Do you dare swap shoes?


Outgrown wellies ready to pass on.

Their bones are soft! Fit them wrong and condemn your toddler to pigeon toes, bow legs, orthopaedic problems but when those little legs are a bit bigger and the feet growing so fast, do you dare to use other children’s outgrown shoes? This post is by Nicola Baird. You can read more about ways to be thrifty, creative and eco-friendly in my new book – out on 1 July – called Homemade Kids (Vermilion).

For a summer born baby it’s a no brainer – you let their toes go bare, or when it’s colder encase in an all-in-one or little socks. By the time they are crawling and maybe walking next year you let their toes go bare, or their little socks get grubby. But the shoe shops have the tiniest sizes available, and lots of fierce warnings about the need to keep your child in the correct shoe, or else.

And I fell for those warnings: as pre schoolers my girls tended to have one pair of shoes, bought new. When they outgrew them I’d put them in a shoe recycling bin (available outside some shoe shops, places of worship and also schools as well as municipal waste/recycling centres). They also always had a pair of wellies, and these were usually passed on by a mum with a faster-growing child. And then I’d pass them on too…

Shoes no! Boots yes?
But walking boots are different – they make scrambling up big hills, even mountains far easier for children (well they do for adults, so I figure it’s the same), but they cost so much. One trip to the Lake District when Lola was about four years old I met a dad at Ambleside Youth Hostel (a brilliant base for families) who said he’d pass on his slightly older son’s outgrown boots at the end of the summer. We organised a boot hand over at Euston station – I think I gave him a book in exchange, but thanks to him the boot habit was properly seeded. 

Over the past eight years I’ve had a big boot swap going with friends Paula and Jane who between them have three children. Line their kids up with my two and you have a line of five heads sinking in step height – or you did until they got to Year 7 (secondary school) and the children started growing less evenly.  The main other snags of a boot share between five pairs of feet is when the three families want to go walking in the same fortnight (so sharing is impossible) or if a girl-coloured boot is bought and a boy refuses to wear it… And of course someone has to buy new at some point, although knowing this will go to a second child isn’t quite so finanically painful.

Passing on (in a good way)
Last weekend I took my friend Lucy two pairs of fabulous walking boots, ideal for playing in the woods, which were offered free at a tabletop clothes and shoe swap near my home. I couldn’t resist these even though they were suitable for a four and six year old so passed them on. Lucy and I agree that we may adore the Cinderella economy, but we do still need some mums to keep buying very expensive, good quality items so they can be reworn, regifted and shared with the rest of us. Maybe try Freecycle if you’ve exhausted your pool of friends

The shoes may fit, but shoulder rides are fun.

I think daring to swap walking boots is a no brainer, and I keep doing it. It gets good feedback too.

Sandra with Danny and Thomas (left) sent me this email message recently – “The walking boots you passed on to us are great – were well used in snow and this weekend on muddy Derbyshire walks!”

But somehow the other pair of shoes, worn every day, I still buy new. It feels indulgent sometimes although they certainly get a lot of use. As a consequence of the one-pair policy my youngest daughter yearns for new, girl shoes. An indulgence I think can only be satisfied by taking her to a charity shop. So please, let’s all keep passing on our children’s outgrown shoes, and when we actually buy footwear new pick the brands that last and last. 

If you have any tips, just let me know in the comment box, thank you. Nicola

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6 Comments on “Do you dare swap shoes?”

  1. Pete May Says:

    Those boots were made for walking. Good advice for crag hoppers, sole sister…

    • Georgie Says:

      my girls have mostly lived in Cambodia where they went bare foot nearly all day and when they did wear them, their shoes were flip flops or second hand from market. Neither have had their feet measured ever and I have no idea what size they are! Now I am back in UK and horrified at prices of new shoes that they wear for so little time! We all swap shoes in our family and the girls feet appear perfectly fine and they walk and run about with no apparent problems. It reminds me of the washable nappy myth – I was asked a few times if I was worried about their hips developing oddly as they waddled about in huge cotton bottoms! As if all people of the terry towelling generation have hip probs cos of wearing washable nappies!

      • homemadekids Says:

        Good points Georgie. Living somewhere else, or a lack of cash really helped me think about why I was actually doing something, and often make major adjustments. Clearly the same for you. I think the best time my girls (then 7 and 9) ever had was when they ran up a massive grassy hill in the Lake District bare foot one May bank holiday, all on their own. Perhaps their oddly developed hips (from those washable nappies) helped them get to the top?! Nicola

  2. My friends and I have been swapping our kids shoes for about three years and some of the boots are still being passed around. It’s fun to see the youngest kids wearing winter boots that my kids wore three years ago. We’ve also started swapping shoes online at and posting swap proposals on Craigslist.

  3. […] Do you dare swap shoes? March 2010 5 comments 3 […]

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