thrifted shoes: the "used factor."

April 01, 2012

Some people scoff at the idea of buying used shoes. I am not one of those people.

It's not that I don't worry about foot fungus (I wear shower shoes at the gym, after all). I simply cannot pass up the gorgeous size 7-7 1/2 beauties I find sitting unloved on the shelves of thrift stores, consignment shops, and (occasionally, though not generally) antique malls. I do not have a history of loving shoes. In fact, I used to wear nothing but sandals for work and for play. These days, I have far more shoes than I need; but frankly, I can't help myself. Keep reading for my affordable, used shoe cleaning ritual.

But first! My recent finds...

Shoe #1


Vintage Jasmin brown leather loafers, size 7B.

Purchased at: Salvation Army. 6715 Dempster St., Morton Grove, IL

Price: $5.99

Condition: Good. Minor scratching/discoloration on the inside and outside right heel.

Shoe #2


Bakers blue suede platform pumps with traditional heel.

Purchased at: Salvation Army. 4335 Oakton Street, Skokie, IL.

Price: $7.99

List price: $85!

Condition: Good. Toes and heels are scuffed from normal wear. Suede and stitching intact and still quite lovely.

Shoe #3


Nine West leather oxford pump heel with laces.

Purchased at: Salvation Army. 4335 Oakton Street, Skokie, IL.

Price: $5.99.

Various versions of this heel are listed on ebay for between $58-90.

Condition: Good. One minor scratch on the right heel. Scuffed a little on the toes. The interior is quite worn (but who's gonna see that, anyway?).

The "Used Factor."

If the idea of buying used shoes scares you, consider the following solutions:

A. Wear them with nylons or tights. I know that this rules out sandals or other summer shoes. But if you're unable to consider putting on a pair of shoes worn by another before you, consider used winter/fall shoes that you can put on over a protective layer of nylon.

B. Clean them! Whenever I buy a used pair of shoes, I clean them thoroughly using a mixture of white vinegar, baking soda, and water. A little lemon is a good addition as well. That's it. Scrub those babies inside and out - depending on the fabric.  For the blue suedes, I scrubbed the inside only. Unfortunately, many thrift stores use permanent marker to write prices on shoes, rather than using stickers. I suppose this is to deter theft. I like to spray the soles of my thrifted shoes with Krud Kutter (the greatest, eco-friendly cleaner of all!), let it sit, and scrub the marker off. You may also want to try graffiti remover. I have several pairs of shoes from which I was simply unable to remove these tacky prices. I figure that if anyone asks, this is a great chance to talk up the many benefits of thrifting! After all, there is absolutely nothing shameful about buying second-hand!

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9 comments

  1. OH! OH! These shoes are adorable! LOVE them. I'm so jealous right now. =P

    Also, those are definitely blue suede shoes, hehehe. We need to start a club and have t-shirts made. ;)

    <3

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  2. Hehe. I have never owned a pair of blue suede shoes before. I’m pretty excited! The heels are pretty high, definitely not an every day shoe. :)

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  3. Since their ink is alcohol based, isopropyl alcohol is also good for removing permanent marker. Results may vary depending on the surface and how long it has been on. Try and get the highest percentage you can.

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  4. This is great! Out here...especially in Royal Oak...People have opened up scale thrift stores where they go and raid all of the thrift stores in the area...take all the good vintage stuff...then put them up in their fancy thrift stores and jack up the price! Its nice to hear that you can still find the goods when the hipsters keep stealing it all!!!

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  5. The Loafers look comfortable and would be great for work or everyday wear. Those Blue Suede platforms Rock! Great for an evening out with a knock-out dress! I dig those Oxford pumps, definitely my kind of shoe! Great finds Mal! I Love thrift stores :).

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  6. Amazing finds- love those blue suede shoes! I am so impressed by your thrifting skills. I want to play a little more with finding stuff but clothes and shoes are challenging at my size--I guess people of my size don't donate therefore I can't buy :(

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  7. Ah, I remember the days when I had a HUGE collection of very cute and diverse shoes from my thrift store forays. Now, however, my feet are so screwed up that I can't wear anything but the most utilitarian flats. I still have some of my old shoes, but I'm considering incorporating them into some weird art piece.
    I love the heeled oxfords. And of course those blue suede babies!

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