Thrifting shoes is one of my favorite types of treasure hunts in local thrift stores. Shoes can quickly be scanned for any items of interest and typically snatched up for prices way below resale and new retail prices. When thrift shopping shoes I am typically looking for unique or purposeful pairs that range from athletic sneakers to dress shoes. I look for items that I can easily clean or don’t mind the worn “patina”, which in my opinion is great on old Chucks and Dr Martens.
Fresh Thrift Store Buys
When looking for shoes I make sure there are no tears, evenly worn bottoms, and that the heels and toe of the shoes are still well connected to the shoe, and ensure there are no cracks in the leather. If a shoe has any of these issues and still has my interest I look for ones that can be easily repaired, or to be used for a purpose in the condition they are in.
The easiest way to to get the maximum value out of thrifted shoes is to clean and mend any portions that need it. With athletic, running type shoes, for me this is just a quick spray with a fabric stain remover like “Spray & Wash” and a toss into the wash machine with plenty of soap and a full cycle wash on cold. I typically toss in a towel or two to keep the noise down during the tumbling process. When the shoes are done washing, they should be quickly removed and reformed to hold their structure while drying. I typically do this by straightening the tongue and loosening the laces, on occasion inserting some paper towels to hold the form may be necessary. If you use paper towels use caution to not overstretch any fabric. Once reshaped I leave them to air dry on the counter, usually for 24 hours. Typically this process yields near new shoe appeal in terms of fabric condition, color, and overall cleanliness of the shoe. One caution to this method is anything delicate, or wearing poorly due to age, should not be put in the wash machine but cleaned by hand as necessary.
With shoes built of leather or other non wash machine friendly materials, it is usually a quick brushing with a coarse and fine bristle shoe brush, then a hand cleaning of all areas that need any debris removed. I typically use a leather cleaner or dish soap and water mixture if a detergent is needed. Then a coat of color matching polish or leather conditioner. Any finer type of dress shoe or boot, those with leather soles and/or with rubber heels, if repair is needed I take them to a local shoe repair shop. One caveat is that any shoe I’m willing to invest in needs to be of a high enough quality to warrant a repair. The shoe repair shop isn’t cheap, but well worth the investment for the right shoe. With that being said a quality thrifted pair of fine leather boots or dress shoes along with a $30-$70 shoe cobbler repair bill can still yield a unique shoe and substantial savings when comparing to online/resale and new retail prices while creating lasting value.
Do you thrift shoes? If so, what are you looking for?