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Girls' School Shoes: 4 Styles She's Probably Going to Need

Choosing Girls' Footwear for Elementary and Middle School

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Feet of school girl, wearing white socks and black mary jane shoes.
Images by Christina Kilgour / Moment Open / Getty Images

I'd be willing to bet that some of you are laughing at the title of this article because your daughter made it through last year with only one pair of school shoes.

Consider yourself lucky, but also know that as she gets older, her footwear needs are likely to change. And the fact is, most girls will need at least two shoe styles to get through the school year. Many will need even more.

Naturally, the exact number of different styles your daughter will require is based on a variety of factors, including age, grade, interests, activities, climate, and even personality.

To delve deeper into some of these areas, and for suggestions on how to choose, keep reading.

Everyday School Shoes for Girls

Of course, some girls like having a variety of everyday shoes to choose from, but for the moment let's just focus on that one "go-to" pair of shoes. The ones she'll wear most often.

To choose this pair of school shoes, you'll need to really think about your daughter's personality, wardrobe and activities, as well as your own budget. Together, these factors will determine how rugged her shoes need to be, and whether or not they'll have to serve other purposes as well.

And, since this pair of shoes is likely get a lot of wear, you'll also want to take her personal preferences into account. Her tastes will go a long way towards choosing a style that she will actually like wearing.

For most girls, basic, well-fitted, flat shoes will likely be the best bet, and comfort really counts here.

Slip-on shoes like loafers, mary janes or ballerina flats are usually a good choice because they work well with jeans or pants, and there are no laces to contend with -- although, even with their laces, most fashion sneakers will also be a good bet for a lot of kids.

First we'll address casual loafers, then we'll look at some slightly dressier options for girls who might prefer dressing up a bit more.

Casual Shoes for Everyday School Wear

Casual loafers and other slip-ons are the perfect everyday shoes for girls who don't dress up often, as well as for those who are fairly active on a regular basis.

If a single pair of shoes is going to be worn nearly every day, or if she spends a lot of time playing outside, then you'll want to look at casual shoes with heavier uppers, fuller coverage, and thicker soles.

If she doesn't need a style that is quite that rugged, then you can look for lightweight canvas slip-ons. They may not last quite as long as the more heavy-duty styles, but most girls will find them very stylish -- and, most importantly comfortable.

They work well with jeans or pants, and even some casual skirts and dresses. And, if she's changing sizes often enough, they should at least make it until she needs a new pair anyway.

Casual-Dress School Shoes for Girls

For the girl who also wears dresses and skirts on a regular basis, and is pretty easy on her footwear, ballet flats or mary janes might be a better option than simple loafers. They'll look really good with her dressier clothes as well as with jeans and pants. Additionally, shoes that are made from natural, or even man-made, leather will likely be more durable than canvas shoes, and it will be easier to keep them looking nice.

Black is going to be the most versatile option. Brown is also a pretty good choice. But, if you know your daughter lives in colorful clothing, there's no reason you (and she) can't have a bit of fun when selecting her shoes. There are always lots of vibrant options in this category, and if she is going to have more than one pair of "everyday" shoes, then it might even be a good idea to have a pair that isn't quite as severe (or boring) as black in her wardrobe.

Girls' Sneakers / Athletic Shoes

Nearly every school girl is going to need at least one pair of athletic shoes. In some cases, they'll just be regular, everyday fashion sneakers that she'll wear with jeans. If you're lucky, they might also be able to serve double-duty for gym class.

Obviously, if your daughter plays any organized sports, she'll probably need specific shoes just for those. And, some schools will require special sneakers, to be used only for gym class or PE.

For most girls, you can't go wrong with a pair of simple, white sneakers that are free of trendy details and bright accents. But, again, her personality is going to really come into play here. If she's a tomboy, a girly-girl, or obsessed with, say, orange -- you should use these attributes to guide your selection.

Special Occasion and Dress Shoes

Some kids will get away without ever having to wear dress shoes to school. I think -- at least for a couple of grades -- I was one of those girls myself. But, a lot of students will have at least one or two occasions where they'll need to dress up... choir concerts, awards assemblies, and so forth.

For those occasions, it's good to have a pair of dress shoes in the closet. But don't buy them too far in advance, or if you're unsure whether or not they'll be needed. Your daughter's shoe size might change before she gets a chance to wear them.

A lot of dress shoes are going to have adjustable straps. Straps that either cross the top of her feet, or ones that wrap around her ankles.

On one hand, this is good, because it allows you to somewhat customize the fit. But, be careful to make sure that she isn't pushing the largest setting when you buy them. In addition to the fact that they may be too tight down the road, there are a lot of factors that can throw things off when she's trying on shoes. It's best to have a bit of leeway, or to skip these kinds of straps altogether.

Boots for Rainy or Snowy Days

For those rainy, sloppy, muddy days, you'll definitely want a pair of galoshes or rain boots to send your daughter off to school in.

The main goal here is to keep her feet dry, so look for a waterproof boot in a style that extends over the ankle. You'll also want soles that provide plenty of traction, to keep your child from slipping on wet surfaces.

If you live in a mild climate, then boots that simple feature waterproof construction might be able to work for both wet and mild winter conditions -- especially if they have just a bit of added insulation, or will fit over really thick socks. But naturally, if winters in your hometown are extremely harsh, then she will also need a pair of boots that are designed specifically for severe conditions, like a good pair of snow boots.

Other School Shoe Considerations for Girls

Girls' shoe styles are nearly as varied as girls themselves, so you shouldn't feel limited to traditional styles like mary janes or ballet flats.

For example, simply-styled mid-calf and taller boots can be worn with jeans, dresses, skirts. They also look cute with tights or leggings.

Also, keep in mind that most public elementary schools are fairly casual environments. Colorful, or especially cute, fashion sneakers might also do for everything but the most dressy of occasions, or the most extreme weather conditions.

In short, a thorough assessment of her wardrobe and her activities may allow you to get away with fewer pairs of shoes, allowing you instead to focus on quality, versatility, and choosing shoes she'll really enjoy wearing.
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