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 (all used) on eBay.
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 avoid shoes for 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 footsies 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…
Shoes are plentiful at nearly every thrift store, yard sale, and discount store. 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 below 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, try shoes!
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?
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?
Resellable shoes 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 shoe inventory than sourcing it! (Check out how we store our eBay shoe inventory)
Things to look for besides brand:
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. The more brands you know, the faster you’ll be, and the less likely you are to leave items behind. So let’s do this!
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, 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, 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. 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.
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.
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!