There's a sort of funny story that goes with this post.  Ironic possibly more than hilariously funny if I'm honest. It started with one of those conversations that you have with your child and immediately dismiss that then suddenly comes back to mind after an event that you quite possibly aren't so happy about. One of those "it all suddenly becomes clear" moments!

Katie came home from school a few weeks ago full of excitement and chatter about her friend's new school shoes.  These shoes sadly have one thing that I will not let Katie have in her school shoes: high heels!  When I say high heels don't get excited and start thinking 4" stiletto heels.  These are probably about 1-1.5cm high.  I'm strict though.  No heels on school shoes.  Heels for playing dress up in are negotiable but again I'm a tough nut to crack on this one as well because I'm mindful of soft bones and growing feet and ensuring that when Katie is an old lady those feet are still performing the job designated to them. Anyway, the very next morning TCM found me in the bathroom post shower and wet hair at 7:45am to inform me that the strap on Katie's school shoes had broken. Considering I had looked at the shoes at around 7:30am as I put them by the front door this was quite the surprise to me.  As I started thinking about returning the shoes for a refund TCM noted that the break on the strap was very straight.  Immediately the conversation from the previous day flooded back into my mind and I realised that someone had been busy with some scissors with the aim of acquiring new shoes.

I was not happy!

I was not happy on many levels (most of which you can guess) but mostly due to the fact that Katie had a visit to her new school that very day.  Ordinarily I would have sent her to school in trainers and made her explain to her Head teacher why she was in trainers, but I didn't want her to be "that" child on that particular day.  She has enough singling her out at the new school with SENCO support and a transition plan for the move so I didn't want her to feel obvious for the wrong reasons. So at 8:15am after a mad panic to get ready we (an incredibly grumpy Mummy and a chastised Katie) were on our way to our local large supermarket to purchase some new school shoes.  Being a stickler for properly fitted shoes this irked me considerably. However I was well trained in fitting shoes when I was a much younger version of my current self so I was able to fit a pair of shoes that will do for the rest of the term (in about 5 minutes I might add due to the time constraints). Mark my words they were NOT the ones that Katie wanted either!

As a punishment consequence I said to Katie that she was not having any more shoes until September.  She already has trainers and sandals and wellies and flip flops and party shoes etc etc so nothing is needed other than a bigger shoe basket.

Sorted! (although it hasn't gone down very well with the mini Imelda Markos)

Here comes the ironic bit.

The very next day I received an email from Mumsnet informing me I had been selected to visit our local Brantano shoe shop to review their fitting service.  It had to be with a child aged 4-11 years old so that ruled Pip out.  I had to take Katie.  The timing of the email gave me a great laugh. The incredibly excited Katie was informed however that any shoes purchased would not be worn until September (that didn't go down very well either).

If I'm honest I had been a little happy that we didn't have to shop for shoes until September because Katie is a nightmare to shoe shop with.  It's fair to say that generally the whole shop knows we're there due to the arguments that ensue over the whole heels versus no heels debate.  I did think that we would be great reviewers though for this very reason.  Anyone getting the job of helping us would certainly earn their brownie points!

We whizzed down to our local Brantano last Saturday morning.  It was very quiet in the store so we we easily caught the eye of one of the Fitters. She was a lovely, friendly young lady whom I warned would be subject to stress as she attempted to help Katie and I come to an agreement.  She seemed ufazed.  She whipped out the foot measurer and carefully measured Katie's feet patiently encouraging Miss Fidgety Feet to stand still.  I was very impressed by the care and attention that she gave to the task. She measured Katie as a 13.5 with one foot slightly wider than the other.  You don't get the width letters that you do with Clarks but there was a promise to help ensure the correct width of shoe when choosing our shoes.  Interestingly she was the first person to ever note that Katie is quite flat footed (ironically this will mean that in the future Katie will be able to wear heels much better than her high instepped Mum!).  She then gave me a leaflet giving information about fitting your child's shoes, although our lovely Fitter said she would be close at hand once we had chosen some shoes.  She did warn us however that because Katie was a half size we might struggle a bit because the range of half sizes is significantly fewer than full sizes (this was true).

 "Brantano has stores nationwide and offer an extensive range of shoes and brands to suit all budgets. 
Offering convenient out of town shopping with most of its stores located on retail parks, the shopping experience is unlike many other traditional footwear shops, as the shoes are displayed in pairs that can be easily selected and tried on immediately. 
The stores all offer a free fitting service, with staff trained by top brands such as Clarks, Start Rite and Hush Puppies. 
The team are put through rigorous training followed by at least 25 supervised fits before being given the title of ‘expert fitter’."
Leaflet in hand and a card suggesting another measure prior to the start of term in August we were let loose on the shop. It became quickly very obvious that attempting to buy school shoes in June for September would not be a viable option. The half size of Katie's feet plus her fairly slender foot shape was an issue with finding shoes that fit her. In fact we didn't find one pair of school shoes that fit her well. This didn't surprise me as I've unsuccessfully tried Brantano for school shoes before. Undaunted we turned our attention to school trainers (well I did whilst Katie tried hard to lure me into acknowledging the many pairs of high heeled sparkly shoes that Brantano also sells - she failed miserably, and by miserably I mean sulkily, unhappily and sometimes aggressively). Going into Year 3 means no more black plimsoles and we found a great pair of turquoise Nike trainers with a non marking sole for £22. In a size 1 we could easily put these to one side and they actually could fit her now but will continue to fit her for some time to come. We were also very attracted to a gorgeous pair of sparkly silver Sketchers covered in rhinestones. If they'd sold these in adult sizes believe me I'd have bought them for me. Even better they were reduced to £28 from £40 so I was happy to get them. Because they didn't have Katie's size in stock the staff have ordered her size into the shop and we hope they will arrive within the next week. The Fitter checked the fitting on the trainers to ensure they would be suitable.

 My summation of our experience was that our Fitter knew her stuff about fitting and about the brands and stock. I felt confident in the measuring service we were provided. All the staff were helpful, cheerful and made our shopping experience pleasurable (despite the tensions between myself and Katie during the choosing part of the exercise). As in previous visits we found the selection of school shoes unsuitable for Katie's feet and I think the shop should consider expanding their range of styles and half sizes. I would definitely return to Brantano. I think Katie would suit their range of casual footwear better and I think the prices of most of the shoes is well placed to be affordable and the quality always seems very good. There is a mix of footwear ranging from fairly cheap to much more expensive. I suspect Pip will do well in Brantano as his slightly wider feet might be more mainstream than Katie's.

So a big thank you to the Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Brantano for this fun experience and some great shoes. Katie will really appreciate them in September (yes I am remaining resolute on that one!) and I'm feeling happy that one item has been ticked off the school list for September. 

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity”.


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