We haven’t been the most regular visitors to Clarks in the past few years (for reasons that I will expand on later), but if there is one thing that will keep me going back, it is the Clarks First Shoes Experience.
What can I say? I’ve done it with both children now, and I unashamedly LOVE having that grainy little polaroid of a (usually bewildered) baby on the brink of toddlerhood, and the cheerful ‘first shoes’ box that I can use as a keepsake for said poloroid and shoes, once they’ve been outgrown.
(For the record, it doesn’t cost anything extra – Rory’s first shoes experience was included in the cost of his shoes, which were on sale at £12).
We had been given Clarks vouchers (for review purposes), so we took a family trip to Clarks to find shoes for the boys.
Arlo was first up, and got to try out the new measuring system involving a little character on an ipad screen.
(I did a mental fist-pump when the sales assistant asked whether he wanted to choose the boy or the girl character, rather than automatically assume boy).
This measuring system is currently being rolled out nationwide, with Croydon being one of the earlier stores to have it installed.
My go-to option from Clarks, and the style Arlo wore last summer – the Doodles (bright canvas colours, very reasonably priced), were now too narrow for him. We tried several sizes, but he said that they all felt too tight.
The styles that I liked (grey leather with neon accents) tapered in towards the toe, which is no good for Arlo’s paddle feet.
Credit to the two members of staff helping us, they spent two hours with us (without knowing we were there for review purposes), and over an hour of that was dedicated to finding a good fit for Arlo.
In the end, the only styles wide enough to comfortably accommodate Arlo’s feet were the school-style shoes, and I concluded that I wasn’t yet ready to put him in boring, chunky plain black shoes.
We came across similar difficulties with finding a good shoe fit for Rory. We found that certain styles would not go over his feet without an incredibly fiddly struggle that was never going to be practical for real-life use.
We had better luck with styles with a wide velcro opening, but even then we found that the widest size was still too tight for Rory, with the only solution being to go up a full shoe size from a 3 (his true size), to a 4, to give his feet a little more space to spread out.
After a LOT of experimenting with different styles and sizes, we decided on these boat shoes. They are one of the widest styles in the Clarks First Shoes range, and the best fit that we could find for Rory.
I like that they are cruisers – as Rory is still a part-time walker, I feel that the softer, more flexible sole is better for him at this stage. And once he graduates to walking on more challenging terrain that warrants a more sturdy sole, he will have outgrown his first shoes.
What impressed me most about our childrens’ shoe fitting at Clarks?
The two sales assistants that helped us never once gave me the impression that we should hurry up, despite it being a busy Saturday afternoon with a large queue of people behind us in the ticket system, despite the fact that it took us more than two hours to pick our shoes, despite the fact that the kids were not particularly charming or co-operative on what was one of the hottest days of the year, and despite the fact that I outright rejected half the styles they brought out for us to try, on the basis that they were boring.
I was impressed by their seemingly genuine desire to find THE BEST fit possible for us. And the thing that left the biggest positive impression was the fact that they agreed that Clarks shoes were perhaps not the best option for my boys’ super wide feet (specifically Arlo, at the moment), rather than attempting to convince us on a not-so-perfect shoe that would inevitably be outgrown all too quickly.
Clarks determined approach to helping us was the surprise thumbs up of our experience. I don’t remember experiencing such good service on my previous visits to Clarks (we went to the Croydon branch).
What would make me visit Clarks more often?
A wider (hah) selection of style for a true wide fit. And an overhaul of the ‘pink for girls, blue/grey/brown for boys’ colour theme that dominates the children’s section.
I like bright, fun colours, (my first choice of shoe for Rory was a grey and neon pink style from the girls collection, but those didn’t fit him well), so my heart does sink a little when I’m confronted with a wall of very samey and ‘boyish’ colours, with very little option for something a bit more fun and unisex.
As for Rory?
Our new walker has been getting on well with his shoes. With every passing day, his walking becomes faster and more steady. He has already lost that ‘first steps swagger’, about which I am trying my hardest not to do that ‘sobbing like a lunatic because my baby is growing up’ thing.
(See also, Arlo’s Clarks First Shoe experience, from a vintage post back in 2012).
We were provided with Clarks vouchers in order to review the shoe choosing and purchasing experience at Clarks.