Every year or so, I have to buy a new pair of shoes. That’s not to say the shoes I buy are of particularly low quality, but I typically wear a single pair day in and day out until they fall apart. That said, there are some great tricks that can help you save money on your next pair of shoes, giving you more room in your budget for more important things like video cards and a new smartphone.
The world of footwear is a strange one on its best days. People spend hundreds of dollars for a shoe based on a number of factors including brand name, a particular technology, or a point of origin. For example, shoes made in America tend to go for a high price in part because the costs at the factory are higher. There’s also a pride in buying locally that puts locally made products in high demand.
I’m personally a big fan of San Antonio Shoes (SAS), which makes an excellent line of very comfortable shoes in Texas that seems to last forever. Unfortunately, these shoes can also be fairly expensive.
Here are some tips to help you save money on your next shoe purchase.
If you live in or near a large city, there is a good chance that you’ll find an outlet center somewhere within 100 miles of you. These centers are home to dozens of outlet stores from top brands including Nike, Adidas, and more. Texas has one of the largest outlet centers around in San Marcos, which is actually two outlet malls across the street from each other.
The real advantage of outlet malls is the savings. You can easily save 50-75% on top brand products. Some manufacturers test new products out in outlet centers to judge demand before going to a larger market, so you may also be the first on your block to get your hands on something really cool.
For the price of a pair of off-brand shoes that fall apart in a matter of weeks, you can typically find top-of-the-line merchandise that’s current, in style, and reliable.
I’ve written before about military surplus stores and the advantage of military-grade merchandise being sold at cut-rate prices. It’s easy to forget just how many shoe styles are made available to military both at home and abroad. Sandals, sneakers, dress shoes, boots, and hiking apparel that look exactly like what you would find on the civilian market can be picked up at a surplus store for a significant discount. Add to that construction that meets military specs, and you’ve got a great deal.
Kelly Clay, a fellow writer here at LockerGnome, is no stranger to saving money by finding deals online. As she recommends, “Zappos is the epitome of shoe sites. Great prices and great customer service. It’s what [it’s] known for.”
Zappos is indeed one of the best known online retailers not only for having decent prices, but its customer service is second to none. A lenient return policy, incredibly customer-centric support system, and a smooth interface are just some of the benefits that have helped Zappos build such a stellar reputation among consumers.
Chris Pirillo, a consumer advocate and frugal geek in his own right, advises, “Find the style you like, then look for a cheaper option online.”
One of the big benefits of online retail is the lack of overhead commonly associated with physical stores. Amazon (which owns Zappos), eBay, and their affiliated sellers can afford to shave some of the costs off the prices typically placed on footwear by traditional stores.
You can also pick out a number of other products such as shirts, pants, jackets, and other accessories at most online retailers. Even stores that specialize in shoes often carry other merchandise as a convenience for customers.
Use Insertable Insoles
Shoe inserts and insoles do a lot more than just make your steps more comfortable. They also extend the life of your shoe by relieving some of the pressure off the inside of the shoe with each step.
Not all shoes work with insoles, but some of the more quality ones do. Improved arch support, better shock absorption, and even odor control are just a few of the benefits of opting to improve your experience through this simple (and cheap) trick.
Turn Cheap Shoes into a DIY Project
This is another suggestion by Chris Pirillo, and one I rather like. Who’s to say you can’t turn a cheap pair of shoes into something truly unique and memorable by adding a few elements to personalize your footwear?
British Artist Finn Stone made international news by unveiling a pair of LEG-GO stilettos that featured LEGO bricks which covered every square inch of the shoe’s exterior. The shoe in question may as well have been a pair of discount off-brand kicks from the supermarket, but the fashion statement a little glue and a few colorful bricks can make is one inexpensive way to personalize and conceal even the most boring footwear.
There are plenty of great DIY projects you can do to jazz up boring attire. A drop of hot glue and a small accessory found at your hobby shop can turn boring into brilliant and let you express your inner geek.
After all, have you seen what passes for high-end fashion these days? Lady Gaga could tie a $3.00 steak to a stiletto and suddenly it’s a $10,000 fashion statement with thousands of clones and knock-offs hitting shelves across the globe.
Sometimes the cheaper show is cheaper for a reason. Don’t assume that the $10 pair of sneakers you see at your local supermarket will get you through the day. You can do a lot of damage to your feet, spine, and hips by choosing the wrong shoes. Keep comfort in mind when shopping. Even high-end footwear can be a bad fit for your feet.
Choose the right tool for the job. Running shoes are great for running, but may not be the best choice for everyday walking and lounging. The same could be said about skate shoes being poor choices for wearing during a jog. It’s never a bad idea to have a few pairs to choose from, each made to fill a specific role.
Kelly Clay suggests, “Wait for sales, buy knock-offs, and resell expensive shoes you only wear once on eBay. You can use the money you make from the sale to buy your next pair. You can also borrow shoes from friends and siblings.”
There are still plenty of shoe repair shops in business all around the world that specialize in restoring and even improving on your existing shoes. A good pair of high-end boots can last a lifetime with proper care and a little repair work once in a while. Sole replacement can allow you to enjoy the comfort of a pair of broken-in boots without losing the safety and reliability of good treading.
No matter what you decide, the money you save on shoes can really add up over time. Just think about how much closer you’ll be to saving up enough for that shiny new computer with an extra $50-100 in your pocket.