Buying Shoes for Kids: Germany vs. the US

Just recently, I went to buy my youngest his first pair of shoes. Ty the au pair came with us to chase Olivia through the store, expecting this to be a short process. He was wrong, of course, because this is Germany, and everything takes just a little bit longer! And shoes are very important and very expensive here, especially for children.

We first took Noah to look for shoes before Christmas when he had just started walking. It had been pretty cold here and even I, the American who doesn’t ever put enough clothes on her kids, thought he might be getting a tad bit cold. But we were sent home from the shoe store. I guess kids have to have been walking for a couple of weeks before anyone is allowed to buy them shoes. Even my German husband was surprised, but around here, we must listen to the experts!

After all the holidays were over (three weeks later), Noah was finally properly walking, so we went again. After listening to a ten-minute mini information session on what to look for when buying shoes (flexible, not too “airy”, not too tall, not velcro) she measured his foot and told us he needed a size 22. That sounded big to me, but again, we trust the expert. For the next 45 minutes, Noah tried on any number of shoes and was subjected to the thumb-pressing, where’s his toe, how wide is it test. He could walk in all of them, but they were all too “airy” around the top of his foot. “Hmmm”, the saleswoman said, “we have nothing else, you must go elsewhere”! We were surprised, but acquiesced. We didn’t think to ask for a smaller size.

Ty was still wondering why the heck we were taking so long, and was even more surprised when we said we had to go elsewhere. He said, “My mom never had our feet measured! Just pick one and buy it!”. I guess for shoes running at 40 Euros or more, I am more careful….And again, I have suffered through enough lectures on proper Schuhwerk from my mother-in-law.

The next lady had a completely different approach. No standing on the measuring device. No squashing down the foot. And lo and behold, he wasn’t a size 22, he was a 20! Oh dear. Once again, we tried on any number of shoes. Lucky for us, the bargain, reduced, but very good brand shoes were on sale for only €15! And we were told to come back in 6 weeks to see if he had grown out of these already.

When I think back to the purchasing of shoes for my older two, who got their first ones in the US, I remember it going like this.

1. Hmm, so-and-so needs shoes.

2. Let’s go to Payless, or Target, or Kmart, or if we are really feeling posh, to a “real” shoe store.

3. Put feet on the footprints on the carpet of Target’s shoe department.

4. Find a pair of cute, girly shoes (or boyish shoes) that must at least light up or have some character from PBS on them. (Our German shoes for Noah are not really cute, or pretty).

5. Try them on.

6. Buy them.

Hmmm….did my older kids suffer? Are they traumatized by my lazy and cheap shoe purchases? Who knows?

One thought on “Buying Shoes for Kids: Germany vs. the US

  1. Unsurprisingly, Sarah, we have also just experienced buying shoes in Germany for Stella. We could have bought shoes in the US for her, but I was too brainwashed that I didn’t want to mess around with a more cavalier approach! haha

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