People love to get a good deal, which is why thrift stores, kijiji and swap and buy exist. It is tempting when you find a great deal to beat the competition by purchasing it immediately. But with something as important as your feet, when is it appropriate or inappropriate to purchase used shoes? That is the question I’ll tackle today; buckle up as I walk through what to look for in a used shoe, so you know when to purchase and when to walk away.
What to consider when thrifting for shoes
The first step is not to underestimate the importance of taking care of your feet, no matter how much of a steal the deal may seem. If you are wanting to purchase a used pair of shoes please consider the following before committing to the purchase:
- What are the shoes going to be used for?
- How old are the shoes?
- What is the current condition of the shoe?
- Are the shoes resoleable or repairable?
As always, what the shoes are used for is vital. If you’re only using a shoe once or twice for a costume or for an event then a used shoe is the perfect, cost-effective solution. If you’re looking at used steel-toed shoes that you’d be wearing for ten hour shifts, you will need to look a little closer at the age, condition and ability to repair the shoe.
Footwear components will break down over time and depending on the original quality of the shoe, the breakdown may happen quickly. It can be a poor decision to invest in something used because it may not have sufficient support to keep you on your feet. Don’t be fooled by a shoe that’s never been worn either. Even a shoe that wasn’t worn but is 5 years old could have started breaking down or never had enough support for your feet! Do the work and check the individual parts of the shoe.
The number one thing to check is the midsole
Midsoles are so important I dedicated an earlier post to them, which you can read here. As a result of everyday wear and tear, midsoles can be overstrained to the point they lack the cushion needed to support your foot. A good way to recognize wear on the midsole is by looking for stress lines creased into the material. These tell you that the material has been “packed out” and won’t have the same rebound to cushion the foot. If the lines are quite deep or more extreme on one side or the other, it’s best to put the shoe back on the shelf.
An obvious way to see the wear of a shoe is by checking the upper. Look to see if there is fraying in the nylon or cracks in the leather, stress lines across the toe box, or break down in the heel counter. If you want to learn more about upper materials, check out my blog post here. While you’re looking at the upper, take out the sock liner. The sock liner makes direct contact with the foot, making it a vital piece to seeing how much the shoe was used. Looking at the indentations on the sock liner will also give you clues to how the previous owner wore down the shoe.
Another crucial component to check is the outsole or the bottom of the shoe. Keep your eye out especially for excessive wear on one side over the other. This is the previous owner’s wear pattern which may be VERY different from yours. If purchased the difference in wear patterns could strain your foot in a new way and cause issues. If the outsole is worn you could also look to see if the shoe could be resoled. If so, you could get a whole new outsole put onto the shoe and salvage the footwear. We are able to resole footwear but it depends on the shoe. The shoe must have a full midsole and not a ‘waffle’ midsole in order for us to resole. Learn more about our Shoe Lab here.
If there are no stress lines in the midsole, the upper looks good and there’s no excessive wear on the outsole (or it’s resoleable), it could mean the shoe was not worn enough to cause serious wear and is a good option for you! Buying used shoes can be a way to save some money and save a shoe from going to the dump prematurely. Now you are equipped with a checklist provided by our Canadian certified pedorthist to consider when looking to buy used footwear.
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