I should start by disclosing: I am frugal. I enjoy thrift stores and have a coupon for almost everything. But I believe in making wise purchases and there are times when spending more is completely worth it.
Children are on their feet all day. They run and jump and climb on playgrounds. Name brand shoes are more durable. I have purchased shoes from Target and they scuff and tear within a few weeks. So I purchase 1 good pair of shoes per season. This summer our son got a pair of Keens and our daughter a pair of Pedipeds. They have worn them every day since May without a blister or complaint.
Another reason to buy name brand: they outlive the child's wear. They are great for hand me downs to a younger sibling or for resale. I resold my children's 2012 pair of pedipeds and keens without issue (expect to get $10-20 depending on condition).
I buy their shoes online and recommend Zappos and Amazon, returns are easy and there are reviews of each shoe. I bookmark a few shoe choices and then show my kids. They get to help make the selection and we have zero meltdowns (after years of high emotions in shoe stores with sensory processing challenges, so thankful for online shopping).
If a $30-50 shoe is out of budget check out local consignment sales. Branded shoes sell fast, but volunteers get first pick before the event opens. Also consider joining a local Facebook swap group.
What do you splurge on? Where are you frugal? I admit I've worn Old Navy flip flops all summer!