, knowing it’ll last for years. But spending $50 on sneakers for a person whose giant puppy paws are likely to outgrown them in a matter of months is galling.

It’s not just that my kids grow fast. They play hard, too. A friend recently asked if I would be willing to hand down any of my kids’ shoes. I laughed hard at that one, then took a picture of my son’s sneakers. She withdrew the request immediately. No lie, my son can destroy a pair of cheap tennis shoes in less than a week. We’re talking holes in the toes and soles ripped open in seven days or less.

The expensive shoes do tend to be more durable, but they are no more immune to the unfortunate reality that kids are fickle about footwear. The shoes that fit perfectly in the store magically become too tight the moment the tags are cut. Or too loose. The ties won’t stay tied. The ties won’t come untied. They were beautiful yesterday but today they’re awful. The lights don’t work. The sparkles fell off. “My toes feel funny in these.”

Then there was the Bunny Shoe Incident.

I promised my daughter a pair of TOMS after she saw and admired mine, but I made the mistake of letting her browse the site. She immediately fell in love with the least practical pair in the entire catalog – a lovely pair of white shoes adorned with bunny ears and a puffy bunny tail. This for the child who spends much of her free time outside and loves nothing more than stomping in mud puddles.

I’m a sucker so we bought them, but she doesn’t actually wear them. She just looks lovingly at them on the shelf in her room and occasionally puts them on for church. Excellent use of $40, that.

So between changes in size, changes in preference, and general destructive tendencies, we bought a lot of shoes this summer. But have you ever gone shoe shopping with young children? I don’t recommend it.

On one trip back in June, my son practiced his parkour by vaulting over the seating benches (sometimes while occupied) while my older daughter tried on – and rejected – dozens of pairs of shoes. My youngest didn’t need shoes at all, but I dare you to explain that to her. If you buy shoes for one child, you end up buying shoes for all children whether they need them or not. It’s inevitable. Or maybe I’m a wimp. In any case, we left the store with three pair and I’ve ordered from Zappos ever since.

In fairness to my children, their mother’s fondness for shoes is also a factor in the proliferation we have experienced. I like shoes. My mom recently unearthed a pair of silver platform sneakers I bought on a class trip to Paris in high school. They’re a bit moth-eaten today, but when I bought them? Absolute perfection. I also still own (and wear) a truly lovely pair of beaded sandals I purchased in India over a decade ago.

So it is perhaps not surprising that I’m willing to purchase sparkly ballet flats, light-up Batman sneakers, and loafers shaped like bunnies. When the shoe speaks to your soul, what can you do but listen?