Men’s Guide to Thrift Shopping for Shoes

Men's Guide to Thrift Shopping for Shoes

I’m not going to start out by trying to convince you that you should buy second-hand shoes at thrift shops or online. There are strong feelings either way. It’s up to you. However, if you do want to buy thrift shop shoes you’ve come to the right place. I will show you, using my own second-hand shoe purchases as an example, the value and savings that awaits the men’s footwear thrift shopper. Let’s get started!

Thrift Shop Shoes - Men - Aston Grey
Aston Grey Leather Dress Shoes Purchased for $10.00 on eBay

Thrift Shop Cap Toe Oxfords

These are a personal favorite. These leather cap toe oxfords dress shoes are made by Aston Grey. While the uppers are full-grain leather, the soles are man-made. These shoes have a sleek, classic design that looks far more refined than their price would suggest. The full-grain leather is glove soft with a beautiful tone and grain. New, these shoes should retail for just under $100.00 if new. I paid $10.00 for them on eBay in like-new second-hand condition.  These are not walking shoes (I’ve got my Rockports for that). They are Sunday shoes, wedding shoes, dress up for the evening shoes that make a great presentation with a well-tailored suit. I have owned these shoes for nearly two years and wear them about three to four times per month.

Aston Grey Shops - Thrift Shopping for Men's Shoes

On receiving the shoes, I glued rubber heel plates on the heels to prevent wear (see the photo below). These heel plates were purchased on ebay (do a search for rubber heel plates). These are a very inexpensive way (10 pairs cost about $10.00 and are shipped from China) to extend the life of your shoe heels indefinitely. The photo below shows the wear on the heel plates after more than two years of wearing the shoes about once per week. Loctite Flexible Adhesive is great for gluing the rubber heels plates.

heel saver plates - thrift shop shoes
Rubber Heel Saver Plates

I polish the shoes with Dollar Tree shoe polish. It is a cream polish that conditions the leather and polishes it without obscuring the fine texture of the leather. I spray the interior of the shoes with a light coat of rubbing alcohol before wearing them for the first time. That kills any bacteria. Just be sure not to get alcohol on the leather outer as it may damage the finish. Finally, I put cedar shoe trees in these shoes for 24 hours after each wear to maintain their shape and eliminate moisture and odor.

These are not ‘investment quality’ shoes. Yet. for a grand total of only $10.00 these shoes have provided two years (and still provide) of great service and stylish looks. That’s money well spent!

Thrift Shop Shoe Buying Tip

Always check the condition of the heels and soles when buying second-hand shoes. You should only buy shoes with very light to no wear. Pass by any shoes that do not show a clear photo of the condition of the heels and soles when shopping online.  I never buy second-hand shoes with run-down heels. There’s no need to. There is a constant stream of shoes in good condition at every price point when shopping on online marketplaces like eBay or Poshmark.

Don’t Step On My Suede Thrift Shop Shoes!

suede Thrift Shop Shoes
Suede Thrift Shop Shoes

This is a pair of Robert Wayne tan suede shoes I paid $9.00 for on Poshmark.com. They are in like-new condition with no wear on the soles. I would never buy a pair of suede shoes at retail prices. They would not be worn enough to justify the expense. But for only $9.00, the two or three times a month I wear these shoes during the warmer months of the year is not an issue. These vintage-looking rubber-soled shoes work well with a linen safari jacket or seersucker sport coat and light-colored slacks. Classic old man style!

suede thrift shoes

When the shoes arrived, a light brushing with a suede brush made them look like new. Also, I added rubber heel taps to extend the life of the shoe. The rubber taps are glued and secured with small tacks. I replace them before wear reaches the shoe heel. I use shoe trees after each wear for at least 24 hours to restore the proper shape of the shoes. Before wearing them the first time, I spray the interior of the shoe with a light coat of rubbing alcohol (just be sure not to spray the external leather) to kill any possible bacteria, and they’re ready to wear.

These shoes should last at least four or more years as they are not heavily worn. That is $9.00 well spent!

A Tip for Buying Second-Hand Shoes Online

Many times poor photos cause otherwise good shoes to go unsold online.  In this case, the color balance on the seller’s camera was not properly set, causing the shoes to look a rather putrid yellow in the photos. Often the price of the shoes drops because the poor photos keep them from being sold. If you have a sharp eye, you can spot these incredible bargains!

Thrift Shop Shoes … Daily Drivers!

Thrift Shop Shoes - Rockport
Rockport DreSsport Shoes Purchased on eBay for $8.00

I do not wear sneakers or athletic shoes unless I’m engaged in sports. I always wear shoes when dressing casually. Call me weird if you will! Most often, the brand of shoes on my feet is Rockport. Why? They feel like comfortable sneakers on the inside and look like dress shoes on the outside. This is a pair of Rockport DreSsports (shown above) that I purchased second hand on eBay for the princely sum of $8.00 (they retail when new for about $85.00)! These shoes are made with durable corrected grain leather uppers and ultra-comfortable rubber soles. Look at the photo below that shows the soles of these shoes. They look like they were never walked on! No wear on the soles or heel!

Rockport Shoes - Rubber Heel Taps
Rubber heel taps glued and tacked to my Rockport Shoes

When I need to do some serious walking, I prefer to wear Rockports. If I have to be on my feet all day, Rockport, please!

When I received these shoes, I gave them a good shine, glued and tacked rubber heel taps to the heels, and sprayed the interior with a light spritz of rubbing alcohol to remove any possible bacteria (alcohol will mar the leather finish on the outers so be careful). As with all of my shoes, I insert cedar shoe trees after wear for 24 hours to remove moisture and preserve the shape. Rockport shoes wear like iron and feel like a comfortable pair of sneakers. These shoes are a great value for only $8.00! Kaching! Feel the savings!

Tip: Buying Rockport Shoes on eBay

Check eBay early in the morning when new listings are added to see what new Rockport shoes become available and look for the lowest price on shoes with minimal or no wear. Prices fluctuate wildly and the lowest prices will come from sellers looking to make a fast “Buy It Now” sale.  You cannot replace the soles on a pair of Rockports so always look for the lowest price for the best condition shoes when shopping second-hand.

Where to Buy Rubber Heel Taps

The rubber taps I use on all of my shoes are purchased directly from China on eBay. I buy 60 pairs for less than $4.00 including shipping. Just be aware that shipping may take as long as a month. Loctite Flexible Adhesive is great for gluing the rubber heels taps. If the surface is a bit uneven, Shoe Goo can also work as a good adhesive.

Why I Don’t Buy Second-Hand Allen Edmonds Shoes

Allan Edmonds Strands
Allan Edmonds Strands Retail Price $425.00

It suppose it would be nice to have a stable of beautifully crafted, all-leather, Goodyear welted Allen Edmonds shoes. They are very popular right now. There is one critical reason why I don’t: Cost of ownership. Hear me out. I buy second-hand shoes. If I were to purchase a pair of second-hand Allen Edmond shoes for $50.00 to $75.00 on eBay, they will be, at best, in fair to good condition. Second-hand Allen Edmonds are overpriced on eBay because of their luxury status. They will require recrafting which includes a new sole and heel to be restored to like-new condition. Typically, that will cost a minimum of $100.00 at a local cobbler, over $125.00 if it is done by Allen Edmonds Recrafting Service. That puts the actual cost of a used pair of Allen Edmonds closer to $150.00 to $175.00 total.

Allen Edmonds shoes are a luxury product with a higher cost of ownership and maintenance.

For me, leather-soled shoes wear out at a faster rate than rubber-soled equivalents. For my money, I prefer to avoid the much higher initial cost of ownership of a luxury product like Allen Edmonds as well as the higher maintenance costs. I own a pair of Goodyear welted all-leather dress shoes that I reserve for special occasions. However, for day to day wear ( I walk a lot and am hard on shoes), I prefer the much lower cost of second-hand shoes that may last two years or more with no long-term maintenance cost.

Thrift Shop Wing Tip Oxfords

Thrift Shop Shoes - Men - Wing Tip Oxfords
Second Hand Wing-Tip Oxfords

This is the type of second-hand dress shoes that I prefer over luxury status Allen Edmonds because they offer better value.  These full-grain leather wing-tip oxfords have leather uppers and rubber soles and are made by Hush Puppies. If purchased new, they would cost about $125.00. I paid $12.00 for them in excellent second-hand condition on Poshmark.com. They have cement construction common to shoes in this price range, so they cannot be resoled. However, at only $12.00 they should give me at least two or more years of good service. I consider that excellent value!

wing tip shoes - thrift shopping

I glued and tacked a pair of rubber heel taps to the heels to minimize wear, and gave them a good shine. These are the type of dress shoes that I wear most often with a suit and tie to events and on special occasions. They are comfortable, stylish and best of all, only cost $12.00!

Tassel Loafers – Used Shoes Purchased on eBay

tassel loafers - eBay used shoes

This is a pair of Florsheim Comfortech Tassel Loafers that I paid $6.00 for second-hand on eBay. They are rubber-soled and designed for comfort. As you can see, they do have some wear. However, the heels were in excellent condition so I decided that for the price they would work well as informal shoes for pairing with jeans, khakis, corduroys, and a sport coat. I polished them with my Dollar Tree cream polish which also does a good job of conditioning the leather. The full-grain leather has some uneven color that to my eye adds a bit of appealing patina.

These shoes are not perfect, but for less than the cost of lunch at McDonald’s they add timeless style to a pair of khakis or corduroys. They should easily provide two to three years of stylish service for a very modest investment!

Stay tuned for more thrift shop shoes and tips!