How to Sanitize Used Shoes

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Coach Boots

Stomping around in someone else’s shoes isn’t something I normally recommend, but from time to time I’ll come across a really nice pair of shoes at a yard sale that look like they were worn once. And when that happens, we’ll, they’re coming home with me.

Let me give you a few examples …

Black Keen Sandals

These Keen sandals were $4 at a consignment sale.

New Balance Mary Jane Sneakers

These New Balance Mary Jane sneakers were $1 at a yard sale.

Merrell Sandals

These Merrell sandals were $5.99 at a church rummage sale.

Coach Boots

And these Coach boots were $7 at a yard sale.

All of these shoes are from brands that are known for their quality, and they’re in great condition. And here’s the thing … these are all shoes that we’ve been wearing for a while, so they were even nicer when we bought them. If I can get shoes like this at yard sale prices, I feel like I’d be crazy to pass them up.

But buying used shoes (even worn-once shoes) means you’re buying something that someone else’s feet have been in. How can you ensure that you aren’t buying something with athlete’s foot?

You can’t, but you can sanitize them, so that it’s not a concern. Just stick your new shoes out in the sun for a few hours, and you’ll be good to go. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant. In fact, if you buy your shoes at a yard sale on a hot summer day, they’ve probably already been baking in the sun for a few hours.

How Do You Feel About Used Shoes?

Do you avoid them at all cost? Do you have times when you’re willing to buy them? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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  1. It’s funny but as I read this I realized that probably over 1/2 my shoes have been bought at thrift stores or charity shops. Many had never been worn or were very lightly worn and are made from leather.They are all high end, well made shoes designed to last. No sweat shop, designed to last a season shoes made from all man made materials.

    Brands include Merrell, Sperry, Clarks, Oka B, Talbots, Born, Sofft, Cole Haan, Talbots and Enzo Angiolini. I found a pair Robert Zur patent leather driving loafers that had never been worn, they retail for $170 and I paid $4 because shoes were half off that day.

    Running shoes I only buy new because they take a pounding and proper fit is imperative to keep from being in pain, especially when it comes to distance.

  2. It sounds like you and I have very similar shopping habits — I look for a lot of the same brands.

    I often get five years (or more) out of a pair of shoes because I buy high end brands. I try to stick to leather shoes because those pleather (aka vinyl) look-alikes scuff so easily and are far less comfortable.

    Every once in a while, I’ll find brand new running shoes at thrift stores, but like you, I tend to buy those elsewhere. I actually got lucky and won a pair of $90 Keen hiking shoes in a raffle, so that’s one of my pairs at the moment.

  3. I probably messed up because I bought used nike running shoes at a rummage sale. sounds like I should have passed them up, but the bottoms didn’t even look like they had seem the pavement at all and I only paid $2. do you think the sun will still disinfect them, or should I just pitch them?

    1. I don’t think you messed up at all. It sounds like you bought a really nice pair of sneakers. I’ll buy used shoes, if they look like they’ve barely been worn. Sometimes people wear shoes once, and decide they don’t like the way they fit. And that can mean a really great deal for someone else. Just stick them out in the sun for a bit, and you shouldn’t have a thing to worry about.

      1. Does it have to be hot sun? What if it is already cooler weather where I live now that it is October? I am looking to buy used Doc Martens on Ebay. Not that $98 for new was a bad deal, but looks like I can get the used ones for $45, wstill too much, but I checked Etsy and theirs cost more than new. I thought since I was looking for small size UK 3 I’d score a better deal, but not so. I was figuring though that docs look cool worn in a bit and used, seems everyone’s gets like t hat anyway, maybe pretty quickly as the leather wrinkles from getting bent when worn so figure my $98 shoes may look like $45 ones in a few weeks anyway? It says very lightly worn, whatever that really means. How does sun really even reach into a boot? I suppose I take the laces off and pull the tongue out as far as possible. I’m still thinking getting some kind of anti-fungal. Since this is older post, maybe I will not get any answers, argh.

        1. Hi Jennifer,

          This trick works year round. It’s the UV rays that do the job, more than the heat of the sun. For boots, I’d do just what you suggested, and remove the laces and pull the tongues out, so the sun gets as far into the boot as possible. You could also spray the inside of the boot with something like hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol just to further sanitize them.

  4. I’ve learned my lesson. I didn’t clean one used pair and my poor toenails paid for it, so don’t be like me and take the cleaning lightly, you will regret it if it happens to you.

  5. Thank you for your comments and yes I have been picking up new and gently used shoes too and probably have over 35 prs. Yesterday I hit the jackpot and picked up 5 prs of SAS shoes for $1 each and one new pr for $5. The lady volunteering in the church rummage sale donated them. Very thoughful of the church to have this for their church progrM andthe we appreciate the deals.

    Thank you,

    Yee Lin

  6. Hey! I got a pair of used Cate the Great boots by Sorrel. They are tall boots. They pull on, not unzip. How can I be sure the toe area and inner sole gets disinfected? Thanks!

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