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What To Look For: The bulbous rubber toe is the easiest way to identify Keens. They make hiking boots, work boots, sandals, and casual shoes, but all have the same rubber toe which curls around the top. Leather Keens are worth more, but all except the most basic ones are worth picking up. As with most shoes, men’s items are worth more than women’s for this brand.
Quick Tips: One of the biggest problems with Keens (particularly the sandals) is that the rubber toe separates from the material underneath. The effectively kills any resale value they have, so be sure to push around the toe are to check for flaws.
Keen has this bad habit of putting the size information on a sticker in a high wear spot inside the shoe. If you can no longer read the size, take a guess and include a measurement of the insole.
What To Look For: Altra’s big claim to fame is their “Zero Drop” design with a wide toe box. This makes them very recognizable. Simply look for the wide toe and chunky sole. Their minimalist running shoes (very little sole) also have the wide toe box, and all styles have the Altra logo on the side.
The most valuable Altras by far are the leather and casual shoe/boot styles with the wide toe box. They are harder to find, but are usually worth at least 2x what the running shoes are and we have sold several pair for over $100.
Quick Tips: Altra is known for making very well padded shoes and this translates to several problems for resale. The soles are soft and squishy and tend to wear quickly and strangely, depending on their previous owner. Also, the big squishy inner lining tears easily, and often has holes in the heel area. Because people who want Altras are usually particular about their running, we only pick up shoes with soles in excellent shape.
18. DR MARTENS
In the past few years, Dr. Marten has gone from being the love of punks to being a widely accepted shoe maker. It’s no longer unusual to see Docs in the workplace, jobsite, etc.
What To Look For: Classic Dr Martens are easily recognized by their two main characteristics: the “airwalk” loop on the back, and the chunky sole. You’ll soon learn to recognize both and will be able to pick out all the vintage Docs in a sea of drivel. Newer pairs are harder to find, and you’ll recognize them by checking tags or by seeing the telltale DM on the side. The best selling boots or shoes are those with either two tones or unusual colors. For example, the best pair we have found recently was a metallic silver pair of boots that we could nearly see our reflection in!
Quick Tips: Invest in a good tin of neutral shoe polish for all the glossy but faded colors of Dr. Martens that you find.
What To Look For: If you see a pair of serious looking rubber and leather snow boots at a thrift store, they are often either Sorel or Lacrosse. While they are both worth reselling, Sorel boots are the cream of the crop and some used pairs can sell for over $100! Looking for the polar bear emblem embossed on the side is the quickest way to ID Sorel boots. The best boots are those with the lowest temperature rating, particularly men’s. The other excellent selling line is women’s fashion footwear, namely leather items such as booties, and sandals.
Quick Tips: Boots without liners and liners without boots are both also worth picking up to sell.
Chippewas is just one of many boot lines under the Justin Brand that is worth picking up. Also look for Justin, Nocona, and Tony Lama Boots.
What To Look For: Chippewas makes mainly heavy duty leather work boots. Keep a special eye open for “packer” boots that lace up and have a wooded heel. Made in the USA is a bonus as well.
What To Look For: The most recognizable Chacos are also those that are most in demand. The thick soled sandals with nylon straps are by far Chaco’s best seller and sell the best used as well. While we don’t leave any Chacos behind, the more unusual the strap color or pattern, the more you can ask. Also, wide versions are slower sellers but tend to bring more money. Also, look for the “Made in USA” tag that is sewn onto one of the straps that will tell you one of two things:
- The Chacos are vintage and are in high demand because they can be resoled
- The Chacos are a custom band color or pattern that is probably unusual and in high demand
Quick Tips: Be sure to identify the model of Chaco that you’re selling. The models are easy to identify by looking at other pair for sale and will help people who want that specific style find your listing.
I served a 2 year religious mission in Africa and the only pair of shoes I took with me was a pair of Eccos. While they didn’t make it the full two years, they lasted over 1,000 miles of walking before needing to be replaced! I was so impressed with them I hunted high and low in the market and ended up spending 110,000 shilling (about $45) for a nice used pair to replace my dead ones.
What To Look For: Look for men’s dress shoes in good condition. Both lace-ups and slip-ons are valuable but the dressier the shoe is the more it is (usually) worth. “ECCO” is almost always stamped on the side of shoes so the brand is easy to recognize.
What To Look For: Like most of the leather boots we flip, we find Frye boots by feel and then confirm it with the logo on the heel or inside. Men’s Frye boots are consistently worth much more than women’s and can sell for $200-300, even in used condition. Look for engineer boots, lace up styles, and dress shoes. Frye makes all types of women’s boots, shoes, and flats which are all worth picking up but not worth quite as much to resell.
24. HOKA ONE ONE
In direct competition to minimalist shoes and barefoot running movement, Hoka decided to produce what they call “Maximalist” shoes. That is, they have large, soft soles with way more than the average amount of cushion.
What To Look For: The large soles makes Hoka shoes very recognizable. Keep an eye open for bright colors with hefty, contrasting soles. The HOKA name is typically prominent on the shoe so you shouldn’t have much trouble spotting them.
Quick Tips: The soft cushy soles on Hoka shoes make them particularly susceptible to wear. The majority of shoes that we find have funky wear patterns and we leave them on the shelf.
25. SALVATORE FERRAGAMO
When we first started reselling, I found a pair of Salvatore Ferragamo Suede horsebit loafers for $8 at a local thrift. My research skills weren’t up to much, so I couldn’t find much on them and just bought them on a hunch. When I got home I learned that they were still available online and had an MSRP of $800!! I still felt strange about pricing my used items high so I put them on auction starting at $.99. They ended up selling for $153. While I haven’t found many Ferragamo shoes as nice since, we find a couple a month and they are always good sellers.
What To Look For: Salvatore Ferragamo typically makes men’s dress shoes and rather plain women’s shoes/heels. Keep an eye open for men’s loafers and brogues, especially the double bit loafers that the company is best known for.
While we do pick up and flip a number of boots with the name “Wolverine” on them, the company is actually much larger than that. What started as a leather shop in 1883 has grown into a worldwide business that owns Hush Puppies (their casual line), Cat Footwear, Merrell, Sebago, and Chaco, and are licensed by dozens of others including Harley Davidson, Sperry Topsider, Keds, Bates, Saucony, and more. Pretty much anything they own makes shoes worth picking up!
What To Look For: Leather boots – whether they’re work boots, casual boots, or western boots – are work checking. In fact, we check almost every pair of shoes we see that seems to be made of quality leather.
Quick Tips: One of the most important thing to note in a listing for workboots is the “toe status.” Is it a hard toe? Soft toe? Does it have a composite hard toe for electrical work? Knowing this can either add value to the sale or at least avoid an angry buyer who assumed something that wasn’t stated.
27. POETIC LICENSE
What To Look For: Anything crazy enough to catch your eye on the shoe racks is worth checking out, and this brand is no exception. Poetic License pushes “expression of individuality and zest for life,” so you’d expect their shoes to be exactly what they are: crazy. Look for mainly heels with bright colors and outlandish embellishments. All of them will have a style name printed on the inside (unless it’s worn off) that you can use to look up similar/solds on eBay. The most valuable ones seem to be those with a specific theme that are still modest enough to wear to work, e.g. a pair that we just sold that was covered with a print of tiny cherries and had a pair of plastic cherries as the “bow” on the front.
What To Look For: Leather chukka/desert boots are so in style right now that you should be checking the brand on any that you see. You’ll soon learn to recognize the smooth toe and sole of Clarks. While they make a full line of shoes, their desert boots seem to be the most recognizable and consistently sellable. Look for both suede and smooth leather versions in a variety of earthy colors.
Women’s Clarks (such as their Artisan and Bendables lines) do sell, but not for nearly as much as men’s shoes as the market is more saturated.
What To Look For: Standard canvas Converse are not worth much. Instead, look for brightly colored versions, pairs with a specific theme (a cartoon, for example), or older models that were made in the USA. Any of these have the potential to sell for 100’s of dollars if you hit on the right combination. As with most brands, men’s are worth more than women’s which are worth more than kids’.
Quick Tips: Be sure to torture test your Converse before buying them. The rubber trim tends to crack where the toe bends, and the canvas can separate from the sole. The inside lining is also prone to wearing off.
30. BED STU
What To Look For: If you see a pair of really nice boots that look like they have had the snot beat out of them, they just might be Bed Stu. Bed Stu makes pieces by hand, and each one of them is uniquely distressed. Look for dress shoes and boots in a variety of styles (both men’s and women’s).
And whatever you do…don’t polish the heck out of them and ruin the distressing! They’re made to look that way and we’ve seen some boots that were once glorious, totally ruined by over-polishing.
Remember, this list is not scripture. Trust your gut about what you think will sell and what won’t. More than perhaps any clothing item, quality shoes can typically be found by look and feel. If a pair of shoes feels and looks like quality, you better be looking it up! While this list is far from exhaustive, it should get you to the point where you can find something profitable every time you wander through the shoe section at a thrift store. Also, do yourself a favor and pick up some of these free USPS shoe boxes so you’ll always have something to ship your sales in.
How you store shoes is really dependent on the number you have. If you have a dozen or a couple dozen, buying a shoe rack from Walmart might be your best bet. But when we’re talking about hundreds or thousands of shoes it gets a bit trickier. We put all of our shoes into laundry baskets marked with an inventory number and record the number in the listing. While it would obviously be better for the shoes to have them stored flat (and not stacked) on a shelf, we simply don’t have the room for it. We do our best to be gentle with the shoes we’re selling and not scuff them up, though! When we wonder if we’re being too rough with shoes, we just remember how they were probably treated by their previous owner and how the thrift store we bought them from treated them before putting them on the sales floor. In reality, your shoes will probably suffer more from just sitting unused than from being stacked in a tote. So how do you keep them looking nice while in storage? Well, you need to take some precautions!
Precautions we take:
- Stuff Shoes. To prevent shoes from getting squished and misshapen in our inventory, we will typically stuff a wadded piece of newspaper into the toe area. Just be sure to use blank paper so there is no ink transfer to the shoe.
- Avoid Extreme Heat. Our shoes are kept in a storage unit with the rest of our inventory, and we have several pair die every year. The dry heat of Utah totally dry-rots rubber, and we’ve had shoes that have sold break in half when we try to ship them. If possible, find a temperature controlled unit.
- Condition Leather. Leather can also dry out and crack if left sitting for too long, so we typically condition high-end leather shoes/boots before sending them to storage. The leather usually retains enough moisture to be alright in the heat. Just be sure to treat the leather before taking pictures, as it has the potential to darken the shoes a bit.
- Move them. When all else fails, drop the price and sell your shoes. They’ll be fine in storage for a year or so, but any longer than that and you’ve probably priced them way too high anyway.
When it comes down to it, storage your inventory is just one more hurdle you have to overcome, whether they’re shoes or not. So, now that you have a bunch of brands added to your repertoire, figure out your storage, and get out there sourcing!