secondhand thrift charity store shop shoe section

The Hidden Cost of Thrifted Shoes

· More expensive than a fungal infection ·

May 8, 2017 3 Comments

Once upon a time, I thought thrifting shoes was gross. It was among underwear and socks in the list of things I’d never buy secondhand.

I bought my first pair of thrifted shoes as a part of a $20 thrifted outfit challenge. Eight years ago, Sally Jane Vintage went into a thrift store with twenty bucks and came out with an entire outfit – top, skirt, shoes, and bag. She inspired dozens of other bloggers, including myself, to do the same. I thrifted my first pair of shoes during that challenge for a few bucks. And learned that the plastic and rubber components of shoes have a limited life.

The plastic heel tips on that first pair had completely disintegrated while they sat on the St. Vincent de Paul shelf (or maybe in the donor’s closet). I made them wearable with new tips at just under $11. I thought the rotting plastic was a fluke until I thrifted a pair of Ferragamo flats, only to have the heels crumble away as I wore them the first time. New tips: $15. (California prices vs Ohio!) Next, I found a pair of red cowgirl boots for $20. Total score! Until the plastic (leather look-a-like) soles cracked and began to flake away. New soles for those bad girls set me back $50. I like to think that my resoled boots will last longer than the originals, but it still stings when I see the same boots on Poshmark for $48 or eBay for under $30.

I’ll likely continue to thrift shoes, but will now factor in the cost of replacing heel tips (cheap) or entire soles (pricey). If the rest of the shoes isn’t made from high quality materials (usually leather) or in good condition, I’ll be passing on the shoe department.

It’s a shame that the plastic has such a short life. I hate to think of the resources wasted on shoes that are tossed into the landfill when such a basic, but essential, part of the shoe fails. It doesn’t just happen to thrifted shoes, but any footwear that’s been around awhile.

What’s your take? Are they not making shoes like they used to? Is it the result of an engineered plastic-eating bacteria? Or is it just the inevitable fate of a petroleum product?

Kasmira Kit


  1. Lorena

    May 16, 2017

    First of all I do think they do not make shoes like they use to.
    I have several shoes from my great aunt and they are from the 60’s and in perfect condition. The outer soles were leather as the insides.
    For my “new store bought shoes” they usually fall apart in the inside, even if it claims to be leather. They crumble and when I remove my shoes half of it is on my feet and its a terrible thing to have happen to you at the airport check point…

    • Kasmira Kit

      May 16, 2017

      Your airport story sounds traumatic! Did you have to buy new shoes?

  2. Gerrilyn Mitchell

    May 12, 2017

    I’ve had my own personal shoes crumble after I owned and wore them for years. For awhile I had many pairs all fall apart about the same time. The soles/heels were made out of some springy resin looking stuff, one pair was aerobic shoes, but basically all the material that crumbled looked like the same stuff. None of the shoes had been worn a lot since I own many many pairs of shoes, but they were still aging as they sat and waited for me to wear them. I did thrift a pair of woven leather shoes where the soles cracked open within a year of purchasing them. I hated to give those ones up, even tried using shoe glue to seal them up because the leather uppers were still pristine and a beautiful caramel color. I suppose I could have gotten them resoled, but it just didn’t seem cost effective so I tossed them. So I feel your pain. Gerrilyn

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