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How to shop secondhand shoes like a pro

Secondhand shoes can seem a bit icky when you first start looking for them, but with the right tools and approach, you can get some excellent quality shoes at a fraction of their retail price at the thrift store. Many shoes at opshops or secondhand stores are often very lightly worn, or have never been worn before! Follow our tips below and you’ll definately be able to find some awesome footwear for your whole family.

Inspect Carefully

Always inspect both shoes in the pair really well and make sure you look at the outer sole, insole and upper. Check for scuffs, marks, cracking and excessive wear. Avoid shoes with lots of wear on the heels or insole as these may impact your gait and lead to sore feet and back later on. Keep in mind that that stains and scuffs can often be washed or polished away, but sometimes damage can be too far gone to save.

If you have the time, try shoes on and walk around in them for a couple of minutes. How do they fit? Are they comfortable to walk in or is all of the squishiness gone? How stable is the heel? Any give/stretching in the straps, heel or other fastenings? If yes, we advise to leave them behind. Let staff know if shoes are badly damaged as they should not be on the shop floor.

Buy Quality

Look for quality brands and materials to get the most milage out of your preloved footwear. Synthetic materials are difficult to repair and often wear more easily than natural material such as leather. Often, stickers and labels have been worn or removed, but the material symbols can remain, so it pays to learn what they mean.

Be Prepared to Rummage

You know the old saying: “Good things come to those who rummage through piles of crusty preloved shoes”? No? Well, it’s true! Be prepared to rummage through alot of cheap and nasty type shoes before you find a pair that are worthy of your twinkle toes.

Wash & Sanitise

So here’s the part that covers why most people are hesitant to buy used shoes, feet are gross. Yep, used shoes can be smelly and dirty, but nothing that a good wash in the machine or polish won’t fix! Always check the material that your shoes are made of before wetting them – do a small spot test first to make sure your don’t ruin them.

Fabric sneakers and shoes can be washed in the washing machine, just pop them into a bra/delicates bag and wash on the ‘delicates’ cycle. Dry throughly in the sun/warm shade where possible (UV helps to break down smelly nasties that might remain), although don’t leave for too long in the bright sun or you may fade them. We don’t recommend drying in the spin dryer as the excess heat can shrink, warp and make plastics/rubber brittle.

When you can’t wash in the machine, wipe down the insole and sock with antibacterial solution and spray with deodoriser. For external light staining or marks, wipe down with an antibacterial solution to remove, or try a ‘magic eraser’ (these are great for removing marks from white sneakers). Medium to heavy staining can be gently scrubbed with ‘Delicates’ washing liquid and an old clean toothbrush and gently rinsed or wiped to remove, but avoid drenching the shoes.

Polish leather shoes with an appropriate colour polish and spray with a waterproofing solution afterwards to protect them going forward.

Get Your Swap On

Clothing swaps or exchanges are another great way to get excellent quality shoes, which are often barely worn. Exchanges carefully check each item to be swapped before they are accepted, meaning you are unlikely to get poor quality or dirty shoes.


I love opshopping, completing DIY projects, being thrifty and creating content. Most of all I want our presence to be light on our beautiful planet.