School Shoes Reviewed & Rated
Back to school brings a new opportunity to renew old friendships and start the year off in style. Though back-to-school shoes need to be stylish and comfortable, they also need to survive the grueling day-to-day of a great school year. From middle school through senior year, we have you covered for the best back to school shoes.
Whether you are out on the playground playing one on one with friends or walking to class with your best friends, the perfect shoe can amplify any situation. Athletic shoes come in many comfortable and stylish varieties, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice comfort with style.
- Vans Sk8-Hi
- Waffle Outsole
- Shock Absorption
- Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro
- Air Conditioning
- Great For Basketball
- Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
- Rubber Sole
- Classic Chuck
A new pair of shoes helps you feel confident, happy and comfortable on that first day back. There are a lot of options that can suit your individual style. We’ve put together a list of the top 10 best school shoes available to make your choice easier. They’re solid, they comfortable and they are perfect for school days!
Top 10 School Shoes
1. Vans Sk8-Hi
Vans’ waffle (or honeycomb) designed outsole offers great traction on smooth floors, can take a lot of walking on hard surfaces and still offer a great amount of flexibility and shock absorption. All in a shoe you can take to the skate park.
Contoured EVA insole
The EVA insoles in this shoe are made for comfort and contour nicely to your foot. The insole has antimicrobial properties which will help prevent unpleasant smells from building up in the shoe as well. Happy, odor-free feet!
Cost and Value
These Vans are on the lower end of shoes on the list which is remarkable given how popular they are, how comfortable they will make you and how well they are built. You get a lot of great features for the money!
- Waffle outsole
- Vulcanized construction
- Padded collar
- Heel counter
- Sizes run large
2. Air Jordan 1 Retro
Nike could have called these Jordan’s and they would still be popular. They are Air Jordans though because of their air cushioning inside. Similar to gel, these shoes can take a lot of shock absorption, especially in the heel.
This shoe has a thick rubber outsole that is very durable and comfortable. The traction provided by the outsole will serve you well on the court or off. The sole may be thick but its also surprisingly light.
Cost and Value
These shoes are among the highest priced on our list. For that investment though, you are getting a durable, lightweight and well-engineered shoe. The air cushioned soles will keep your feet comfortable all day and you’ll look great too!
- Suitable For Basketball
- Breathable Materials
- Lightweight Boot
- Air Cushioning Unit
- Durable Sole
- Too Soft
3. Converse Chuck Taylor All Star
These Converse sneakers have lasted through generations of wearers for a reason. The clean, iconic design never goes out of style. With a wide variety of colors and styles to choose from, you will find your look easily.
Canvas uppers offer a lot of benefits including breathability, durability, and the ability to clean these classic basketball shoes easily. They will soften with wear making them even more comfortable.
Cost and Value
These classics are in the lower end of prices on our list. You get a classic style, great traction, comfort and breathability in the canvas upper for a great price. They are also very durable, so these shoes will last a long time.
- Breathable Canvas
- Great Traction
- Classic Style
- Shock Absorbant
- Built To Last
- Sizes Run Large
4. Vans Classic Slip-On
This is an original skater shoe, meant for comfort and grip on a skateboard but it will perform well at school as well. The pattern on the outsole makes the shoe very flexible as well
Vulcanized rubber enhances the natural qualities of rubber. They resist abrasion better than regular rubber and because they are stickier, they also provide improved grip on smooth floors or the skateboard.
Cost and Value
These shoes are in the lower range on our list which is great for such a popular, in style shoe. For a reasonable price though, you aren’t sacrificing quality. You get high-quality material, comfort, breathability, and flexibility in a shoe that will last.
- Very Affordable
- Waffled Outsole
- Vulcanized Construction
- Great Grip
- Durable Construction
- No Arch Support
5. Adidas Superstar
Due to the fact many don't like to change their shoes throughout the day, a rubber outsole is a perfect solution. From slippery sidewalks to highly-polished gym floors, a rubber outsole will keep you firmly planted on your feet. In addition, they won't leave ugly scuff marks on the floor.
Stretch Knit Lining
Keeping your feet cool and dry as well as keeping your shoes smelling great is a very difficult task. Adidas has added a stretch knit lining that is not only comfortable but moves sweat away from your feet with ease. Keeping your feet dry will be easy, which in turn will help your feet feel and smell better.
Cost and Value
With a huge brand name like Adidas, you can expect to pay a bit more. When you look at all the great features you get when purchasing this shoe it is easy to understand why. While you may need to adjust your budget slightly you will get a durable pair of school shoes that are sure to make the pickiest happy.
- Iconic Look
- Very Durable
- Exceptionally Versatile
- Sporty Style
- Sizing Runs Large
6. Keen Chandler CNX
The rubber outsole on this sneaker provides lots of grip and will leave no signs of every skidded across the gymnasium floor. You will outgrow the shoe before the sole will wear out.
These sneakers offer a breathable mesh lining and a high-performance mesh upper that is also very breathable. Your feet will stay cool and comfortable all day long, and if you happen to step in a puddle, they’ll dry out before you know it!
Cost and Value
These sneakers are in the lower range of shoes on the list. For a very reasonable price, you will have a shoe that will last until your next growth spurt. They are cool and comfortable and come in so many color combinations that you’ll have no trouble finding one to fit your style.
- Thick Outsole
- Non Marking
- Breathable Mesh Build
- Good Grip
- Laces May Break
7. Merrell Jungle
You just slip into this shoe and immediately your foot fits nicely onto a removable EVA footbed. The extra padding around the collar offers additional comfort without adding weight. And the M-Select FRESH technology will leave your shoes smelling like new.
Merrell is known for tough, durable soles and these shoes fit that reputation. As well as being durable, the M-Select GRIP technology also provides a lot of traction.
Cost and Value
For a very reasonable price, you get a durable, comfortable shoe that will keep your feet happy all day. The EVA footbed offers cushion but can be removed for a custom insole or orthotic. The soft, suede-like finish of the upper is also a favorite. They do come in black to suit schools that have uniform dress codes but they come in a number of other stylish colors too.
- Soft, Suede Like Finish
- EVA footbed
- Padded Collar
- Durable Sole
- FRESH Tech Control Odor
- Sizes Run Small
8. Nike Roshe Two
This Nike sneaker features a three-layer midsole with foam of different densities to provide a great cushion. The bootie construction makes for a comfortable fit that hugs the foot. The padded collar provides that extra comfort. But wait… there’s more. The sock liner is made from slow-recovery foam for even more cushioning and comfort all in a sneaker that is very lightweight..
These shoes are cool. There’s no denying it. They are a sleek built sneaker that actually change color as you move, shifting between one and the other for a style that stands out.
Cost and Value
These shoes are mid-range for the shoes on our list but worth every penny. The lightweight, ultra comfortable design will make you feel like you’re walking the school’s halls in your favorite slippers. On the track, you’ll feel faster because the shoes will not weigh you down.
- Lightweight Construction
- Modern, Youthful Style
- 3-Layer Midsole
- Bootie Construction
- Cushioned Sock Liner
- Sizes Run Small
9. Skechers Go Walk 3
The insole and heel are both equipped with Ortholite memory foam technology that mold to the shape of your feet. The insole offers a better fit and greater comfort as well!
These shoes look like they could be heavy but every detail was engineered to be lightweight. From the mesh upper to the soft insole and super lightweight midsole, there is nothing here to weight you down.
Cost and Value
These shoes are in the low range of prices for this list. For the price you are getting a lot of features including the lightweight construction, extra cushioning, antimicrobial sock liner, cushioned and shock absorbing midsole, and GOimpulse sensors that offer sensory feedback to your foot.
- Resalyte Midsole
- Lightweight Construction
- Ortholite Insole
- Antimicrobial Liner
- Shock Absorbing
- Sizes Run Narrow
10. Adidas Baseline
Adidas offers a lot of comfort in this stylish, retro shoe. It features extra padding in the collar and tongue for comfort. The low cut design allows for a lot of flexibility of movement and comfort around the ankle
Retro Adidas Style
Adidas stands out with their classic three stripe design. These shoes take you all the way back to Adidas’ formation with a sleek, leather upper.
Cost and Value
These shoes fit nicely into the low range of shoes on the list. A very affordable shoe with a lot of styles, comfort and great traction from their build for the court design. The shoes are lightweight and you can add to the style by doing what young people have done forever. Customize the shoes with your own pick of cool, colorful laces.
- Great Traction
- Extra Padding In Upper
- Leather Upper
- Retro Style
- Lightweight Design
- Run ½ Size Large
Buying a brand new pair of shoes every September is not necessary unless you have grown out of the old pair or they have reached the end of their useful life. However, if you need or simply want a new pair, the ten shoes above will make great replacements.
Each pair of shoes above is suitable for walking around in school and for most school activities. You’ll be able to walk, run, show off a dance move in the schoolyard, or just hang with friends in these shoes. Whether they are walking shoes, an athletic shoe or a comfortable pair to move all day in, there is something on this list for every student. Happy school days!
Criteria for Evaluating the Best School Shoes
Cushioning & Support
School can be hard on your feet. You walk more than you might think at school, on concrete in the schoolyard, on hard floors in class. Wearing shoes with little support or little cushioning can easily lead to pain and stress in the feet, ankles, and legs. That is why cushioning and support are so important.
Without good cushioning in shoes, you will have sore heels and arches – the areas of our feet that take the most stress. Your feet may feel achy and tired but you could also hurt your feet. Foot injuries can mean pain for quite some time and it can take the fun out of a lot of activities that you normally enjoy. If your shoes have good cushioning, you can walk a lot without suffering from pain or possible injury. You can have fun in the schoolyard, you can walk between classes and with your friends, and most importantly you can spend your whole day comfortable. Cushioning can make such a big difference.
Cushioning comes from a few places in the shoe. One is the midsole, which is usually made of a soft material that can absorb shock. It also cushions the foot somewhat. Next, there can be cushioning in the footbed (that is the insole and sometimes the material directly underneath the insole – think of it as everything the bottom of your foot might touch inside the shoe). There may also be cushioning around the tongue of the shoe and around the top (which is called the collar). Some shoes even have a little extra cushioning in the heel. Look for a shoe that has, at least, a good shock absorbing midsole and a cushioned insole to make your walk, play, and hang out school day far more enjoyable.
Shoes also need support. Shoes are meant to protect your feet and a shoe that is not supportive just won’t do that job very well. Think of a supportive shoe as a safety platform for your feet, between you and the ground and anything that might stub, fall on, or otherwise hurt your foot. Having a supportive shoe also improves your posture and your gait (the way that you walk).
You should look for support all around the shoe:
- Outsole: This the part of the shoe that makes contact with the ground, when paired with the midsole, they should be flexible but not too flexible. If you can wring the shoe out with your hands, that’s far too flexible. If you can’t move around in at all because it feels like your feet are strapped to wooden boards, that is far too rigid. You want a perfect in-between.
- Ankle: The Ankle should be supported as well (because sprained ankles stink). A supportive ankle and heel area will help make sure that your foot stays where it ought to be, sturdy and in place inside the shoe. You’ll be able to walk, run, skateboard or kick a soccer ball around the yard with a good ankle support without worrying about sprains and strains. Look for a shoe that is not too tight near the ankle, does not rub on the ankle, and isn’t too loose either.
- Arch: Here you need to look for something supportive as well. This is one of the most important support areas in a shoe and it is also one of the areas that is most overlooked. If you have high arches, you will want a shoe that has higher arch support or one with a removable insole so you can wear custom inserts. If you have average or low arches, you won’t want to ignore arch support either. Choose a shoe that has an average arch support.
Traction & Grip
The sole you choose is very important. That’s true for most types of shoes but it is especially true for school shoes. You will be walking on concrete, on hard floors in hallways, on gym floors and maybe even on wood or carpeted floors in some areas (libraries usually have carpets because they like quiet in there). Both the insole and the outsole play a role in the grip.
First, the insole helps your foot grip the inside of the shoe, so it doesn’t slip and slide around inside, causing friction, abrasions, and sores. Secondly, the outsole has material and features that help to improve traction and grip:
- For school environments, you want an outsole that is abrasion resistant (this means that it won’t wear out easily from walking on concrete or other hard surfaces).
- Look for an outsole pattern that improves traction on surfaces that might be slippery when waxed (like marble, stone, and linoleum are). A good outsole pattern will have ridges that will help improve your traction on slippery surfaces. It’s important to have an outsole pattern that isn’t near flat but you don’t need a pattern as deep as a hiking boot either.
- Finally, choose a shoe that is made from a material that provides grip. Plastic soles are usually no good for grip but rubber, leather, and synthetics are usually good choices as they flatten slightly to “grab” the surface.
- One last thing – your school might have rules about whether or not your shoes are non-marking. Non-marking means that the sole won’t leave streaks or other marks on floors if you drag your feet, skid or slide on the floor. The rule helps keep the floors in good condition and most shoes these days are non-marking. But if your school has a rule about soles, be sure to double check before you buy!
You’re in those shoes all day. Okay, hopefully, you swap them out for gym class, but otherwise all day. You want a shoe that is comfortable so that you can go about enjoying being a student and not spend the afternoon worried about your feet. Putting more emphasis on the way a shoe looks rather than their comfort sometimes means you are going to have to return shoes and make another purchase. Don’t worry though, you can have comfortable shoes that look great!
For school you want a shoe that will be comfortable while you’re sitting in class, standing and walking. If they look great with your outfit but have your toes smashed into the toe box, that’s really not going to work out too well for you. If they’re great for sitting but they cause pain when you’re walking, that’s also not going to work. But what makes a comfortable shoe?
So many features of a shoe contribute to comfort. Some of them are:
- Fit: First and foremost a shoe must fit properly to be comfortable. If you’ve outgrown the shoe, your feet will hurt. If the shoe is too big, you can develop other issues that end up with … you guessed it, hurt feet. Leave about a ¼” in the front of the foot. If your toes are touching the very front of the shoe, it’s too small.
- Cushioned Insole: Cushioning in the insole helps the bottom of your feet stay comfortable.
- Ventilation: A shoe that makes your feet hot will not be comfortable. Look for a shoe that has mesh in the upper (the part of the shoe that is everything except the sole), canvas, or has cut holes in it to allow air in. This is especially important if you have sweaty feet.
- Lining: If you choose a shoe with lining it should be made of a soft material to avoid abrasions
- Shock Absorbing Midsole: A cushion like midsole will provide shock absorption and help avoid fatigue
- Lacing, Straps and Other Closures: How a shoe closes on your foot is important for comfort. The lacing, straps or other closures should never be too tight or too loose and straps especially should never be directly over your ankle bone, to ensure comfort.
- Toe Box: Your toes need room! All five of them should fit well into the toe box of a shoe and never be crammed or squished together.
- Weight: Shoes that are too heavy will be uncomfortable and will also change your gait and exhaust your feet.
- Socks: Okay, you got me. Socks aren’t part of a shoe. But they are important for comfort and to prevent microbes from building up in your shoes, causing an unpleasant smell. Socks protect the skin on your feet from coming into contact with seams and other parts of the shoe that may cause friction. Plus they keep your feet dry and warm!
Don’t sacrifice comfort and you will have happy feet all day long.
Flexibility helps you get through your busy student life with smooth, efficient movement. While your feet need solid support, they also need to move. Take a close look at your ankle to remind yourself of just how well your feet are designed to move. That ankle joint moves in nearly every direction and has one of the biggest ranges of motion of any joint in your body. That is because you’re designed for all sorts of movement. Your shoes need to keep up with that!
A shoe needs to be flexible enough to walk in (sadly there are shoes that inhibit the way you walk, it’s true) but not so flexible that they provide no support at all. The sole should bend readily under pressure, to give your foot its full range of movement. However, if you have flat feet, you are going to want a stiffer sole because support is really important for your feet and if you have high arches you are going to need slightly more flexibility to prevent strains from flexing.
The forefoot should be flexible enough that you can raise your heels off the ground for a short time and balance well on the front of your feet. The materials in your shoe should be flexible enough to adapt to the shape of your foot. Your foot should never have to adapt to the shape of the shoe. Flexible materials for uppers include mesh, synthetics, leathers that are not too thick, canvas and synthetic leather. Flexible materials for the soles (including the midsole) include rubber, EVA, synthetic rubber, and some leathers.
If your shoes are not flexible enough, you may feel it in the tops of your feet first but eventually, you will feel it in the heel, forefoot, ankle and even in your knees and hips.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the best shoe for school?
A: The best shoe for school will be one that fits you well, has good traction and grip, is comfortable, can stand up to a lot of walking, has good flexibility and one that you like. Our top three in this list are Vans, Air Jordans, and Converse but any of the 10 in the list is going to serve you well. No matter your fit, how far you walk to school or your preference, everyone will find a shoe that works well for them on our list.
Q: Should I own more than one pair of shoes?
A: You could own multiple pairs of shoes if you want to, but it’s not necessary. Each of the shoes above has multiple purposes. All are great for school but they’re also good for walking, some are good for a casual game of hoops with friends, for that after-school job, for hanging out with friends, for bicycling or most other activities. However, you should definitely have a separate pair for specialized activities – like football, soccer or baseball, which may require cleats, track where track shoes may be required, etc.
Q: How much do school shoes cost?
A: School shoes do not have to be expensive; however, keep in mind that you will get more out of multi-functional shoes and that high-quality shoes will last longer, so they may end up saving money.
Q: What shoes are required for a school uniform?
A: That will depend on the school but most schools require a black or dark blue shoe with a closed toe, most often oxford or moccasin style. You should check with your school’s dress policy before you buy.
Q: How long will school shoes last?
A: The shoes on this list should last a year or more when used for normal school activities. If you’re going to run track in them, or other heavy activity, they’re going to last less time. In addition, you will also be able to prolong the life of your shoes with proper care. Ensuring your shoes are well taken care of will make them last exponentially longer, this can be as simple as wiping away dirt or as complex as cleaning and conditioning 100% genuine leather.
Q: I just graduated nursing school and I’m going to be walking on similar floors all day. Will these shoes work for me?
A: Some of these will work for you, yes. But you are probably going to be on your feet much more than students are, you’re going to probably be working long shifts, and depending on where you’re working, you may need to run on those same floors (remember that is not allowed in schools). We recommend you purchase shoes that are suitable for your job. You can check out our list of the best shoes for nursing here.
Q: My sneakers are getting strange wrinkles around the edge of the sole. What is going on?
A: Wrinkling and creasing around the outer edges of the sole is a sign that your shoes have worn out in the midsole and it’s time to replace them. Wearing out is normal, the midsole compresses over time. Think of it as your shoes’ way of telling you it’s time for them to retire. Wearing shoes will collapsing midsoles will become uncomfortable while a new pair will make your feet comfortable again (see our criteria above for comfort tips).
Q: I have a gym class first period and my shoes end up pretty smelly by the end of the day. Do you have any solutions for me?
A: We sure do. If you can afford it, you should have a separate pair of shoes for gym class. Also, be sure to shower (if you can), dry your feet and change into a fresh pair of sock after gym class. A fresh pair will help prevent sweaty socks from leaving sweat loving microbes in your shoes and its the waste from those microbes that cause the smell. You could also try underarm deodorant on your feet, specialized foot sprays, and talc. Air out your gym bag to prevent odors from transferring and if the smell is really stubborn, you can throw most sneakers in the washing machine with regular laundry soap and wash the smell out. Just let them dry in an open, airy spot.