9 August 2015

Children's Shoes - A Malaysian Shopping Mystery

I am spoiled for choice in Malaysia – every mall has dozens of shops where I can buy the most dazzling array of shoes.  These range from courts to evening wear and come in every height from flat to towering and a bewildering number of flipflops (although I dearly wish I could I have never been able to wear them).  The quality is rarely high but given the heat here I tend to wear open shoes and my walking boots, office shoes etc were all bought years ago and are still going strong.  The biggest challenge I have is remembering my foot size in at least 3 different systems (3-4 UK, 36-37 EU and 5-6 American) and trying to work out which system the shop follows before I end up trying to squeeze my foot, Cinderella style into an American 3 or flounder around in a gigantic UK 6.

Shoes for the discerning 6 year old!!!!
Because I can buy footwear with no problems I naively assumed that it would be the same for my children.  How wrong could I be; children’s shoes are impossible to find.  Firstly places that do sell shoes don’t seem to measure their feet so I have to guess (in three different systems) which size they need.  Each brand has a slightly different interpretation of a size so my daughter might be a 30 in one brand and a 32 in another, it is just a case of trial and error.  The shop assistants range from the fabulously helpful who will get out every shoe in every possible size variant in order to find one that will work, to those who make us feel like we are being thoroughly unreasonable for wanting to buy shoes in the first place.

A wide range of shoes, but none are any good.....
I have hardly ever had to buy the children shoes, I am blessed with something akin to gold dust – children whose feet just do not grow.  My daughter had one pair of shoes through two years of school in Kazakhstan, they fit her just as well at the end of the two years and had to be thrown out as the cobbler could no longer repair them.  This means that I have, in the past, just bought their shoes whenever we have been in the UK, relying on the trusty assistants with their measuring boards and the sensible but supportive options offered by Startrite and Clarks. 

Heels for little girls?

Imagine my horror then to have found that my children grew out of all of their shoes a few months ago.  I had to go on a search for trainers, school shoes and sandals (I have given up on walking boots for the moment).  Black school shoes are elusive, it took me 4 months to track down a suitable boy and girl pair.  So difficult was the quest that when the Velcro closure fell out of my daughter’s shoes I went to buy a hot glue gun and Velcro strips to effect a repair rather than run the gauntlet of shoe searching once more and I have built an excellent relationship with the cobbler.  I have asked local parents at the school where they shop and they have all come back with the single word response ‘KL’.  I could drive down, it is only 2 hours away, but it seems an excessive to make a 4 hour round trip just for shoes.  It is not just school shoes that cause difficulties, all the ‘girl’ trainers have Frozen or other Disney characters on them and I have the only little girl in the world who doesn't want Elsa on her feet, sadly she does not want Ben 10 either.  I could, of course, buy proper Nike or Addidas trainers but it would be just my luck that, having forked out on hugely expensive shoes to be worn no more than twice a week, her feet would grow just to spite me!  I was going to resort to sending her to sports lessons with plimsolls (it did me no harm after all) when a family member offered to bring some cheap, plain trainers out from the UK.

Offerings are pink, princessy or unsuitably styled
Having managed the impossible and replaced all the shoes with ones that I deemed sensible enough to provide at least some support to feet and were palatable to the wearers I thought we were doing pretty well.  Then last week, disaster struck.  Our daughter has been wearing a pair of crocs sandals (not the ugly clog style but the strappy versions) and on a holiday in Melaka, while walking around the streets, she got a split in the sole of one shoe.  We went to the main mall to search for a shoe shop but to no avail.  We went to a Bata shop which carries a variety of different girl’s shoes.  After trying what seemed like every shoe in the shop nothing fit.  Some ranges (for younger children) went up to size 30 but the 30 was too small.  Other ranges (for older children) started at size 30 but they were too big.  It seems her feet are exactly the wrong size.  We tried another shop which seemed to stock an array of shoes but came up against the same problem.  The one pair of shoes that did actually fit had heels (yes heeled shoes for 6 year olds!!) so we had to decline those.  Our daughter very gamely agreed to see if her shoes would hold up for the remainder of the day but we walked them to smithereens, as we left a lovely courtyard café the shoe broke in half and our daughter was left walking with her left foot on tippi toes.  We managed to find a clog shop selling overpriced ‘ethnic’ shoes to tourists and bought a pair of costly clogs one size too small so that she could, at least, walk back to the car. 

The shoes that are suitable don't fit - the shoes that do fit are unsuitable....

As soon as we arrived back in Ipoh my daughter and I hit the shops in the nearby mall – to no avail!  All we want is a simple sandal but we found literally nothing suitable, even the Crocs shop had nothing available in her size other than clogs or very wide fit sandals. Thank goodness we found a suitable pair, a Teva style shoe that is completely lacking in feminine elegance.  It actually comes from the boy's section but we convinced her they were 'ant-man' shoes for girls and she seems happy for the moment,  I will keep looking for some more elegant sandals but these will do for the moment.

It seems like such a minor expat problem, everyone wears shoes after all but just where are the little girl’s shoes hiding?  Of course every posting has something that is impossible to find, inevitably you spend your entire time in country searching for a suitable source only to locate it two weeks before you leave!  

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  1. Gosh, how different that is! Who would have thought - it looks from your pics that shoes are everywhere in all different styles and sizes. I'm glad you got them all shoes in the end. Sounds really tricky! Hey, if you ever need basic black school shoes, I'm happy to help you and get some at M&S and post some out to you. Just let me know! #MyExpatFamily

    1. Meg that is ever so kind of you! My dad is visiting at the moment and brought some out so we are ok for the moment but might take you up on the offer in the future!!

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