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It has been a longstanding goal of mine to go an entire summer without wearing shoes. Inside? No shoes. Outside? No shoes. Church? No shoes. Airport? No shoes…and probably a visit to a security room. Why this idea has always fascinated me, I don’t know… but it does seem to be at odds with my fascination (not weird, right? haha) for selling used shoes on eBay.
If you are a footwear guy or gal, eBay is your playground. There are currently 440,393 pairs of shoes on eBay in my size alone! Used shoes, new shoes, rare shoes, shoes for 50%+ off retail – you name it, and you can find it. And anywhere that there is a shopping bonanza for buyers, you can bet that there is a huge opportunity for sellers as well. In the past 90 days, we have sold almost $5,000 worth of shoes (80% of them used) on eBay.
We get most of the items we resell on eBay from thrift stores. If I could only check two areas at a thrift store, shoes would be one of them. Unlike clothing, it is typically easy to recognize shoes that are worth money, they are easy to photograph, and easy to list. And when they sell? Yep, easy to ship.
Many people (even full-time resellers) avoid learning how to sell used shoes on eBay out of fear that they will have loads of returns for fitment issues, or simply because they don’t want to sell grimy used shoes. Whatever the reason, the purpose of this article is to dispel this horrendous notion. We have found shoes with an MSRP over $800 at our local thrift stores and several of the following brands are actually increasing in value as they age!
Do people really buy used shoes online?
The world is divided into two types of people: people who are fine with used shoes and people who think used shoes are “EW!” If you are a reseller, it doesn’t really matter if you are into rubbing your feet where someones else’s have been or not. What matters is that there are millions of people who don’t see the “ick factor” and are happy to get their feet into some used kicks. In my experience, the majority of people who buy used shoes on eBay fall into one of these 5 categories:
- People looking for rare or hard to find shoes (Jordans, high end shoes, limited edition colors, etc.)
- People with unusual or mismatched shoe sizes (we have sold up to a men’s size 22!)
- People who want an exact replacement for a pair of shoes they have worn out
- People who are loyal to discontinued shoe lines or brands (eg. Skechers Shape-Ups)
- Deal-seekers and those with a tight budget
We have sold well over a thousand pairs of shoes on eBay and, despite market saturation, shoes sales don’t seem to have slowed much. There will always be people with feet (or foot, amputees buy single shoes off of eBay all the time) willing to give money to resellers. In fact, there are half a dozen resellers I know that sell exclusively shoes and do over $100,000 in sales per year. Who wouldn’t want a piece of that pie?!
Shoes are the perfect beginner’s item…
Selling used shoes is the perfect side hustle (in my opinion). Not only are they plentiful at nearly every thrift store, yard sale, and discount store but they are incredibly easy to sell online. With the plethora of sizes and styles available, you can almost always find something to resell with very little investment. What’s more, you don’t need a mannequin, a soft box, or any fancy equipment to make shoes look great. See those red wing boots above that we just sold for $123.45? They were stuffed with newspaper and the background was a piece of paper from the dollar store. So if you are just starting out and want something easy to source, easy to picture, and easy to ship, learn to sell shoes on eBay!
eBay Shoe Seller FAQs
Don’t you have tons of returns for fitment issues?
No, actually. Our shoe return percentage is lower than our store average (around 2%), and we rarely have expensive shoes returned. When people buy expensive shoes online, they are well aware that fit can be an issue so they either buy a brand they already own and know their size, go to a store and try on a similar shoe, or just guess and get lucky!
How do you ship shoes you sell on eBay?
Shoes are typically too large to fit in any sort of flat rate box so we send them in a Priority Mail Shoebox (available for free from USPS). Shoes typically weigh 2-3 pounds and we always use calculated shipping. If we are shipping a pair of extra heavy boots, we typically ship via FedEx.
Where do you find shoes to sell?
Shoes worth reselling can literally be found almost everywhere. We have gotten used shoes from thrift stores, yard sales, craigslist, school/church sales, discount stores, estate sales, store return liquidations, and even dumpsters! (How’s that one for the “ick factor”?) Once you know a handful of profitable brands, you are more likely to have problems storing your growing shoe inventory than sourcing it!
Most Profitable Used Shoe Types To Sell Online
When it comes down to it, brand is the absolute most important thing in deciding whether or not a pair of shoes will resell and the price you can ask for them. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Some well known name-brands resell miserably, and there have been shoes with absolutely no brand that we have sold quickly and for great money. The following 4 things are types of items we look for every time, regardless of brand. If an unbranded shoe pair has one or more of these things going for it they might be worth picking up, but couple it with a well known name and you’ve got a home-run!
A high quality material can give a pair of shoes an intrinsic value beyond what you’d normally expect from the brand. After all, a gold necklace with no brand is still made of gold! Look for shoes made of leather or suede, shoes that still have the hair on, painted shoes, embroidered shoes or shoes with inlays, and pretty much any material that looks out of the ordinary.
The shoes to the right are a good example. They are handmade (in Morocco apparently) and have no brand, size or makers marks. But because of the awesome amount of goat hair gracing the straps and the leather footbed/stitching they still sold for $40!
Unusual Shoe Designs
In 2012, Skechers agreed to a $45 million dollar refund settlement for making false claims about how their Shape-up line could help customers “get fit without ever setting foot in the gym.” Despite this (and similar debunking lawsuits for other unique shoe designs), people still love to get sucked into marketing and nearly every unique shoe design has developed a loyal, almost cult-like, following. If you see anything outside of the norm sitting on the shoe rack, it’s probably worth looking up. While we’re mainly referring to unusual designs, this can also apply to colors, materials, etc.
Shoes with a specific purpose
An extension of the “Unusual Shoe” vein of thought is to look for shoes that have a legitimate purpose. For example: fishing waders, weightlifting shoes, and orthopedic sandals can all fetch a pretty penny. When a friend of mine was redoing his roof, he called me up asking me if I had any “roofing shoes” in stock. I didn’t…because I didn’t know there was such a thing. After doing a bit of self education, I found out that roofing shoes were not a made-up thing, and they’re super expensive! While I haven’t found a pair yet, 5 minutes of educating myself and learning some of the more popular brands has given me the edge if I ever see a pair at a thrift store or yard sale!
Shoes with appealing “content”
I’m sure you remember in high school there were those weird kids who were always drawing pictures or writing things on their shoes. It might not shock you to know that I was one of those weird kids. I wrote “Right” and “Left” on the toes on my Converse as well as writing quotes on the sides which were inspiring to my teenage brain. That type of drawing and writing is a great example of something that makes shoes terrible for resale, not to mention making parents crazy. A good example, on the other hand, can include something like hand painted art pieces, embroidery, shoes from a specific sports team, shoes that rep a t.v. show or cartoon, etc.
Now that we have the groundwork laid, let’s get to the real meat of the matter. After all, the more brands you know, the more money you can make. If you don’t know brands, it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t find great things. However, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you will have to handle and look up almost every pair of shoes you find…meaning you’ll be slow and get passed up by every other seller in the store.
Now, I didn’t include many mall brands on this list. By all means, pick up the Calvin Klein boots or Stafford dress shoes if they’re in good condition and a great price, but those things are no brainers. Learning how to sell used shoes on eBay is about getting beyond the obvious. The more of these unusual brands you know, the faster you’ll be, and the less likely you are to leave items behind. So let’s do this!
The 30 Best Thrift Store Shoe Brands To Resell
1. RED WING SHOES
Founded in 1905, Red Wing Shoes got their first big break as manufacturers of fine shoes by making most of the shoes for soldiers in the First World War. They continued to refine their art by making fine leather shoes for soldiers in WWII, and their craftsmanship carries through to today.
What To Look For: Whenever we’re sourcing shoes to sell on eBay, we check all the men’s leather boots we see. Leather boots (and dress shoes) have the most profit potential, especially in thrift stores. Look for boots and work shoes. New sells, old and distressed sells, pretty much anything is worth picking up if it’s priced well!
Quick Tips: Also keep an eye out for Worx (Red Wing’s work shoe line) and Irish Setter (typically hunting boots).
2. JOHNSTON & MURPHY
Johnston & Murphy grew out of the William J. Dudley Shoes Company, founded in New Jersey in 1850. William J. Dudley was a master craftsman who had been schooled in the classical art of english shoe making. This strong influence is still found in Johnston & Murphy shoes today.
What To Look For: Johnston & Murphy makes exclusively dress shoes and boots. They have a distinctive style and you will learn the models as you see them – but the only real way to find them is by digging methodically through the racks. Unlike some brands, you won’t have to scour the shoe to find the brand name. Johnston & Murphy shoes always have the brand name on the inner heel.
Quick Tips: Be sure to include the model name of the shoe you’re selling in the listing title. People become loyal to distinct shoe lines and want the same ones every time. Many shoes of this brand have leather soles than can crack over time. Bend the shoe to look for cracks and be sure to check for heel wear.
3. ALLEN EDMONDS
Allen Edmonds is a U.S. based upscale designer with heavy influence from Italian Styles. Vintage shoes in good condition are a hot seller here. Distressed brogues are also great sellers, but be sure to check out the soles as they are particularly prone to wear.
What To Look For: Dress shoes of all types. Leather brogues with distressed uppers but solid soles are very good sellers.
Quick Tips: As with Johnston & Murphy shoes, Allen Edmonds have specific style names that you should include in your listing. We keep a tin of neutral shoe polish on hand to clean up and smooth out dress shoes. A 5 minute polish can easily add $20 on to your asking price. Also, for dress shoes such as these, invest in a quality pair of shoe forms for taking pictures (just be sure to mention that they aren’t included).
~DO THESE RUN TRUE TO SIZE? – QUICK TIP~
Occasionally we get questions from potential buyers who don’t seem to have any idea how eBay works. The truth is, the majority of items being sold are not coming from the original owner. Because of this, questions like:
- Do you find these fit true to size?
- Do you have wide feet? I do, and was wondering if these would fit me.
- Hey will you take pictures of yourself in these sandals? Maybe with purple toenail polish to match the shoe color? (Okay, maybe this one doesn’t need a response. This is a real question I have received though..)
First off, if you want to make money selling used shoes, don’t ignore questions like these! Ignoring them can lead to either a lost sale or bad feedback/a return if they buy them and they don’t work out. Here’s what we do: research their question and answer it! If you are selling a newer shoe that you can find online, both Amazon and Nordstrom have fitment guides and will tell you how the shoes run, size-wise. If that fails, we read reviews of the shoes to get a general consensus of how they fit. Then we respond to the question with something like, “I am selling these shoes on consignment but was told that they fit true to size. Thanks!” Sales every time.
Founded in 1975, ASOLO is a relative newcomer to the shoe industry. They are an Italian brand which specializes high quality, technical footwear with an emphasis on expeditions, trekking, and alpinism.
What To Look For: ASOLO does make a line of casual everyday footwear, but it’s almost always hiking boots that we find. You should be checking all the hiking boots you see, so look for the large logo and model name usually located on the tongue of boots.
Quick Tips: Be sure to thoroughly torture test ASOLO boots or shoes before you buy them. The soles are notorious for dry rotting if they have been sitting for too long. So bend them, twist them, maybe even step on them a bit. We sold a pair once that looked absolutely mint (they were vintage and must have been sitting in a closet for 15+ years), and the first time the buyer wore them the soles pretty much exploded off their feet.
White’s has been dedicated to creating “the finest work boots in the world” since 1853. They got their start making tough-as-nails boots for loggers, and built a reputation for the most comfortable, long-lasting boots. They produce their boots (still by hand) in Spokane Valley, Washington.
What To Look For: White’s Boots is most famous for their “Smoke Jumper” boots for wildland firefighters, and these are the most valuable to sell. They also make all types of outdoor work boots, both out of rubber and leather. If they are leather, they will always have the White’s logo on the side.
Quick Tips: Do not be put off by White’s boots in poor condition. Leather boots can be conditioned, resoled, and totally restored. The rubber bottom boots in the example picture were actually in terrible condition. The rubber had several large cracks in it and were beyond my skill to repair. I just explained the condition thoroughly, took pictures, and waited for a buyer dedicated/desperate enough to try and fix them!
Nike is a great brand to find at thrift stores and has been a very consistent seller for us on both eBay and Mercari. Condition is the most important factor on Nike’s selling price. Pristine, discontinued shoes can go for thousands if they’re still in their box! We’ve had the most luck with running shoes in excellent pre-owned condition. Often, we’ll run over these with some sneaker cleaner to make sure they look as good as they can!
What To Look For: The Nike swoosh is easy to recognize on nearly any shoe. Look for bright colors, shoes made of leather, and shoes with unusual soles. Regular old running or casual shoes from Nike can still do well on eBay, but only if they are in very good, clean condition. The more unusual the shoe, the more likely it is to be profitable.
Quick Tips: Be sure to torture test any Nikes you find. Bend and twist them around to make sure they don’t have cracks or that the tops aren’t separating from the soles. Nike is also one of the few brands that can be worth much more in clean condition, so invest in some shoe cleaning foam or wipes.
We only find a couple pair of UGG boots every month, but it’s always exciting for us! Made in Australia, Ugg boots are sheepskin and shearling, which makes them very soft and comfortable. Be sure to reach your hand all the way to the toe area as the fur tends to wear out there the soonest. Don’t avoid dirty boots (suede cleans easily) or other types of shoes with the UGG brand.
What To Look For: Be sure to look for slippers and sheepskin boots. The UGG brand is typically displayed prominently on the heel. There is always a code (typically 4 digits) on the inside of UGG shoes/boots that you can google to get an exact style name. If the boots feel light or cheap at all, be sure to make sure they’re genuine before listing them. The market is rife with fake UGGs which are easy to identify once you’ve felt the quality of the real thing.
Quick Tips: Ugg slippers and boots in poor condition still sell on eBay because people looking for a deal can always clean them. If you have limited funds for inventory you can always clean your Ugg boots yourself and ask a few more dollars for them. Unless you are strapped for cash however, cleaning them typically takes more time that it’s worth since you have to let them dry for at least a day before picturing and listing.
8. H.S. Trask
H.S. Trask is one of those brands that is quite expensive new but doesn’t have the brand recognition or demand to command high prices used. With that being said, we have still sold used shoes in good condition for $40-50 and people with better luck have gotten more.
What To Look For: H.S. Trask makes mostly dress shoes and, of those, the majority that we find are loafers. When we’re looking for men’s dress shoes, we typically grab out any shoe that looks nice or is in good condition and check the brand. While we probably miss some things, this way is much faster, and let’s face it, very nice brands in poor condition aren’t worth much anyway.
9. Cole Haan
Founded in the US almost 100 years ago, Cole Haan is known for both men’s and women’s footwear as well as accessories. Cole Haan is a brand known to most thrift stores so expect to pay a little more.
What To Look For: Condition is very important in Cole Haan shoes, but not in the way that you’d think. As long as the soles are in good shape, there is a buyer out there for them. If the uppers are mint, people want them. If the uppers are highly worn and distressed (but the soles aren’t worn out), people still want them. Keep a look out for dress shoes (men’s and women’s) flats, and boots. Although they are harder to find, look for shoes from Cole Haan’s collaboration with Nike-which are recognizable by the vibrantly colored soles.
Before I was an eBay seller, my Merrells were the most expensive pair of shoes I owned. When I needed new hiking boots, I headed straight to a local sports store (like an idiot) and dropped $130 on a new pair of Gore-Tex Merrell Boots. While I’m not impressed with my thriftiness, it does give me an appreciation for how expensive Merrell shoes/boots can be, and an understanding of why they are one of our best selling brands on eBay.
What To Look For: Merrell boots are very recognizable, as are their running shoes. After finding them a few times, you’ll be able to simply scan the rack and pick out any pairs. Merrell shoes all have style names and numbers which are printed on the inside of the tongue. This is also where the size and gender for the shoe can be found. Look for both hiking boots and Merrell’s barefoot running brands of shoes.
Quick Tips: Because people tend to put a lot of miles on their hiking boots, you can find Merrell boots with uppers in very good condition but terrible sole wear. Once you’ve determined that the soles don’t have any unusual wear patterns, be sure to twist and bend the shoes, as they tend to crack with age (or non-use) and can separate from the uppers.
11. Sperry Top Sider
“Well Bob, it sure looks like a beautiful day today. We’re looking at a high of 83 degrees and a high chance of men in Sperrys and salmon colored shorts…”
What To Look For: Sperrys are very easy to find at almost any thrift store. That’s not to say, however, that they are easy to sell – or that you should buy everything you find. Look for men’s boat shoes in very good condition or in wide sizes. Women’s boat shoes are extremely plentiful (both at thrift stores and on eBay), so we don’t grab them unless they’re $2 or less. As with all other clothing, unusual colors or designs tend to do better. Sperry also makes boots, dress shoes, etc. but you’re unlikely to recognize them unless you are checking brands.
Quick Tips: Older Sperrys tend to be pretty shapeless, so a good pair of shoe forms makes a world of difference. We typically store and ship Sperry’s with a wad of paper in the shoe to keep them looking nice.
Also, give older Sperrys a good bend before buying them, as the soles can harden into slick pieces of plastic that can crack.
12. Steve Madden
What To Look For: One of our local stores hangs all their boots (with those stupid little pinch hangers that ruin leather). The easiest way to find nice boots there is to simply walk down the aisle and touch as many boots as possible. Nice leather has a very distinct feel, and Steve Madden boots are no exception. Feelings aside, Steve Madden boots always have a large logo across the inside heel.
Quick Tips: All Steven Madden boots have a style name which is typically printed near the inside top. Using this style name in the title will really help your listing get found by people looking for that specific boot. Also, pick up a pair of boot forms for picturing taller boots that you don’t want to stuff with newspaper. If you’re too cheap to buy those, pool noodles cut to boot length also work well.
Despite their popularity, Birkenstocks are not readily available in the U.S. unless you want to head to a retailer and pay full MSRP. Dumb. While you can find a majority of sizes and styles, both times that Kirstie has ordered them recently they had to come straight from Germany because her exact size/style combo was not available anywhere else. This (along with their price) has created a huge aftermarket for all kinds of Birks online.
What To Look For: Strappy leather sandals. While certain colors and styles are worth more, they’re nearly all worth picking up. There are several sub-lines of Birkenstock (Birki & Papillo for example) that we also pick up as well. Watch out for fakes because they are plentiful and not profitable.
Quick Tips: Be sure to check the heels and toe area closely, as the cork will crumble and the footbed peels away from the sole. It is possible to clean Birkenstocks (we use this method for the footbed), but it’s simply not worth it if they are too far gone.
14. Tony Lama
What To Look For: Cowboy boots, western boots, riding boots, work boots, whatever the distinction is, almost anything Tony Lama sells well. The only items we avoid are older boots where the leather has stiffened or has cracks.
Quick Tips: As with all cowboy boots, check for excessive heel wear, cracks where the boot bends, and tears in the inner liner. If you are lucky enough to find Tony Lama boots made of exotic leather, going the extra mile to figure out what type it is can increase the value. If you can’t find similar skin patterns in boots for sale, emailing a picture to Tony Lama will usually help get them identified.
Every time I wear my Toms, I get funny looks. People seem to think that there is something wrong with a 6’3″ 250lb man wearing girl shoes. Weird.
What To Look For: When I think of Toms, the classic slip-on Toms that every girl and strange man wears come first to my mind. Slip-on Toms are the least valuable and most plentiful in thrift stores. Instead, look for men’s chukka boots and women’s suede boots. No matter the style, look for the characteristic blue TOMS logo patch on the heel.