Do a quick survey of parents, and guess what they'll rank as the single most expensive item they buy regularly for their kids?
Because if your kid is anything like mine, they've already grown out of those sneakers they were wearing in June, and it's time for a whole new pair for back to school.
Sending my daughter back to school, I feel your pain. So I have been scouting the best picks for this time of year -- and some of the best deals.
1. Stride Rite.
Why I Love Them: On a purely personal level, I've yet to have a problem with a Stride Rite shoe. They stand up to everything she puts them through and don't fall apart before she's done with them -- which is more than I can say for certain bargain brands. And they can even make a uniform shoe look cute.
How To Save: Stride Rite is currently running a buy one, get one 50 percent off promotion to help you save big especially if you have more than one child. Or you can save 20 percent online with code SCHOOL2010.
A Few Favorites: Glitzy Pets -- the newest shoe for girls, these caught my daughter's eye in the Stride Rite store at our mall the other day because there's a little charm hanging off (their own Glitzy Pet). The sneakers are adorable, but the little pet may be a great replacement for those Silly Bandz their school has banned. For boys, check out the Slingshot, a running shoe with boomerang-type designs on the side as though he's being shot forward as he's running.
Why I Love Them: The Flex fit system extends the life on shoes that would otherwise be worn and thrown out in months. Extra insoles come with every pair that you slip inside when the shoes are a little big, then remove to give them extra time in the shoes. A sample of the Giselle boot sent to The Stir proved the name also points to flexible sole that adapts to growing feet. It also keyed me in to a smart trend -- leather boots are comfy enough for fall but warm enough for early winter, saving Mom money.
How To Save: In addition to the "lasts longer" options with Flex, use code 75SHIP* at Pediped's online store for free shipping on orders of $75 or more, or check Amazon -- sellers there are often selling the same shoe for significantly less (as much as half off for that Giselle boot).
A Few Favorites: Anything from Flex.
Why I Love Them: Thick soles protect feet that step in anything and everything, and the skater style screams "I love to have fun."
How To Save: Buy straight from Vans to get big deals -- the same shoe sold at Journeys for $45 is just $35 at the Vans site.
A Few Favorites: The new Crayola line is all about childhood. Colorful classics or sneaks covered in crayons are available in slip on or lace-up versions, and you can download a free coloring book to match!
Why I Love Them: A standard sneaker line, they've got something for everyone and they transition easily from school to sports. My daughter's Reeboks got her through soccer last year AND she wore them straight through until it got cold.
How To Save: Another brand where going straight to the source can save you big -- the Reebok site sells kids shoes for cheaper than the big chains, although Zappos currently has some good deals on Reeboks as well. Also bookmark ShoeSteals for big deals -- and add STEAL20 at checkout by Sunday for a 20 percent extra discount.
A Few Favorites: A shoe from the new Zigtech line arrived in The Stir's mailbox this week, and my 14-year-old babysitter grabbed for it. The zig zag bottom gives it a funky look, but more importantly the spaces in between each zig (or is it zag) allow for extra flexibility when kids run in them.
Why I Love Them: Not just a clog maker any more, they've added sneakers for kids that look adorable and have that water-proof benefit of the Croslite material. Besides, Crocs are comfy!
How To Save: Keep an eye on the Crocs outlet for great sales.
A Few Favorties: In addition to the Crosband sneakers, keep an eye out for their Mary Janes -- a flexible version of a school favorite.
What are your go-to brands for back-to-school?
Images via Vans; Stride Rite; Reebok