Fabulous and Frugal Shoe Shopping

Stuart Weitzman Guy Thing Loafer
Image credit: Stuart Weitzman – coveting these shoes is acceptable.

I love shoes and am always on the lookout for the next fabulous and stylish pair I can get my feet into. How does this frugal girl shop for shoes? Go with classics and then make sure the pair hits these criteria: fit, style, comfort, quality, and lastly cost. Why last on the cost? Because I’m willing to splurge on shoes if they meet the other criteria, since I know I’ll wear them – for years.

9 tips for fabulous and frugal shoe shopping!

  1. Always check second-hand: While I always look for fabulous footwear while thrift shopping, I rarely have luck. I have big feet and my size isn’t always around. Yes, I picked up a pair of Ferragamo shoes for $7 – that were brand new. After wearing them several times, I donated them. They weren’t the most comfortable but they were fabulous! Be sure and inspect the bottom of the shoes for heavy wear patterns.
  2. Near Nordstrom Rack? Get in there! Much like shopping second-hand or other outlet type stores, if I’m close to a Nordstrom Rack, I make a point to check out their shoe selection – and in particular – the clearance rack. I look for brands that are stylish and comfortable – which honestly there aren’t many! I like Born, Clark’s, and Pikolonos. Dansko is another brand I like but only soft soles – the clogs are too heavy for me.
  3. Find a fit and brand that works: 15-years ago, I bought 2 pairs (same style + fit, different colors) of Stuart Weitzman shoes at Saks Fifth Avenue and still wear them. Yes, a total splurge but they’re classic, fit well, and are comfortable. They’ve been fixed twice but still look good. Don’t laugh but I did add labels to the inside of these shoes. One says ‘black’ and one says ‘brown.’ After wearing 2 different color shoes to a meeting and not knowing it, I decided it was time to help my failing eye sight.
  4. Learn from males: How many times have you polished your shoes? How many times have you had shoes fixed? If you answered ‘never’ then take a page from our male counterparts. They polish (or have them done) their shoes and get them fixed. Check to make sure the heels and soles can be replaced before you make a purchase. That way when you wear them out, you can have those replaced.
  5. Off season, use care: Before tucking summer sandals away, I clean and polish them – and store them with shoe trees tucked inside. Don’t have cedar shoe trees? I don’t either. Keep the paper stuffing that comes packed with new shoes – that’s a shoe tree! Shoes trees help shoes keep their shape. After winter, I make sure all the mud is off my boots before I store those, too. Wipe down with a damp cloth or rag and water. Easy.
  6. Check on-line: While I prefer buying shoes at brick-and-mortar stores – I’m old-fashioned and like to try them before I purchase – many companies offer free shipping and on returns, too. My favorite pair of fall boots are from Zappos. They’re Eco brand – and classic + comfortable. I bought them without trying them on and they worked. When I gave them to myself for Christmas years ago, I acted very surprised.
  7. Borrow: Need shoes for a special event? Borrow from a friend. My friend, Robin, and I wear the same size shoe. She has a pair of Prada shoes that go with a vintage dress I bought for $12. It’s an amazing dress but I’ve only worn it twice so why buy shoes when my friend has the killer pair?
  8. Test drive, first: Whenever I buy shoes for myself or kids, we wear them at home indoors only for several days. That way, we really know if they’ll work or not. Blisters? Too tight? Too loose? Wrong color? Hold onto your receipt and take them back.
  9. Don’t buy shoes while traveling: I learned this lesson the hard way. While traveling in Europe (doing a home exchange – of course), I love to poke around little shops and look at shoes – the smell, the colors, the fashion – I can’t get enough! I splurge and then – they’re not quite right. Since I’m not home to give my new shoes a test drive, they inevitably pinch or aren’t comfortable enough. There’s no chance of returning them – so now – I look but don’t shop. In Spain, I fell in love with Camper shoes and they just opened a shop here. Look out….

Zip lining Costa Rica with Go Gingham
My favorite shoes? Running shoes. They’re so comfortable and if you need to go zip lining, you’re ready.

Shopping for fabulous shoes while being frugal is smart. It’s okay to splurge on a classic shoe you’ll wear for a long time. By taking care of your shoes, you can wear them for years to come. It’s very Go Gingham!

What’s your criteria for shoe shopping? What brand do you love for comfort and style?

Go Gingham related links:

Gingham style: It’s got a definition
How to make a waistband smaller without pins!
How to turn jeans into capris – easier than you think!
How to make skinny jeans from wide leg jeans – make your own “jeggings”
Holiday attire that’s all used clothing – frugal and fancy to wear!

Sara

Sara, creator of Go Gingham, writes about real food, green living, and a healthy lifestyle - on fewer resources. She loves gingham - but tries to keep that in check.

13 Comments


  1. I especially like your “indoor test drive” tip. Great idea. I don’t believe in buying cheap shoes (at least the shoes I wear most of the time–I do have a few “cute shoes” for times when I will be doing minimal walking). Good, supportive footwear is a must!


    1. Kris, I used to buy cute shoes, too, that I thought “oh I won’t walk much in these.” But, that’s never the case! I’ve learned that every shoe I own is going to be walked in. It’s easier that way – and keeps me from buying too many shoes! Hah!!


  2. I just splurged on a new pair of tennis shoes that I had fitted at Portland Running Company. The saleswoman spent almost an hour with me, having me try on shoes then go outside and walk for her. I ended up with a pair that are much more supportive than the ones I’ve bought in the past, and they feel great on my feet. I am definitely sold on getting tennis shoes fitted at least once so you know what to look for on sale later. My feet are much happier with this pair of tennis shoes than they’ve ever been before. I also love Zappos. I like that I can get two different sizes to test drive at home like you said.
    Erin FB recently posted..Hungry? Help, Yelp! Using Review Sites to Find Restaurants While Traveling


    1. I love Portland Running Company! They really get you testing before you purchase. Very smart business and local.
      Thanks, Erin.


  3. I also love the tip to wear shoes at home first. I’ve only just now fully recovered from a pair that tore up my heels back in late August. Can’t do much about the problem when you’re at work with no other shoes to change into. Also agree that spending more for a high quality shoe isn’t really a splurge. I’d rather buy better and buy fewer.
    Rita recently posted..Mod Kitchen Furniture DIY


    1. Rita, yes “spending more for a high quality shoe isn’t really a splurge. I’d rather buy better and buy fewer.” The shoes that are most comfortable are the ones I wish I’d bought 2 pairs of! Why is it so difficult to find comfy, quality, and stylish shoes? Sorry about your heels…that’s a tender area of the foot!
      Thanks for writing in, Rita.


  4. I was in an early morning staff meeting – twice – and looked down to see I had one black shoe and one brown shoe on. I guess our house doesn’t have much early morning light. I like your labeling idea!
    Jill recently posted..The Norwegian Riviera


    1. Jill, that’s too funny! My eyes aren’t getting any better and the labels really help. 🙂
      Black and brown shoes are surprisingly close in color…


  5. Love the wear it around the house idea. Have learned my lesson with torn up heels. Always put bandaids on my heels before wearing flats I think may not work.

    My favorite go to for repurposed shoes is Salvation Army 1/2 price day (Wednesdays). I am amazed at how many people donate new pairs of shoes. I will even pick up shoes for my friends, knowing if they don’t work out, they can re-donate and the money still goes to a good cause.


    1. Melissa, I’d love to tag along with you to Salvation Army for 1/2 price Wednesdays! And, it is a great time to shop for friends when buying second-hand. I always get something for a friend….
      Thanks, Melissa!


  6. Hi Sara, yes, I love shoes too! Probably a little too much! I still have the Ralph Lauren crocodile loafers that were a “must have” during our time with the company – what a ridiculous indulgence! I still love them and they remind me of that time in my life!
    Annie Kip recently posted..Being Gracious Under Stress


    1. Well, I’m sure that we both love them too much because of our time at Polo/Ralph Lauren! I’m actually going to sell both pairs of mine on eBay. They’re never going to fit my feet again! LOL!
      Thanks, Annie!


  7. I usually go in the afternoon before Teddy gets home from school. Maybe Oct. 15th. Would love to meet you there.

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