Is It OK To Buy Used Shoes?


Q: I heard that you should never buy used shoes. Is this true?

A: Nope! Not true. You can absolutely buy a pair (or two or three) of used shoes. There are several “What to never buy at a thrift store” lists floating around the web that include shoes. According to those lists, the top two reasons against purchasing them seem to be germs and insoles. Neither of these issues is insurmountable.

All shoes have germs, even new ones. Yes, used shoes do have more bacteria on them than new ones. In fact, the average shoe has more than 420,000 units of bacteria on the outside and about 3000 on the inside. Gross? Yes. Stop wearing your shoes in the house? Definitely. Reason not to buy used shoes? No.

It’s easy to disinfect a pair of shoes. For shoes that are machine washable, throw them in with a little bleach and/or detergent and voila! 90% of bacteria will be eliminated with one washing*. For shoes that aren’t machine washable, wipe the shoe both inside and out with rubbing alcohol or an anti-bacterial wipe and allow to dry thoroughly. Easy peasy.

As for insoles, we all know that you wear a shoe for an extended length of time, the insole conforms to the shape of your foot. When you buy used shoes, the insoles will have formed to the previous-wearers foot. If this bothers you, rip out the old insole and replace it. New insoles are relatively inexpensive and readily available at most big box stores, drug stores, and online. After-market insoles are often more cushioned than the originals, anyway, so your feet will be extra comfy. Win-win.

Used shoes are significantly cheaper than new shoes. Shopping resale (previously owned merchandise) as opposed to retail (brand new merchandise) can save you up to 90% (and sometimes even more). That in itself seems like a pretty great reason to head down to the consignment or thrift store for a little shopping.


OK, I’m convinced. What should I look for in a pair of shoes?

  1. Overall Condition- Inspect each shoe carefully. How worn is the tread? Does it have a smell? Are both shoes the same size?
  2. Trusted Brands- Do some research before you go used shoe shopping. Know what companies make solid, long-lasting shoes.
  3. Tags- Some thrift stores buy merchandise from big box stores (customer returns, unsold clearance items, irregular/damaged goods, etc). This merchandise is golden because it’s new, but at rock-bottom thrift store prices.


I’m still a little embarrassed about the idea of buying used shoes.

Fortunately for our generation, the long-standing social stigma of buying used goods is disappearing. With the recent economic downturn, more and more people are turning to consignment and thrift stores as a viable source for their clothing, shoes, and household goods. ‘Thrifting’ has become popular; even fashionable, finding its way into mainstream pop culture thanks to Macklemore’s hit song, Thrift Shop. Finding great deals or repurposing thrift store finds is a point of pride for many. In fact, 20% of all Americans shop at thrift stores regularly and the annual revenue for the resale (thrift store) industry is estimated to be $13 billion!

If you’re not accustomed to shopping resale, then yes, you might have some feelings of embarrassment. So try, if you will, to look at it from a different angle. Consider two final thoughts:

Remember that buying used goods is financially prudent. Resale prices are significantly lower than retail. By spending less on shoes, clothing, and household goods, you’ll have more money available for other things!

Most importantly, however, buying used shoes (and used goods in general) is an ecologically responsible choice. Ours is a society of hyper consumerism. Goods are cheaper and more plentiful than ever before. We are quick to buy and we are quick to dispose. The average American throws away about 70 pounds of clothing each year, which, considering the current population, adds up to a staggering 22.1 billion pounds of waste annually, including about 300 million pairs of shoes! Resale institutions are reducing those numbers, but they will exist only as long as consumers support them. Consumers like you! So buy a pair of used shoes. With each step you take, you’ll be literally reducing your ecological footprint.


*Germ-Tracker Study