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Buying & selling

Sole-Less Ambition: 5-Step Guide to Buying Second hand Shoes

You can have pre-loved pumps without walking a mile in someone else’s shoes…

Most of us know that there’s a world of worn clothes, waiting for us just a few clicks away, filled with unique and cheap items that will fit perfectly inside our wardrobes and our wallets. Yet many Prelovers still aren’t sure whether or not purchasing second hand shoes is just as good an investment. I’m here to tell you that yes, it can be.

A rack with several pairs of shoes

As a girl that owns over 70 pairs of stilettos, I agree that some concerns about comfort and value are valid. Through maintaining a shoe habit collection I’ve come to realise that the Preloved marketplace is perfect for savvy shoe-shoppers; we just need to be pointed in the right direction. No one wants to feel like they’re getting walked over, so here are some of the steps it’s worth taking before striding out into the second-hand shoe market.


Black leather bootsSo you like the look of a pair of shoes? Look again. It’s really easy to miss tell-tale signs that a pair has been over-loved and deserves to stay at home. Zoom in to check for scuff marks on the toes, discolouration of the fabric inside, and inspect the backs for signs of heavy wear. Also look at laces, buckles, and straps for signs of deterioration. Don’t be afraid to ask for more/better quality images, most sellers are happy to engage with potential buyers, and if they aren’t then it’s worth questioning why.


Some materials hold up to casual wear better than others. For example, real leather stops being as comfortable when it has already moulded to the shape of someone else’s feet. In contrast, PVC may be worn in just enough to be comfortable by the time the shoes are listed. Polyester fabric often holds its shape, but you may want to consider how it takes to being cleaned, especially inside if you’re going to anti-bac the shoes when you get them.

Heels and Soles

The soles of a pair of black stilletos

The heels and soles of the shoes are the best guide to whether “only worn once” means “in a barn”. It’s perfectly possible to find footwear that is ready for a second lease of life, but some shoes need a bit of pre-care before they’ll be ready to wear: look for unevenness caused by walking and consider that the price of getting them repaired may detract from the deal you think you’re getting. If in doubt, simply ask how worn the heels are when ysou first make contact with the seller.


Some styles make better pre-loved purchases than others. High heels and dress shoes are frequently bought for special occasions and are sold on due to infrequent use; this doesn’t mean listings in other categories aren’t good value for money, but consider why the owner might not enjoy wearing them before committing to buy. The style also has the power to put a spring in your step, or see you tripping over your feet. Open styles (such as loafers and pumps) have less support which can be especially noticeable if they’ve been previously stretched by someone else. As a rule of thumb, if the shoes are secured onto your feet (with laces, zips, etc.) you have a better chance of second-hand success than with those that aren’t.


You’ve made your choice, you want the shoes, but the price doesn’t include postage…  Again, polite contact is the best way to get the best deal here. Many sellers find pricing the postage of shoes difficult, as there’s no one cost fits all option to suit every style. So if you’ll accept second class, or don’t need the box, speak up and save.

With so many sellers listing so many pairs, there’s pre-loved footwear out there for all of us. My experience is that purchasing second hand items over the internet is not an exact science, and that buying shoes is the same as anything else once you know what to look for. Shop around, purchase wisely, and you and your shoes will be walking off into the sunset in no time.

For more shoe buying advice, you can contact Hana on Twitter @HanaFaber!

Hana Faber

Hana Faber

Community User

Hana Faber is a contributor in our Write for Us series and is a student living in London. When she's not busy buying shoes on the internet, Hana studies Psychology BSc at Birkbeck University, and is employed as BBKSU's Women's Officer. She also works as a freelance copywriter, but mostly enjoys creating content around current affairs, fashion & beauty, and the environment.