The Hell That Is Back-To-School Shoe Shopping

by Jill Ginsberg
Originally Published: 

Back-to-school shoe shopping means waiting in DMV-sized lines, getting into fashion squabbles with the kids, and spending a small fortune on sneakers that will be so wrecked in six months, it will look like Bruce Banner was wearing them while morphing into The Hulk …

But tempted by the promise of mega back-to-school deals and shiny brand name kicks, many of us will head to the mall anyhow. Never mind that it’s still the middle of summer.

Upon arriving at the Kids’ Shoe Department, where the atmosphere oozes chaos, your kids will instantly turn into feral animals and begin pummeling each other with balloons.

In the midst of this mayhem, and despite the fact that your children are acting like they just freebased a pile of Pixie Stix, a sales clerk will approach you with a vibe so calm you’ll suspect he recently popped a Xanax or performed some cross-legged incantations in the back room.

Try not to judge him. He has to self-medicate in order to survive. Here’s why:

1. The experience will begin with your child insisting that he knows his foot size and you counter-insisting that he does not. So the sales clerk will try to appease you both by quickly wrestling your child’s foot into the measuring device likes it’s a rabid crocodile.

2. Then you will have to convince your child to put on borrowed socks, which he hasn’t donned since stapling his flip flops to his feet on the last day of school. The kid will act as if trying on communal socks is just the most disgusting thing on Earth. Which it is.

3. Next he’ll insist he only wants velcro instead of laces since laces are “so stupid and Zack doesn’t wear them so why should I?” But none of the shoes in his size will come with velcro because – breaking news! – he’s no longer a toddler. That will be a bitter pill to swallow. For both of you.

4. After trying on the first pair of shoes, your kid will loudly whine about how uncomfortable they are. Which makes sense since, in a gesture of defiance, he pulled the communal socks halfway down his feet.

5. You’ll help him fix the socks so he can try the shoes on properly. He’ll get all shouty about the “something” that is now poking him on the side of the foot. The sales clerk will gently explain that this is called an arch.

6. He will try on more shoes in a quest to find one without such a pronounced arch. Just when you think you’ve finally found one, his face will contort into a constipated grimace as he whines, “Owwwwwwww, it’s too tight in the heel!!!!”

7. The sales clerk will show him a selection of other shoes. Five of them will actually aggravate his gag reflex and two will cause him to yell out in such exasperated horror, passersby will assume you secretly pinched him – which you would never do. In public.

8. Then the clerk will show your child a few offbeat options, including a pair of high tops and a purple pair of Nikes. Your child will complain that the high tops “look like someone puked neon all over them,” and the “stupid purple sneakers are too shiny.”

9. After approximately 120 minutes of profound torture, and pressing on your child’s toes no less than three thousand times to see how much room he has to grow, you will inform him that he has now officially tried on all the shoes in his size. Still, he will refuse to leave with his old shoes on his feet.

10. Out of sheer desperation, you will suggest he give one of the pairs he tried on earlier another shot. So your son will ask to try on the very first pair of shoes again. Only this time he will declare them “Totally perfect!”

Through the grace of God and with the help of the most patient sales clerk on Earth, you will finally be ready to … move on to the next child.

Shoe shopping for kids may seem like a fate worse than hell. But it’s nothing compared to the trauma of buying back to school supplies.

This article was originally published on