Top Tips To Thrift Quality Footwear
There are quite a few people that avoid buying shoes and boots in a thrift store. I know, I used to be one of them.
I’m so very glad I got over that nonsense years ago. I’ve found loads of name brand and designer shoes and boots in thrift stores, often barely worn.
Don’t believe me? Check out one of my recent thrift hauls…
Yeah…I like boots. Boots are what sell best for me in my Etsy store so I don’t buy as many shoes for my inventory anymore.
Personally I love purchasing used footwear because the previous owner has already done all the hard work and broken in the shoes for me. #nomoreblisters
Top Tips To Thrift Quality Footwear
#1 Don’t Be Deterred By Surface Dirt
I clean all of the footwear I bring into my house with a damp rag and a mixture of vinegar and water, inside and out. The soles are often scrubbed clean.
I often buff up leather with some clear shoe polish and a bit of elbow grease.
Some marks on suede can be removed by gently using a pencil eraser.
Water or other stains to leather and suede cannot be rectified and are best avoided.
Dirty and worn insoles can be replaced with new ones that provide extra cushioning for the feet.
#2 Look At The Sole
If the sole is stitched onto the footbed chances are it is a higher quality shoe like these Tod’s I scored recently.
All that workmanship in the specialty sole translates to a higher quality shoe.
Sometimes the stitching will be on the top of the shoe or boot like on these Solo Mina booties.
Make sure the stitching isn’t frayed, normally that means it isn’t waxed and therefore not waterproof.
#3 Is The Sole Separating?
The sole is where you notice the most wear on shoes. If it has started separating from the upper or shows gaps leave it behind.
Although you can have shoes resoled it isn’t cheap and requires skill. I’ve taken shoes and boots in to be resoled and been horrified with the results. Ask around for the best shoe repair or check out reviews online before you sacrifice some of your best finds to an inept cobbler.
#4 Look At The Material Contents
These are usually stamped or stuck somewhere on the shoe and look like this…
Let’s look at these Isabel Marant booties I thrifted…
From the contents label we can see that they are made entirely out of leather. These booties are well constructed and meant to last.
When the label is stamped into the leather sole it is another sign of attention to quality.
Quality Rubber Soles
Rubber soles can be durable and comfortable. Doc Marten makes some great rubber soles. Again, be sure to check for gaps or separation from the upper.
If a rubber sole has been added onto the leather sole this will also help the shoes last longer. I often add these to my boots to avoid slipping and increase longevity. Any good shoe repair store can add rubber soles for you.
#5 Check The Insole
Does the insole go all the way to the tip of the toe? Is it worn out or damaged?
If the shoe is a lower quality they cut corners which means the insole might not go all the way down the shoe.
You can always add in your own insole which is often what I do for my personal boots.
#6 Is The Insole Padded?
Higher quality shoes often have better padding on the heel and toe bed.
#7 Is There Any Visible Glue?
A sign of sloppy workmanship is glue seeping out of the seams. These Tory Burch shoes I thrifted are pristine. I don’t think they’ve ever been worn.
#8 Is The Stitching Even?
Stitching should be even and straight with no loose threads.
#9 Is The Interior Of The Boot Or Shoe Flaking?
If you find the interior is flaking away it is probably coated in polyurethane. Polyurethane doesn’t breathe, it is plastic. When you sweat the polyurethane reacts to the sweat and deteriorates. Once it begins to decompose it doesn’t stop. Structurally the boots or shoes will still be viable but pieces of plastic will be shedding all the time. I try to avoid buying shoes or boots with this issue.
#10 Look At The Heel
Is it stable? Does it wobble? Is it properly centered over the heel of the foot?
Wobbly heels can be expensive to fix so I avoid them.
Is the heel cap broken?
If you really love the shoes fixing a broken heel cap isn’t expensive and can be done at your local shoe repair.
#11 Footwear Made Of Polyurethane Won’t Last As Long As Leather And Aren’t Environmentally Friendly
This would be anything labeled as “Vegan Leather” and often man-made materials. Polyurethane doesn’t breathe, won’t stretch and can crack and deteriorate over time. It takes over five hundred years for polyurethane to decompose. In contrast, leather will biodegrade in twenty-five to fifty years.
Personally I rarely buy shoes or boots made out of polyurethane for resale.
Of course if you recognize the label as a luxury brand with quality workmanship this helps tremendously when shopping thrift. Be cautious however as you can come across counterfeits when thrifting. Always refer to the tips I’ve mentioned to ensure you are buying a high quality pair of shoes. I’ve come across quite a few fake Louboutins and Jimmy Choos while thrifting.
Bonus Tip: Bad Smells
I avoid any kind of bad smells from footwear by using nylon mesh bags filled with dried lavender buds and placing them in each shoe/boot. You can also use cat litter or activated charcoal.
How To Store Thrifted Boots And Shoes
Using rolled up newspaper stuffed inside boots and shoes helps maintain their shape and absorb any moisture.
It is always a good idea to spray leather and suede with leather protector to help preserve the shoes.
These tips can also be useful when purchasing shoes or boots retail.
Quality is quality, secondhand or new.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share about quality footwear you’ve purchased secondhand?