Clarks is where I always go for my kids school shoes. It is definitely one of the more expensive places to go for childrens shoes but going there I know that I am going to get my kids good quality hard wearing leather shoes and I like the fact they measure my childrens feet every single time so that I know I am getting a pair of shoes that are going to fit them and be comfortable on their feet.
The Air MAster shoes were a compromise between my son and I as he wanted more trainer like shoes and I wanted him to get smarter looking shoes. These sort of fell somewhere in between as they aren’t quite trainers but they also aren’t quite as formal as some of the shoes. His school allow shoes like these so long as they are black so I allowed him to pick them as well as a more formal pair too.
The shoes are made of leather with a rubber sole. The sole is nice and thick and protective and has great grips on them which is good as my son is very clumsy so anything that helps stop him from slipping is a good thing. They are very tough shoes and perfect for children who always seem to be ruining their shoes as soon as they wear them. They scuff but it doesn’t show up as much as it does on some shoes and even when they do scuff it isn’t deep as they are so strong.
My son said these were very comfortable and nice to wear and with them being available in loads of different sizes and widths I knew that I was going to get the perfect fit for him. There are no laces on these which is a god send when you are in a rush as they can be slipped on and off quickly and they have velcro fastenings to keep them in place.
These weren’t particularly cheap as they cost £40 which I think is a lot for kids shoes especially as they outgrow them so quickly but I can’t argue with the quality of them and how hard wearing they are.
When I bought my son's last pair of school shoes towards the end of 2011, I was replacing a pair of Clarks shoes that had lasted about a term. I seem to have reached a point now in parenthood where the shoes I buy for my children are being worn out before there feet have changed size, which would be a good thing if they hadn't worn them out in just one term.
I always buy my kids Clarks shoes as I like the way the feet are measured, then you get chance to have the shoes checked whilst they are on to make sure they fit growing feet properly. Although I love Clarks, I do not like shopping there at full price, however, we are lucky enough to have an outlet shop in Doncaster which we frequent. Here, a £35 pair of shoes like this one can be picked up for a much more reasonable £20.
When we looked at the shoes available in my sons size (a 13F) there was limited choice that was suitable for him. He was only just 5 when we bought these, and 13 is quite a large shoe size for his age. He certainly could not tie laces so velcro was an essential to us so he could take his own shoes on and off when he had PE at school. The system of having 3 velcro straps is a good one as it means he can adjust the shoe well to fit his foot, and he can use them very independently
This shoe also had a big advantage to me in that there is an extra piece of toughened material over the end of the toes. The last pair of shoes was very worn here from climbing and playing on the trikes at school. He must have been using his toes to stop. No amount of polish or clarks shu magic polish would stop the scuffs showing through. This toughened bit has meant that these shoes have lasted for 2 terms and not just one like his last pair.
The soles of the shoe have sufficient grip to keep him upright when the weather was icy, and he has found them to be reasonably waterproof walking to and from school in rain showers. I on the other hand find the water seeps through my trainers
My son really likes the shoes as he would really prefer to wear trainers like some of his little friends do, but I am quite strict and make him follow the school uniform policy. These do look a little like trainers to him, but they are also sufficiently supportive to his feet like shoes are, and so they feel a compromise we both agree on.
The shoes do get a lot of hammer. He is only in foundation/reception stage of school, so they are able to play out as much as they like, and he is out in the yard a good chunk of the day. He is obsessed with climbing, digging in the mud, and painting, and these come home from school most days looking wrecked. I wipe them over with a cloth most days to remove surface dirt, then once a week we get the shu-magic polish on them, and I occasionally also spray them with clarks waterproofing spray. We can make these shoes look pretty good again with a bit of tlc.
I would definitely go for this style of shoe again for both of my children. I feel they were comfortable for him, mostly looked smart, were easy for him to put on when I wasn't about making it easier for his school teachers, and more importantly, they weren't completely worn out within weeks of purchase with his heavy play. I think that is a lot for a child's shoe honestly, and if they are lasting a good while, they are worth the higher price tag for his feet not being squashed when he is at school.
I couldn't find a pair of these shoes in a G fitting that my younger son needed, although that could have been because it was an outlet shop and not a main branch of Clarks, although not all shoes do go to a G fitting I have found.
The end of the Summer holidays is always marked for us by the inevitable visit to Clarks, so that my oldest son can be measured and fitted with 'sensible' shoes for school. This is never the most exciting of purchases for him, as the choice is generally quite limited, but for once he actually seems quite pleased with the end result - the Air Master shoe.
As these are schoolwear they are made from black leather and feature three velcro straps which give a fairly traditional school shoe appearance. This shoe is available in both infant and junior sizes but the three separate straps each have to be threaded through a metal hoop and then secured into position with the velcro strap. I don't think this is the most practical design for younger children and I certainly wouldn't consider these for a child just learning to fasten their own shoes, as the design is a little fiddly for smaller hands. At eight years old, my son can take these off and fasten them independently with ease so it certainly isn't an issue for older children. The three separate straps also help to ensure that the shoe is secured comfortably around his rather narrow feet too.
As a boy's shoe this is a fairly practical design and should withstand the worst that an active child can subject them to on a daily basis. They seem to be made from a much softer leather than most school shoes, giving these the feel and look of trainers rather than formal shoes. This makes the shoe very flexible and supple and seems to be more comfortable for growing feet. The toe area offers some protection in the form of a small rubberised area (essentially where the rubber sole is lifted over the front of the shoe slightly.) This isn't a big section, however, and after daily use throughout this half-term, my son's shoes are showing some scuffmarks. I tend to treat these with Clarks' own Shumagic which usually covers the damage effectively.
Underneath the shoe, the trainer effect continues with circular designs on the sole which seem to imitate the look of football boots (although, obviously, not quite so raised.) The only drawback of this design became apparant when my son accidentally trod in dog muck and it collected in the deep grooves of the sole, making them very difficult to clean.
Overall, both I and my son are pleased with our purchase. The shoes seem reasonably practical and durable and the appearance and design is less formal than other school shoes, making them comfortable and fashionable to wear. This certainly seems a popular choice in the playground, with my son's three best friends all wearing these at the start of term!
The shoes can be bought from Clarks instore nationwide or ordered online for delivery and fitting instore. They cost £34 (infant sizes) or £36 (junior) and start from a size ten. They are available in F and G width fittings (although the F fitting has been tight enough for my son's E fitting feet) with the junior sizes also available in a wider H fitting.