Sunday Shoes: Born Shearling Boots

I don’t thrift many pairs of shoes, but it’s not for lack of trying. These fuzzy boots represent a major thrifting triumph, however, as they set me back $16 and are fabulously comfy. They look a bit of a mess just sitting there, but on actual feet they’re cute and cozy.

Do you thrift for shoes? I know the prospect is a bit ookey to some folks, even veteran thrifters!

  • Wendy

    I would but having ginormous feet prevents me from doing so. However, I am not above looking at men’s shoes.


  • Kenzie

    I definitely thrift for shoes! It is pretty tough though because it can be hard to find thrifted shoes that don’t already look pretty beat up. Usually I have decent luck with boots because they’re sturdier (though a nice flat pair of boots in my size goes quickly) and with dressier shoes. It’s pretty easy to find the heels that people bought because they were pretty and then rarely wore. I kind of do the same thing, but I feel more justified when I’m paying $5 for it. All my dress shoes are either thrifted or Payless, I can’t justify anything else when even the most basic of the bunch only get worn 2-3 times a year.

  • Angela

    I just had a conversation about this with a woman I was standing in line next to this morning! She said she wouldn’t buy used shoes. I do, though. At least for me, the “I’m getting a killer bargain” factor wins out over the “someone else’s feet were in here” factor. I have a pair of Louboutin booties that I saved $1000 on by buying them used. There’s no way I could ever afford them brand new!

    I’d love to see what other readers have to say about the methods they use to clean thrifted shoes. Generally I use either a sudsed-up paper towel, or an alcohol wipe.

  • Molly

    I’ve tried, and my only real “success” involved some really great, sturdy old boots that just never fit right and I had to give away again. I suspect shoe thrifting is best for those who like to wear a lot of fancy-looking heels: I see a lot that I bet the previous owner didn’t wear much, so they’re still in good shape. The comfortable shoes I prefer are the type that usually get worn to death before they ever appear in thrift stores, and by that time (especially if they weren’t high quality to begin with), they’re looking pretty grotty, not to mention shaped to someone else’s foot. I guess shoes are just something I’ll have to buy new!

  • K-Line

    How did you find shearling for 16 bucks!!! My shearlings (admittedly, not bought online or on sale) were more than 300 bucks!

  • Molly

    I’ve been buying used shoes on ebay for years. How else would I get my vintage Doc Martens? I’m not scared of thrift store shoes, as long as they’re not smelly when I get them. Some of my favorite shoes have been from thrift stores! Some people find it a little gross, but I’ve never gotten a fungus or anything.

  • Miss T

    I’ve had good luck with vintage shoes on Etsy. I stick to Italian brands (Prada, Amalfi/Rangoni, etc.) made in the 80s and 90s that are only slightly used which really translates to “like new”. One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that leather shoes that are 20+ years old have contracted somewhat, so for me that means getting a half- to whole- size bigger than what I’d buy for new shoes. This is particular true of shoes with leather soles, as opposed to those with synthetic soles. In boots, I’ve had good luck buying the same size in used pairs as I wear today.

  • Laura

    I thrift shoes all the time – an “ew” factor had never occurred to me. (Undies/bras – that’s where I draw the line.) I agree that heels and fancy shoes tend to be easier to find in near-new shape. I have a fairly large foot but have done pretty well nonetheless. I probably have a 75% success rate – some shoes that seem OK when you try them on just don’t work for a whole day. But that happens to me with new shoes as well.

    The other day one of my local shops had a collection of Ferragamos which were in lovely shape. I tried one pair in my size on – not something I’d actually use much, and at $50 it was too much to justify, but it’s probably the most expensive shoes I’ve ever had on my feet.

  • Water Baby

    Absolutely! I have Doc Marten, Keen, Frye, and Fluevog all at the thrift/consignment shops. The most expensive pair was $16 and the cheapest was $5. All in amazing shape, especially thankful that someone else did the breaking in on my Docs. I have had those murder my feet in the past. Guidelines need to be set as far as smell, look and fit but I don’t see anything wrong with it. To each their own though!

  • Tina

    Right now I am dealing with plantar faciatiis. It is extremely painful and has probably been brought about by wearing inexpensive shoes or shoes with poor support. The only thing I can wear are these extremely expensive and hideous orthopedic shoes. I had to get custom fitted for $500 orthotics. Even though inexpensive shoes may be a good price now, keep in mind that it may impact you later. Please make sure that your shoes are good quality and provide you with the support you need.

    • tagatha

      I had to give up inexpensive shoesl and am now wearing custom orthotics as well. But comfortable shoes don’t need to be ugly (note that I’m not saying they are cheap either)! You might find something from here: (I am in no way affiliated to this website, just found it through some random surfing).

  • Grace

    Oh, my goodness, yes.
    Mostly boots, but not exclusively.

    Here are my top few thrifting shoe-scores:

    A pair of pointy-toed 15 inch Nocona boots in camel brown, circa 1960s. Currently in the shop to get resoled after two years of wear– gonna set me back 75$ … and I bought ’em for $30 at a vintage shop 90 minutes from my town, in Hot Springs, MT. I actually tried ’em on, loved ’em, but talked myself out of them. Then a week later an acquaintance mentioned he was going up to Hot Springs and I leaped at him and pressed $30 in his hand and said he HAD to bring me back those boots. The gal in the store remembered me and knew just which ones he needed. :)

    Embossed leather western boots (circa late 70’s…) picture a T-bird eagle on the toe… $15. Have put $80 into them and would again. Consignment/second hand that went out of business.

    $35 black leather baby-bottom-soft brazilian “city boots”– from Etsy this year, up to the knee, panels and buckles, and I’m wearing them as often as I can.

    A pair of Israeli BeautiFeel pumps… for $15.00.
    These are super duper expensive shoes, IMO… and they are lovely. Feminine, kind of retro, but really way more comfortable than normal heels. I don’t WEAR heels, normally… but I can wear these.

  • Trish

    I’ll buy thrifted shoes if:

    1.) I can wipe down the foot bed with disinfectant or bleach

    2.) I’m able to take the insert out and wash it in super HOT water to ensure I’m not sinking my feet in to someone else’s toe fungus or athlete’s foot.

  • D

    I thrift for shoes, though I can’t say that there have been many triumphs for me on that front. I just got some cute booties the other day, but its usually hard for me to find stuff in my size that is actually cute. I have NO luck with shoes at the thrift store closest to my house, but there is another that isn’t super far away that always seems to have good shoes.

  • Lindsey N.

    Those seem crazy comfortable! I’m really picky about thrifting shoes…I make sure that they are hardly worn because I feel like there’s no point thrifting gross shoes!

    Lindsey Soup

  • Hayley Penor

    I always look in the shoe section of thrift stores but so far have never found anything worth buying. I would buy if I found something good though. Just curious, did you wash the shearling before wearing them yourself? If so, how did you do it?

    • Sal

      I threw them in the freezer inside sealed plastic bags for a few days. Since they’re always going to be worn with socks, that’s good enough for me! Kills most bacteria.

      • Raquelita

        You have room in your freezer for a pair of boots like this? I stand amazed.

        • Sal

          They squish. And we eat a LOT of produce. 😉

    • S

      Same story here, never seen anything worth buying. However, I have bought used shoes in Kenyan markets. There the vendors actually wash the shoes and then lay them out neatly, it’s in the open air as well so that kinda takes care of the “musty” thrift store smell.

  • TC

    I love thrifting shoes. I think my best buy is a pair of Tod’s, still in the box for a whopping 2.99. I have bought Born’s, Clark’s, all kinds but my two favorite are a pair of nearly new Dansko clogs and Joseph Siebel walking shoes, both for under 5 bucks. I have to say those Tod’s are like the Holy Grail of thrift purchases for me.

  • Laurie Olson Williams

    I got my Haflinger super-supportive clogs at a Saver’s for *7 bucks*. As opposed to the $80 or more that they would cost new. I check the bottoms of the soles for wear patterns — if they are in good shape, then heck yes, I’ll buy the shoes. I got my favorite pair of dancing shoes that way, back in college: black suede “granny” boots with a small heel that I can dance in all night. I need to get the heel caps replaced, though.

    The ‘ick’ factor simply isn’t there for me. I’ll consider wiping them out with rubbing alcohol now that it’s been mentioned, but really, it’s just not an issue for me. Then again, I grew up in hand-me-downs and garage sale finds. :)

  • WA_side

    I used to think “eww, gross” when it came to thrifting shoes, however as my budget tightened and I became more interested in putting a complete outfit together, I learnt to take it in my stride.

    I prefer to go for all leather where I can, and am careful about whether they have developed wear marks inside or out, so as not to develop someone else’s foot or gait issues. I’m in Western Australia, so don’t often find couture or designer brand names, but sometimes “B-list” brands pop up.

    Double bagging the shoes and putting them in the deep-freeze for a few days, will kill any (most?) bacteria that may be inside the shoe. Do not be forgetful or impatient and try to wear while still frozen / semi-defrosted – completely destroyed the sole of the pumps I did this to.

    Other than my one destruction, all other shoes (including suede) have survived just fine and are odourless afterwards. I still clean with a rag and water/vinegar mix anyway, but it probably isn’t really necessary. I even put my teen son’s sneakers in the freezer when they started to stink up more than just his room, and again, success.

    As with all thrifting, a real bargain depends on knowing your current wardrobe well, and seeking out the gaps. Otherwise versatility is good, though can sometimes be blown away by a standout that defies being pigeonholed. (Sally, I’m looking at your collection here!)

  • Aris Merquoni

    One of my biggest thrifting scores was a pair of Allen Edmonds McTavish wingtips for something like $6. Perfect fit, beautiful condition, just shelled out for a new pair of laces. I love wearing menswear-inspired pieces, and shoes are a perfect way to mix some menswear feel into an outfit.

    • Aris Merquoni

      … okay, they’re McAllisters, not McTavishes. But still. Point stands!

  • Bethie the Boo

    I’ll thrift shoes as long as they’re decent looking shape! I have found outstanding deals on shoes in consignment shops like Clothes Mentor.

  • H

    Yeah, I probably would not do the shoes, but those were probably very expensive at one point.

  • Nuranar

    I’ve never actually thrifted shoes… but then, I rarely actually thrift at all. I have bought a lot of vintage (1930s and 1940s) shoes, though, mostly online and two pair in person. At a guess I have 20 wearable pairs, plus two pairs of overshoes (one trimmed in fur). I wear a modern size 9, so don’t let anyone tell you they all had tiny feet back then! I see quite a few on ebay that are too big for me.

    It never occurred to me that there was anything funky about used shoes. I don’t think I’ve ever cleaned any. I may have left a pair outside to air out if they came in packaging that smelled like cigarette smoke; and a few I’ve taken to the cobbler for repairs, although that’s usually after a few wearings. To be honest, though, most of the shoes had probably been unworn in 50-60 years. A few came in original boxes and were virtually unworn or old store stock to begin with. So there’s little reason to think of foot funk with really old shoes, at least for me.

  • Mary

    I have a huge aversion to feet (even my own), so I’m pretty grossed out by the idea of thrifting shoes. BUT I will do it, depending on the shoe. I’m ok if it’s something easily cleaned and that won’t soak up the previous owner’s foot grossness.
    I just bought two pairs of heels at a thrift store that I’m happy with. They can easily be cleaned. I’d be more reluctant to thrift a pair with a completely closed shoe, like a boot, as that would be harder to really clean up. I’d probably never thrift something like these that you have (regardless of how cute they are…and they ARE cute), just because I’d be turned off from all the fluff and filling I see there. I’d always think it was still dirty.

    I freeze the ones i buy in a -80c freezer (I have access to one at work) and then wipe the inside down with ethanol.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m always thrifting for shoes for my boys. I can almost always find barely used shoes for them for almost nothing. My favorite are these little plaid lined deck shoes for my oldest. I’ve never been able to find anything for myself though–I have size 6 feet, so my pickings are usually pretty slim. Last week though, my frequent looking finally rewarded me with a mint condition pair of Kenneth Cole blue/black/white animal print flats in my size for $6. They had never been worn–I discovered because they’re really slippery, but nothing that some gripper stickers can’t fix!

  • Holly

    I don’t thrift shoes for two reasons:
    1) the germ factor oogies me. I’ve got no issues with thrifted pants, shirts, etc but shoes and feet are another thing for me.
    2) My ballet teacher always warned us against wearing other people’s shoes for long periods. Not because of germs, but because when a shoe breaks in to the certain shape of someone’s foot, it won’t support another person’s foot in the right way and might cause foot problems.

  • Celynne

    I definitely thrift shoes, but my standards are much higher. Cleanliness and smell are important factors, as well as how worn down the sole is. I just thrifted a pair of leather knee high lace-up boots for $8 two weekends ago though, no complaints there!