Traditionally constructed good quality shoes have a long lifespan, which means that it’s a product that are commonly sold second hand. Looking for used classic shoes can lead to awesome bargains, but also expensive mistakes. Here’s a guide on what to think about when buying used shoes, and where to find them.
WHAT TO THINK ABOUT WHEN BUYING USED SHOES
Buy shoes that aren’t too worn
Even if Goodyear welted or even hand welted shoes of good materials can last for a long long time, it’s still recommended to aim at second hand shoes that haven’t been worn too much by the previous owner. The reason is that the more usage, the more the shoes adjust to the wearer, with creases, footprints in the insole and cork bed, etc. This makes the risk bigger that they won’t suit your feet as well larger, even if you may be lucky and get a pair from someone who have very similar feet to you, or that they can change well enough to become comfortable for you as well.
But if it’s shoes that for example only have been used a few times and then sold since the fit isn’t good, you have a larger chance that it’s not affected by the previous owner to a degree that causes problems for you, and you basically have something that is more or less like a new pair of shoes just at a better price (since shoes are like cars, once taken outside the first time the value immediately drops a lot).
If you buy shoes that have been quite heavily used, a resole where you also exchange the cork bed might make the shoes conform to and eventually suit your feet better, but it’s also costs a bit, so it can be a gamble. Buying for example really old vintage longwings might be charming, but doesn’t necessarily end up positive.
The soles says it all
Some people don’t treat their shoes well at all, and they can look pretty bad and as something that should cost less than what they actually should (especially on Ebay or in some types of thrift stores this can be the case). In some cases the upper and sole and heel edges are only in need of some shoe cream and wax polish, and will be A OK afterwards. If you look at the soles, especially if they are leather soles, you can judge a lot of how worn the shoes actually are here.
Also if it’s rubber soles you can judge a bit, if you look at the back of the heel and toe tip to see how much they’re worn there. If there’s very little of the edges worn down, they have likely not seen much wear. If it’s an online purchase and you don’t have pics of this, you could ask the seller of it.
Be prepared to sell them again
When buying shoes online, there’s always a risk that fit won’t be ideal and you should be prepared to exchange or return them. When buying used shoes online, the risk is even larger of problems, due to what I mention above. Therefore, you should definitely be prepared to sell them off if they don’t feel too well in terms of fit. Even if you’ve done an excellent find of shoes you really love, it’s not worth it if they never will become comfortable, and risk is just that they will end up standing on the shelf instead of being on your feet.
For example it’s quite common when buying used shoes that they pinch your big toe from above, since the previous owner’s feet were slightly different and they bent and creased in a slightly different area than what’s suitable for your feet. When brand new shoes pinch your big toes, it’s common that it disappears once the shoes have broken in and softened. When used shoes pinch your big toes, this will most likely not change, and it’s much better to sell them off again and aim at something else.
WHERE TO FIND USED SHOES
Of course you could end up in finding something great at your local thrift store, but those chances are rarely that big. There’s a number of good places to hunt for second hand shoes, both various online marketplaces and stores specialising in selling used shoes. Here’s some examples:
The big online marketplace where most second hand stuff in the world swap owners, also goes for used quality shoes. The range available on Ebay is huge, while you might need to work a bit more to find the good stuff. For more in-depth advice on doing bargains on Ebay, read this article here.
Styleforum Buy & Sell
Styleforum is together with the Goodyear forum on Reddit the main forum for those into classic shoes. Of course, that also means that a lot of menswear folks put up their shoes for sale on the forums buy and sell section. It’s improved over the years and is now quite easy to use, with a rating system etc. making it a fairly secure place to buy through. Prices of stuff vary greatly, but quite often menswear folks with way too many shoes put up a bunch of stuff at very low prices just to get some space in the closet, so there’s definitely a good chance for a bargain here if you keep your eyes open and act quick in.
The Shoe Snob Buy & Sell
A marketplace for second hand shoes and subs, where both private individuals and stores/brands sell stuff. The Shoe Snob Buy & Sell is a collab between Justin FitzPatrick and Gaurav Mehra of Shop Mehra, and has been around for a couple of years now. Has a fair amount of classifieds up, have great filters to enhance your search, and is very clear with pricing to ship to your country in your currency etc. Read more about the site in this article.
The Shoe Forum Buy Swap Sell (Facebook group)
The Shoe Forum is one of the larger groups for classic shoes on Facebook, and they also have a buy and sell section found here, where group members can post their classifieds. Sometimes it’s links to for example Ebay, sometimes it’s meant to be direct sales. Mixed activity, but pops up new stuff every now and then from the 4,200 members.
A surprisingly unknown actor outside the UK, even if they’ve been around for several years. Abbot’s Shoes is a British webstore specialising in second hand quality shoes. The range of shoes is pretty good, and they also have quite reasonable prices even if they are a specialised shop, not necessarily that much higher than what private individuals price their stuff at Ebay. The good thing with buying from a shop is that you get shoes that have been cared for before sold, you can be sure that you get what you are promised, and you also have the possibility to return them. Good studio photos of all shoes sold is another pro. You can also sell your own shoes to Abbot’s, if you want to make things easy for yourself.
The New York shoe store Leffot is a pioneer among multi-brand shoe stores, and they were also early in introducing their own second hand section, called pre-owned. Here they sell used shoes in relatively good conditions, usually purchased from their customers. Prices are ok but no super chances of real bargains, but they run sales on the pre-owned sections every now and then. Pros are otherwise the same as for Abbot’s, can be a good thing to buy from a proper actor like these.