Last year, I was trying really hard to buy nothing new, and while I fell short several times (more on that in a future post), I did pretty well in the shoe department. Nearly all shoes have at least some plastic components. Buying them secondhand or repairing the shoes you already have are great ways to get “new shoes” without actually buying new shoes and new plastic.
Buy Secondhand Shoes
I’m not one of those people who won’t buy secondhand shoes. You can find some pretty great, almost new shoes at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost of new shoes. In June, my local Goodwill had a 50% off shoe sale, so I bought four pairs of practically new shoes for about $20. (They were actually in much better shape than in this photo that I took today after having worn them for several months.)
When buying secondhand shoes, make sure the soles are not scuffed (or only minimally scuffed) and insoles are in good shape. If you’re concerned about germs, you can leave them outside in the sun for a day or disinfect the insides with alcohol (I use vodka or Everclear, since they come in glass bottles instead of plastic.) These shoes looked practically new, so I didn’t bother with disinfecting them.
The key to thrift store shoe shopping is to shop before your shoes wear out and you’re desperate for new ones because the offerings vary and you can’t count on always being lucky. On another day, I spent an hour trying on shoes at a different Goodwill, and nothing fit me. That’s another tip: try them on in the store and walk around to make sure they’re comfortable before buying!
Repair and Modification
My feet are wide, flat, and fussy. I can’t wear more than a half inch heel, and most women’s dress shoes are too narrow, leaving my toes pinched and sore by the end of the day. Trying on shoes for a few minutes in a store is often not enough time to let me know how they will feel after wearing them for several hours. Such was the case with a pair of Beautifeel shoes I purchased new about ten years ago. I liked the way they looked and the softness of the leather, but I dreaded wearing them for more than a few hours.
Wanting to save the shoes and my feet, I Googled around and discovered Davis Foot Comfort Center in San Francisco. They sell new orthotics and orthopedic shoes, but they can also modify your current shoes to make them more comfortable. So I took my old shoes and had them widened. Here are the before and after shots. (Sorry for the quality of the before shots. The lighting was not great at the foot comfort center where I took those pictures.)
Before: a bit too narrow for me.
After: just a bit wider makes a big difference.
Before: original sole.
After: partially new sole (Yes, new plastic, but much less than if I had purchased brand new shoes.)
I have to admit, having the shoes altered was not cheap. I don’t remember the price of the original shoes, but I think the modification cost almost as much as I paid for them new. I’m glad to have saved my shoes, but in the future, the wiser strategy is to be more careful about buying shoes that actually fit well to begin with.