The Art of Buying Kids’ Shoes Second-Hand

by Mrs. Moneysaver on October 13, 2009

As I’ve shared before, I buy most of my children’s clothes second-hand.  Kids grow so fast and dirty clothes so quickly that I often just can’t justify spending store prices.  The same goes for shoes.  Except for rare clearance rack purchases, my kids’ shoes are second-hand.  What a money saver this has been!

Take a recent shoe purchase, for example.  I bought 7 pairs of shoes and 1 pair of Speedo swim socks from someone in my neighborhood.  These shoes are sizes 4 through 6, so I’ll store them away until Jack gets a bit older.  I usually don’t buy this many different pairs of shoes in the same size for my kids, but they were being sold in lots of 4.  Here’s my loot:


Can you guess how much I paid?

$6 (!!!) total

Including brands like LL Bean, Converse, Crocs, and Baby Gap.  All in excellent, hardly worn condition.

I’ve found a few really great places to shop for kids’ shoes:

1.  Local Yahoo Groups
I heard of this shoe sale through a local Yahoo group.  Search the Yahoo group directory to see if there’s a local parents or second-hand group you can join.  I like this buying option because you can just pick up the shoes in your neighborhood rather than pay for shipping.

2.  Ebay
This is the online haven of used items.  I just searched my daughter’s shoe size and found almost 700 items listed.  Downside of ebay:  The prices are often higher than I find elsewhere.  But finding what you want when you want it can save you time.  Just be careful not to get caught in a bidding war.

3.  Craigslist
Search by your local city.  I like Craigslist because you don’t have to pay for shipping and, at least in my area, there are always plenty of items listed.  And don’t be afraid to bargain with the seller.  I’ve personally listed several things on Craigslist in the past and the buyers have always negotiated the price with me.  It’s part of the Craigslist terrain, so use it to your advantage.

4.  Yard sales and consignment shops
I have found some great deals on new or almost-new shoes at these places.  In fact, the cutest pair of shoes my daughter has ever owned (think pink, glittery, and Wizard of Oz) came from a consignment shop.  These sales tend to be seasonal, however, so be prepared to buy ahead.  Downside to yard sales:  I have often found very worn shoes for sale at yard sales.  Don’t jump at the first (no-life left) pair you see.  Yard saling can take some time to find what you want in good condition.

5.  Freecycle and Freepeats.
Inexpensive is nice, but free is better, right?  Freecycle and Freepeats are both localized message boards where people post things they want to give away for free. While Freecycle users can giveaway anything, Freepeats is just meant for baby and kid items.

Some tips for buying shoes second hand-

1.  Know the brands.  And know what makes for a good shoe.
I get pretty excited when I see a pair of Stride Rites at a yard sale, but a pair of Faded Glory shoes (Walmart brand) is a less thrilling find.  It’s not because of the brand name, but often rather the quality and the make of the shoe.  Not that more popular or expensive brands are always higher quality, but it’s a good starting point when you’re shopping.  The higher quality the shoe, the longer the shoe will last for too.  Other shoe qualities to look for:  flexible sole, “breathable” fabric, textured sole for traction, and lightweight.  A good shoe is important for proper foot development and physical activity.

2.  Know how brands fit.
Often you don’t have the opportunity for your child try on second-hand shoes before you buy, so you need to know how the brands fit.  Get familiar with the different shoe brands on the market so you aren’t surprised.  For example, I know Crocs tend to run big, so I won’t be surprised to find the Crocs I bought today run more like a 6.5 or 7 than a 6.  How do I find this out?  Look for reviews online.  Or ask friends.  Also an option:  Try the different brands on your child in the stores.  I know.  I’m shameless.

3.  Focus on multi-season shoes if significantly buying ahead.
If you are buying for several seasons ahead, you are only estimating what size your child will be wearing and when.  Because of the uncertainty of what size will be needed many months or years down the road, I suggest only buying ahead multiple seasons for shoes that can be worn across different seasons.  For example, sneakers can be worn year-around here.  Great with pants in the winter or shorts in the summer at the park.  Same thing with Crocs.  Socks in the cooler months and no socks in the warmer.  But sandals are a different story.  I learned this the hard way.  Over a year ago I bought sandals for my daughter for this past summer, guessing on the size she would be wearing.  Sandals are only appropriate around here a few months of the year, and much to my disappointment and my daughter’s strangely long feet, the sandals I bought didn’t fit when May rolled around.  So as a general rule I don’t buy very seasonal shoes too far in advance of when my children will need them.

What other tips do you have for buying shoes for your children second-hand?

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