Back-to-School Shoes on a Budget

Back-to-school shopping season is already in full swing. New shoes for the new school year no doubt hold a prominent place on that long list of necessary supplies. Whether you're scouting around for back-to-school shoes to carry your child through the next couple of months, to suit every occasion, to meet dress code guidelines, or to satisfy a budding fashionista, we've got the shoe for you -- all for less than $40.

  • Super-cheap back-to-school shoes can be pricey in the long run. Shoddy shoes often lead to injury and costly medical expenses. Pick sneakers or oxford-style shoes that offer flexibility in the toe and provide support in the heel region.
  • Proper fit is critical. There should be approximately a half centimeter, or a thumb's tip, between the front of the back-to-school shoe and the child's toe. Toes need wiggle room and shouldn't be squished together. Buy the size that fits your child's larger foot.
  • Look for back-to-school shoes made of leather or other natural materials, not synthetics. Natural materials let feet breathe and reduce the chance of bacterial infections.
  • To minimize wear and tear and to combat foot odor, buy two pairs of back-to-school shoes for each child and wear on alternate days.
  • Steer clear of used footwear, which conforms to the foot of the previous owner and may carry bacteria.

Quick Picks.

Need a pair of back-to-school shoes for the short-term? We like the girls' Danskin Now Lara Sneaker (starting at $9) for its styling and accurate fit, although many parents grumble it isn't built to last. Our top boys' pick is the Starter Felix Sneaker (starting at $9), which wins fans for value, look, and fit but loses some over concerns about durability.

We found three styles that score as best all-around back-to-school shoe. The New Balance 633 (starting at $33) is an update of Good Housekeeping's top-rated back-to-school shoe from 2009. It wowed testers back then for performance and support and impressed kids with its appearance. The New Balance 553 (starting at $25) athletic back-to-school shoe comes in boys' and girls' styles and in wide sizes. Parents appreciate the shoe's durability, comfortable fit, and light weight. Another heavy hitter is the Adidas Superstar 2 (starting at $35), noted in back-to-school shoe reviews for comfort, retro styling, and ability to withstand rough-housing. It's available in boys' and girls' versions and a variety of colors.

Our favorite uniform-appropriate back-to-school shoes are Keds School Days II Girls' Leather Saddle Shoes (starting at $30), which earn high marks in parents' reviews for solid construction, generous cushioning, and ease of cleaning, and Timberland Carlsbad Oxford Shoe (starting at $30), a boys shoe that comes in slip-on and lace-up styles and is cited for comfort, rugged durability, and styling that easily dresses up or down.

Kids with an eye on fashion trends love the gender-neutral Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star Core Ox Shoes (starting at $32). Parents, however, consider these back-to-school shoes better for sloughing around than for gym class.

One fashion accessory you might want to pass on is the ever-popular Crocs shoe. Crocs slip off easily, making them potentially hazardous on the playground, don't provide enough support for schoolyard sports and activities, and don't offer adequate warmth and protection against the elements.