THEY'RE the most important footwear kids will ever own. Claire Spreadbury discovers the latest trends for fresh feet in the classroom

CHILDREN up and down the country are getting decked out with their back-to-school kit. From uniform, to bags and pencil cases, looking and feeling good is all part of that new-year vibe. According to Pinterest, there's been a 190 per cent rise in people searching for 'school shoes' in the UK over the last month.

Worn five days a week, they're an essential item in any child's wardrobe. They need to fit well, feel comfy and look cool. No one wants to be picked on because of their clumpy clodhoppers on day one of the new school term.

"Among parents, we're seeing school shoes taking greater priority over everyday trainers and occasion footwear," says Nicola Williamson, senior designer and product developer at Bobux. "Historically, we saw parents buying cheap, ill-fitting and poorly-designed school shoes for their kids, with the belief that they'll just get ruined in the playground. Or that they should wear the next size up so they'll fit for longer. What we're seeing now is parents more informed than ever about developmental needs. They know their kids are going to spend a lot of time in these shoes - both in class and in the playground - and they're willing to invest in a good, healthy pair."

What are the new-season trends?

When it comes to school shoes, trends don't tend to vary enormously. The classic Mary Jane shape is eternally popular for girls, and for boys, the more like trainers their shoes look, the better. But equally, there is a rise in shoes which are completely unisex, too. "Scuff-resistant, patent school shoes are a pretty, but practical choice for girls," notes India Steady, senior childrenswear buyer at Debenhams. "T-bars are a popular choice for toddler girls, whereas older girls prefer a loafer. We are also seeing 'light-up' shoes - across both boys and girls - selling well. For boys, smart trainers are comfortable to run around in, while retaining a smart look."

Which shoes last the longest?

The price of school shoes can very enormously. Aldi are selling shoes from just £6.99 this season, which is great for anyone on a tight budget, but parents who are more particular about the fit and brand frequently pay over £50 a pair, so they want them to last.

Jason Beckley, chief brand officer at Clarks - who perform 60 different tests on each pair of school shoes - explains: "These shoes have tighter test standards than any of the other products we sell, simply because they are subjected to greater levels of wear. We know from experience that children are capable of destroying footwear in every way imaginable, and every way unimaginable! The average child doesn't think about looking after their shoes - so we have to build this in."

"This season, it's all about durability when it comes to school shoes," says Deichmann's children's footwear buyer, Caroline Bright. "Features such as scuff-resistant materials, memory foam insoles and micro-fresh technology are saviours for parents, as school shoes have never lasted so long before."

How do you know which shoes are best?

Finding time to take the kids to a shoe shop to get their feet properly fitted can be difficult when families have so much going on. The convenience of picking up a pair while you're doing the food shop, or ordering online, is more popular than ever before.

"It's really important children wear correctly-fitting school shoes, as they'll wear these more than any other pair," advises Start-Rite product director, Kate Tansley. "Start-Rite always recommend visiting a local stockist to get your children's feet measured by a fitting expert, however, with today's busy lifestyles, that's not always possible. Thankfully, new technologies have been developed, so you can measure children's feet at home."

This year, Start-Rite has launched a measuring app that takes photos your child's feet to ascertain the correct size, and will then store the information. After using the measuring tool, it's simple to search and order shoes. Parents can track their child's sizes and will receive timely reminders to re-measure.

When trying on shoes, after checking the fit, Tansley recommends looking at the fastening quality and the Velcro.

Does it feel firm?

Is the shoe stitched together with cotton or nylon?

Cotton will give up quicker than nylon. Is the shoe waterproof?

Does it have additional elements such as reflective materials for darker winter days? Look at the shoe mouldings around the toe.

Will it scuff quickly, and in turn separate the leather 'upper' from the sole of the shoe?

All these things are worth remembering, to make sure your kids' shoes last as long as possible.