Maybe even enough to give you the shoe horn
Buying shoes for children. Could there be a duller, less rewarding way to spend big bucks than buying shoes for children? Nappies, Calpol, school uniforms…OK, so maybe it’s not the worst, but leaving the shoe shop with a tiny shoebox that has cost me thirty quid or more hurts. It’s even more painful when they get old enough to have an opinion, and thus a tussle. The days of picking out some jolly Ronald McDonald numbers are over, but the spending has barely started, and will be a large chunk of the £11k people spend on children’s clothes.
What irks me most is the feeling that I’m being royally shafted on the price. For all I know, £38 might be about right in terms of the materials and workmanship, but I’m damn certain the lion’s share of that won’t be going to the people who made them. So if I could find a way to buy them wherever they’re cheapest, then I’m up for that.
We were a Clarks family, and I am, in truth, a Clarks man – I’m wearing a pair right now (I’ve never admitted this to anyone before). I was brought up to believe that what they do in those shoe shops is beyond the abilities of mere mortals.
Ensuring a decent fit is surely a job for experts only, even if those experts are unaccountably 19 year olds doing a Saturday job. They may even have been trained by The Society of Shoe Fitters. To fit them yourself, well that’s tantamount to child abuse. And according to research by, umm, Clarks, four million little darlings are hobbling around in the wrong sized shoes. It’s a wonder they don’t all fall over.
So how come Clark’s sell foot measuring gauges then? Ah yes, because that’s the only way of reconciling their foot-fitting mantra with their e-commerce aspirations. But selling them rather blows open the whole idea of it being more than common sense and a suitable tape measure.
If I sound rather snarky, that’s because Clarks then do the dirty on you by making these gauges different to those you’d find in the shops. You’d expect to see lines on the gauge corresponding with sizes, wouldn’t you? A bit like a pair of Trainer Tamers that you need to cut down to size. But those cheeksters have instead marked both length and width in mm.
You’d think that conversion would be easy peasy, but Wikipedia suggests you’d be wrong. I knew I shouldn’t have given up maths at GCSE.
So once you’ve measured your little wrigglers using the chunky gauges, you’re back to the Clarks website for their conversion tool, just as they intend. And here you’ll either a) strike it lucky: pop in the measurements, and bingo! A size you can work with, or more likely, b) get an out-of-range error message.
Yep, your children’s feet are out of range! They’re just not possible! Have you raised a Hobbit? What’s the matter, can’t you use a ruler, doofus?
Turns out that, like battleships, there are way more misses than hits with the Clark’s calculator. And it’s ‘cunningly’ designed so that you can’t easily experiment to work out where you’ve gone wrong: the form doesn’t submit without a mouse click, and when you stuff up, you’re back to the beginning. And as one of the reviewers comments, you’ve no idea if your result is a mm into a bigger size, or 1mm off the next size up without mucking around with the figures.
I did wonder if it might be possible to scrape the data of what is just a look-up table of shoe size data, but it turns out that’s probably illegal. But I think I’ll risk a short holiday in Wandsworth’s Premier Inn by telling you that a half size equates to 4-5mm, while 5-6mm takes you up or down a width fitting, which may save you a little frustration.
So buy the gauges, which at £6 or £8 postage free are clearly priced as loss-leaders. Use their calculator, heck maybe even buy some shoes from their site, after you’ve had a poke around eBay and decided that you have a limited appetite for other children’s fungal infections. But at least you’ve got the choice.
What’s your take on kids’ shoes? Is there money to be saved, or is this one area where you’re over a barrel? What about hand-me-downs and nearly new purchases? Share what you know!