Photo (cc) by random letters
A friend recently sent me a link to a pair of Maison Martin Margiela boots at Nieman Marcus with the message, “Hey, I know you’re always hunting for sales. This is a great deal!”
I clicked the link and my jaw dropped. On sale, these boots are going for $843. Granted, they were originally priced at $1,875, so that is technically a great deal. But who spends $843 on shoes? I don’t spend $843 on rent!
Call me a miser, but I typically spend $50 or less on my shoes. Sale prices usually mean I score a pair of sandals for $9.99. And honestly, I don’t think you should spend more than $50 either, so keep reading.
1. Choose quality over quantity
In the past, I bought cheap, poorly made shoes trying to save money, but I ended up having to replace them at least once a year. Finally I wised up and started looking for good deals on higher-quality shoes. Not only do they last longer (I’m up to five years with the same pair of boots), but I no longer have foot pain.
Here are a few things to look for when you’re shoe shopping:
- Stitched seams – Cheaper shoes often have glued seams that fall apart faster than stitched seams.
- Interior lining – Look for a shoe with a thick interior lining, which will protect and cushion your feet, reducing pain.
- Good tread – Cheaper shoes often skimp on the tread, or bottom of the shoe. Look for a shoe that has a thick, grooved tread to improve traction.
- Material – Better materials will keep your feet from hurting or sweating and will last longer than cheaper materials. For example, real leather outlasts pleather.
2. Comparison shop online
I buy most of my shoes online because I’ve found lower prices and better selections. I can also comparison shop without having to run around to several stores. Here are a few of my go-to shoe websites:
- Zappos – Offers a wide selection with free shipping and returns.
- 6pm.com – An online outlet store. Deals go quickly, but I’ve seen up to 80-percent-off specials.
- Shoebuy.com – Has a price-match guarantee. Find a better deal on another website, and they’ll refund you 100 percent of the difference.
When you compare shoe prices online, don’t forget to factor in the cost of shipping and make sure the site has a good return policy. As a rule of thumb, I look for sites that offer free return shipping and at least a 30-day return window.
3. Use coupons
I never finish checking out on a site without looking for a promo code first. Most retail sites offer them throughout the year. Check out:
If you can’t find a coupon code online, try this trick we talked about in A Sneaky Way to Get Discounts Online: Fill your cart, enter in enough information so that the site has your email address, and close the window. Sometimes the site will send you a reminder email with a coupon within the next day or two.
4. Shop flash sales
A few websites post short sales (known as flash sales), and the discounts can be huge. I recently got a pair of $92 sneakers for $39 during a flash sale clearance.
You’ll have to act quickly – most sales end within 12 or 24 hours and the selection is limited – but the discounts are usually worth the hassle. Check out:
- JackThreads – Men’s clothing and shoes
- Rue La La – Home goods, clothing, shoes, and accessories
- Gilt – Men and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories
5. Buy off-season
Clothing, shoes, and accessories hit the stores according to seasons. In-season you’ll find occasional sales, but you’ll get the best deals waiting until the end-of-season clearance.
Available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, I’ve found shoes for more than 50 percent off hitting clearance sales.
6. Match shoes with your wardrobe
I love funky, bright-colored shoes, and I used to buy several pairs a year. Of course, when I got home I realized that my clothing didn’t really match the shoes, and they ended up sitting in my closet until I finally donated them or gave them to a friend. Now, I shop for shoes that match the wardrobe I already own. They’re not as fun as the funkier styles, but I get more use out of them.
7. Buy classic styles
Instead of stuffing my shoe rack with a pair for every occasion, I only have a few pairs of shoes that I consider “all-purpose.” For example, I have a pair of sneakers for running, a pair of low-heeled black pumps for nicer clothing, a pair of boots for the winter, and a pair of plain-colored flats to wear with everything else. Every pair is in a simple classic style that will work with any outfit. This way, I don’t need as many pairs and spend less money.
8. Sign up for reward cards
Many brick-and-mortar shoe stores have a free loyalty program or rewards card. Sign up and you’ll get coupons, information on upcoming sales, and other special offers throughout the year. For example:
- Designer Shoe Warehouse: With DSW Rewards, you’ll earn points for every purchase. Points can be redeemed for $10 gift certificates.
- Foot Locker: Sign up for Foot Locker’s VIP club online, and you’ll get a coupon for $10 off $50.
- Famous Footwear: Earn 1 point for every $1 spent with your Famous Footwear Rewards membership. Famous Footwear also emails coupons and sales throughout the year.
9. Do the math at outlet stores
Those big signs that say “66% off”? They’re usually talking about savings off the suggested retail price, which can sometimes be hugely inflated over the price the product actually sells for, especially if it’s been on the rack a while.
To make sure you’re getting a good deal, check out the actual retail prices before you head to the outlet mall.
10. Give old shoes new life
Instead of tossing out a pair of shoes when you’re sick of the style, do a little DIY work and give the pair a second life. For less than $10 and about 30 minutes of my time, I’ve been able to completely revamp shoes, and I’m no cobbler. Here are a few ideas:
- Cover a pump with lace
- Replace plain shoelaces with ones that have a cool design
- Add a shoe clip. (You can find homemade shoe clips on Etsy.)
- Glue on a strip of fabric in a contrasting band across boots
11. Have a swapping party for kids shoes
I don’t have kids myself, but my friends who do are constantly telling me how quickly their child outgrows clothes and shoes. Recently, a friend told me that her daughter had gone up a shoe size before she could even wear her new pair of baby Nikes.
If you’re running into the same problem, why not host a shoe swap day with your friends and family members? Have everyone bring over the shoes their kids can no longer wear and trade. You’ll get the sizes you need without having to buy them.
12. Rent or borrow for special occasions
Since I work from home, my wardrobe is pretty much jeans, T-shirts, and sweaters. I own one cocktail dress and an old bridesmaid dress. Last month, I decided to attend a gala benefiting a local New Orleans charity at the last minute and had nothing to wear. Rather than spend money on a pair of heels I’d only wear once, I just borrowed a pair from a friend for the night.
Borrowing from friends and family is usually free, but if they don’t have your size or the style you want, you can rent shoes from some special occasion rental stores. For example, prom dress rental places in my area also rent shoes and other accessories.
13. Take good care of your shoes
Take good care of your shoes, and they’ll last much longer. Here are a few must-do’s to keeping your shoes in good condition:
- Wipe shoes down with a dry cloth or shoe brush after you wear them to get dirt off before it can scratch the shoe.
- Store shoes in a shoe rack or on a shoe tree to help keep their shape.
- Invest in a leather conditioner and condition your leather shoes.
- Store out-of-season shoes in plastic containers. I’ve dug a few pairs of boots out of the back of my closet a year later only to find them stained, mildewed, or misshapen. Now I keep boots in individual plastic containers.