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When my son reached 13 months old, we decided it was time to get him a pair of proper outdoor shoes. Although he wasn't yet walking by himself, he was becoming less keen on staying in his pushchair while we were out and often wanted to walk around holding our hands. My first instinct was to get him measured at Clarks as they have such a well known reputation as being experts in childrens' footwear, however a friend recommended we try the children's shoe section of John Lewis as she had found the service there to be better. Taking her advice, off we went to our nearest John Lewis to get Elliot's feet measured.
I won't go into the details of the service at John Lewis as that's a review for another day, suffice to say we were very pleased with the knowledge the staff displayed and ended up buying a pair of Mini Fun boy's cruiser shoes. These particular shoes are part of a range by clarks, which are designed for children who are not yet walking unaided, or who are still crawling and 'cruising' (in other words, getting about by holding on to furniture and walls etc.)
A main feature of these shoes is the rubber sole, which is much softer and pliable than walking shoes and extends over the top of the toe area. This allows greater flexibility for little feet still at the cruising stage, as their toes have to be able to handle the rigours of crawling, pulling up on furniture and getting back down on the floor. The soft leather upper of the mini fun design is in navy blue, with grey detail on the sides, back and tongue. Around the outer ankle and at the base of the tongue is flexible, breathable fabric, whilst the inner ankle is of soft cream leather. The inside of the shoe is also of breathable fabric and has a soft, spongy inner sole covered with a thin layer of soft leather.
The shoes are fastened with a strip of material at the front, which passes through a navy plastic ring on one side and and then crosses over to fasten with velcro on the other side. On the back of the shoes is a small fabric loop, designed to help with putting the shoes on and taking them off. The outer sole is also grippable and features a design of jungle animals, which also appear on the fastening strip and loop. We found the appearance of this design to be quite versatile as they strike a good balance between sporty and smart- they are casual enough for day to day wear but also look fine teamed with shirts and trousers for special occasions.
In practice, these shoes have been fantastic- the velcro fastening and loop at the back makes them extremely easy to put on (unlike one pair we tried with buckles) and Elliot always appears to be very comfortable in them. Most of Elliot's learning to walk has been done indoors without shoes, however when he wears these outside his feet appear to adjust to the shoes straight away and he's happy to toddle off (and now run) in them. They have proved to be very durable, especially considering the amount of abuse they've endured at Elliot's hands- they've been in rain showers, mud and a worrying stage of being chewed but have survived without damage. They are also easy to clean and come up very well with a bit of normal furniture polish.
Surprisingly for us, they have also lasted longer than expected without being outgrown. We went to get Elliot's feet measured again last week and were told that as he is still lifting his arms to balance whilst walking, cruisers are still the best shoes for him and that this pair should be fine for another month or so. This means these shoes will have lasted for five months in total, which as parents of young children will know is a pretty good innings! Of course this may not be true of all children as a lot depends on how fast your child's feet grow, however the sales assistant did tell me that the clarks cruisers have around a half size leeway, which generally gives them a good longevity. This makes the price tag of £22.00 a little easier to swallow, but if you can try and get hold of these or other cruisers during the sales then they are often reduced quite considerably.
There is only one negative I can think of as regards the mini fun design- it's very easy for toddlers to work out how to undo the velcro straps and take them off. Within seconds of getting in the car, I normally hear the tell tale rip of velcro and once we reach our destination, I'm presented with a pair of bare feet and a hunt for the discarded shoes and socks. More annoyingly, this is also one of Elliot's favourite activities to pass the time whilst he's sat in the pushchair and we have often come very close to losing his shoes outside and in shops. I imagine this is a common problem of velcro fastening shoes, however if you think that constantly having to put shoes back on is really going to bother you then it's worth considering the buckled variety instead (mind you it's probably only a matter of time before they figure out how to undo buckles as well!)
All things considered, this is a great pair of first shoes for children who are learning to walk. I feel I have to take off a star for the price and how easy it is for kids to take them off, but other than that I would highly recommend them as regards comfort and quality.