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?