How to Buy Second Hand Shoes (When It’s Okay and Not Okay)

Buying secondhand shoes is risky business if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Second hand market

Shoes can look immaculate on the outside but the inside is absolutely rooted. But no one ever looks in the inside!

That’s why in this guide I am going to help you buy second hand shoes without getting ripped off.

It’s okay to buy second hand shoes if you know what you’re looking for and they aren’t well-worn.

Without this valuable information, you could be setting yourself up for a big waste of money.

So without further ado, lets get right into the article.

Buying Used Shoes Online

Buying used shoes online is probably the most riskiest thing to do because you can’t see the real condition of the shoe.

It’s easy to take better angles of the good side and leave out the bad side.

People can lie and they can reject your proposal to view more pictures.

When buying used shoes online, it is absolutely vital that you see the bottom of the shoe (outsole) and the insides of the shoe (insole and midsole).

Ask them lots of questions such as:

  • How old is the shoe?
  • Have they been in storage?
  • Where were they stored?
  • What was the price brand new?
  • Have they been worn?
  • Can I see closeups of every part of the shoe? (it’s harder to notice bad quality from far away)

These are ALL vital questions that need to be answered.

And if the seller refuses to provide all the necessary information, find another seller.

The reason you need to know how old the shoe is is because the midsole is the first thing that rots and disintegrates, and you can’t even see it because it’s under the insole and above the outsole.

If they say 3-5 years old, you should probably skip and move onto another shoe.

At this point the midsole is on the downturn and will likely disintegrate as soon as it’s worn.

Buying In Person

The same rules apply when buying shoes in person.

You still need to know the same questions, but this time, you can see what you are dealing with.

Feel the leather, feel the midsole, feel the quality of the footwear.

Does it feel low quality and on its last legs or does it have a couple years out of them?

What do you want the shoe for, to collect or to wear?

If you’re thinking of buying a 3+ years old shoe to wear, you’re dreaming.

That thing is going to disintegrate the minute you put it on.

But if you’re buying a collectors shoe or designer shoe that you also want to store for viewing purposes, there is a little more leeway.

Buying a 3-year old designer shoe that’s been in storage all its life is better than buying a 3-year old shoe that’s been worn or stored in places that speed up the dry-rotting process (How to store shoes for longevity).

And that’s why it’s important to ask all the questions above.

If they don’t know how to store their shoes properly, chances are you’re buying something that’s rotting on the inside and it’s only a matter of time before it starts eating the outside.

Question Everything

Questions are your best friend when it comes to purchasing second hand shoes.

You need to question everything because you’re only cutting yourself short otherwise.

The seller is going to get a bargain and you’re going to get ripped off.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions as sellers are usually open to them. Plus if you seem like a genuine buyer, they don’t really care about answering questions.

And remember, shoes older than 3 years should raise alarm bells.

Now you need to know how much has it been worn, where was it stored and what the inside feels like.

Because like I said, the midsole is the first to rot and you can never see it. An easy way to know is if the shoe’s older than 3 years.

I explain in this article how shoes dry-rot from the inside before it’s even visible.

Is Wearing Second Hand Shoes Bad?

When it’s okay

If you’re buying the shoe just to collect it and keep it in storage because you’re a sneakerhead and like having cool looking shoes, it’s completely okay to buy second hand shoes.

As long as they have not been worn.

Even if they are barely worn, that’s a great buy and you’ll probably get a bargain.

Most people buy shoes, wear them once or twice and realize they don’t fit or they’re uncomfortable.

So they put them on sale.

When it’s not okay

The problem arises when people buy second hand shoes that have clearly been worn numerous times and have already been broken in.

Wearing well-worn shoes is actually gross and a bad idea, in my opinion.

The shoe has already molded to the previous owners foot and will probably not fit you correctly.

Plus the shoe would have been filled with sweat and who knows what sort of fungi has been growing inside.

And if you’ve got a break in the skin or toenail…fungus, mold and yeast can occur and you can develop Athletes foot.

In Conclusion

Always stay away from shoes that show signs of breakdown.

That’s both online and in person.

There is just too much to lose if you risk buying a shoe that has clearly had its days.

And don’t be ignorant about it.

Trust your gut, ask lots of questions, don’t ignore the red flags, and don’t buy well-worn shoes (ever!).

So I hope you have learnt a lot from this article, and you know how to properly buy second hand shoes that aren’t gross or going to disintegrate within the first few months.

Thanks for reading this article and I hope you have a great day!

Please let me know in the comments below what you think about second hand shoes and whether or not you’ve bought some yourself.

22 thoughts on “How to Buy Second Hand Shoes (When It’s Okay and Not Okay)”

  1. Hello there thanks for this review. It was really helpful. I must say it is really a tough one trying to get the right shoe and wouldn’t advise anyone to buy shoes online because you may just end up being disappointed at what you may get. I prefer buying in person because you’ll be able to see the faults if there is any.

    • That’s a great point, Philebur.

      That’s why it’s vital to ask lots of questions when looking online.

      Plus more and more people are buying online, face-to-face transactions are not as popular as they use to be.

      Knowing how to properly shop for second hand shoes online is a must, as that is where the future is heading and everyone will be doing it soon.

  2. Great article you have there on “how to buy second hand shoes”.

    Most especially online it’s difficult to ascertain the degree of usage of the shoe!  Pictures can be deceiving due to many apps available for editing pictures.

    I will prefer buying in person when going for a second hand, so I can feel and examine the shoe.


    • Buying in person is a good way of not getting ripped off but then you are also only limited to shoes in your area.

      What about shoes across the country or the other side of the world that are an absolute bargain?

      Even though it’s good not getting ripped off as you can examine the shoe properly in person, you’re also limiting yourself to what’s truly out there.

      But that’s just my opinion.

  3. Hello there! This is an amazing review you’ve got here. I find this very helpful for me as a trader on online stores. Sometimes my customers complain because I sincerely don’t know how to identify good shoes online, but with the help of this post, I think I now know where I’ve been missing it.

    Thanks for sharing this with me!

    • Yes, definitely.

      If you’re buying shoes for your customers, you need to know how to identify the good from the bad.

      Do that and your customers will love you and they’ll keep coming back for your services.

      Happy to help 🙂

  4. Even buying a new pair of shoes makes me worry. Will it fit nicely? Is it comfortable or look good on me? Perhaps these are some of the reasons people sell their shoes online. And this leads to people searching to buy second-hand shoes online. For the shoe collectors, I am sure your tips are most helpful. Does this apply to buying second-hand shoes for children? Since they grow up fast, maybe it is a good idea to buy second-hand. 

    • Good question, Sharon.

      The same rules still apply. As long as the shoe has been barely worn, it’s completely okay.

      But I don’t think it’s a good idea to give your children well-worn shoes that’s on its last legs.

      Also I don’t think it’s worth splashing out on a couple hundred dollar shoes either since they will grow out of them quickly.

      Brand new and affordable will always work best for kids.

      Or if you can get barely-worn and affordable, that’s a bonus 🙂

  5. Found your article interesting. I must say that I have never and would never buying previously worn shoes online for all of the reasons you stated in your article. I don’t think you can buy shoes online at all unless you are prepared to be disappointed. I have done it twice and had poor fitting on both occasions. This was enough to convince me to not even contemplate further purchases


    • Sorry to hear that Hamish.

      That’s why it’s so important to take the measurements of your feet and checking the official websites sizing options.

      That’s a much better way than trying to “wing it”. You can actually get a perfect fit going this route.

  6. Excellent suggestions! Definitely things here that I, and most, would not think about. I still wonder, stored or used, what the average lifespan of things like the glues used on say sneakers is. I would be really intrigued to see the difference in such things on higher quality (priced) and lower quality shoes. Keep up the good work.

    • Hey Jason. In general, glues usually last quite a long time as long as they aren’t kept in the sun all day, everyday.

      Or they aren’t being exposed to other heat sources like the washing machine or fireplace. Heat sources will soften adhesives and make the shoe fall apart very quickly

  7. Wow! So, I have had to purchase some second hand shoes for my 3 kids, but I guess I never really thought of the ins and outs of what you would find in a second hand store. These are stores that are not necessarily going to be able to provide information on how old the shoes are, how often they were worn, or if there is any internal yuckiness to look for. Your article really makes me rethink second hand purchases and if it would just be better to purchase new shoes every time. 

    • I’m glad you liked it and opened up your eyes to what you may exposing your children to.

      If you can see that the shoes aren’t too old, it would be completely okay for your children to wear them.

      Otherwise I would run for the hills if they clearly look like they’ve been through the mud a few times!

  8. This is an interesting article and topic. I think that buying second hand shoes online is quite risky. I also think that even if the questions are asked to the seller online and they answer all the questions you throw at them there is no guarantee that what they are telling you is the truth, there is absolutely no way of proving it. They will simply tell you what you want to hear.

    • That is a possibility, and that’s why I would never buy second hand shoes online. I’ll stick with legit sellers and well-reputable websites.

      Then I know for a fact that I’m getting what was advertised and have a peace of mind that I won’t be getting ripped off.

      Thanks for your input.

  9. Great article and topic by the way. so i only have one question:

    1.) If i ask the online seller all the possible questions to verify that what they are selling is legit, how is it possible to prove that what they are saying is true about the shoes i want to buy?

    • I guess you’ll just have to go by trust. You can’t really confirm anything since you don’t own the shoe.

      It sucks I know. But that’s one of the downsides to buying second hand online.

  10. Really interesting article on shoes. I must say that I have never and would never buy previously worn shoes online for all of the reasons you stated in your article. I bought new shoes twice and had poor fitting on both occasions. This was enough to convince me to not even contemplate further purchases online.. thanks so much for your tips

    • That sucks that you purchased ill-fitting shoes online.

      Yes it can happen and that’s why if you want the perfect fit, you need to take your foot measurements and then go to the companies official website to compare your measurements with the sizes.

      When you know your size it only takes about 60 seconds to find the right fit. Be sure to add 1/2 an inch in the front for your toes to move. and 1/2 inch in the back of the ankle.

      That’s the bulletproof way to get a perfect fit if you’re worried about it happening again.

  11. Thank you so much for putting in so many things to consider when buying second-hand shoes. This is important for someone who collects shoes as a hobby.

    But my personal belief is that buying second hand shoes is not a good idea because of the risk of health problems. 

    However, there is no doubt that this article is very useful for someone who is a second-hand shoe buyer. I appreciate your efforts. I wish you good luck.

    Best Regards!

    • You are right about there being health problems, however, this is only true with shoes that have been worn numerous times before.

      Second hand shoes that are barely worn are still good to use by someone else.

      Thanks for the comment, darshana.


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