December 3, 2009 10:35 AM   Subscribe

What's the secret to finding affordable toddler shoes?

I'm weary of spending $30-40 every 3 months for a pair of sneakers for my 18-month old. I can sometimes score at the local consignment shop but that's pretty hit-or-miss and I run up on this issue all the time now.

Are there some resources I'm unaware of? I'm looking at, Sierra Trading Post, Zappos, Endless, REI Outlet, Penney's, the deal-a-day sites, Target. I'm looking for a girl, prefer less glitter and butterflies, and no Dora/Disney/etc. Online or in-person (I'm in the SF Bay Area).
posted by otherwordlyglow to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried checking out Ebay/Freecycle/Craigslist/your local network of family and friends for secondhand shoes? If the average toddler outgrows her shoes every three months, there must be a huge pool of secondhand stuff out there somewhere, if you could find a way to tap into it.
posted by Bardolph at 10:40 AM on December 3, 2009

Is there some special qualities you're looking for in the shoes? My toddler has been happy with his Champion brand shoes (cost less than $20) from Target. Kmart has decent kids shoes for $15 or so, and it's possible to get them closer to $10 if you wait for a sale.
posted by drezdn at 10:43 AM on December 3, 2009

Popping back in to add: a quickie search for "toddler girls shoes" on Ebay returns tons of items, most in the $1-$15 range.
posted by Bardolph at 10:44 AM on December 3, 2009

I live in the Bay Area and 90% of my daughter's shoes came from thrift stores. There's this weird idea out there that you shouldn't buy shoes used. I don't know of any research that supports that.

IMHO, Thrift Town is the best Bay Area thrift chain. I find great kids shoes and clothes there all the time. In fact, I just found a perfect pair of crocks and a gently used pair of knock-off Uggs for my seven year old at the El Sobrante Thrift Town a couple weeks ago.
posted by serazin at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Are they wearing out or being outgrown? I bought a lot of my son's Stride Rite shoes on ebay or craigslist. They last FOREVER. It killed me to pay $50 - 60 for them new, but I did buy new when I had to. They never ever fell apart even when he wore them every day for months. (He wore XW and sometimes XXW and this limited our options severely.)
posted by peep at 10:51 AM on December 3, 2009

I have triplet toddlers, so I have to buy a lot of shoes. Payless is my friend, esp when they have their BOGO sales. They really are good shoes, they wear well, and they have cute styles.
posted by pyjammy at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2009

Response by poster: I have no problem whatsoever with used shoes. I'd say 50% or so come from thrift stores and consignment stores already. But it's a pretty unreliable source, especially for basics. I can find interesting fun shoes but everyday shoes seem less available on the second-hand market. Usually they are outgrown way before they wear out. I also sell back lots of shoes to consignment stores so I know all about that market. I can sometimes score on eBay but not consistently and I get tired of having to hunt, hunt, hunt every time. I did just find some cheap shoes on the overstock section of Lands End but would love more suggestions. I should try Payless, I suppose.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2009 always seems to have a good selection in the <$20 range.
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:08 AM on December 3, 2009

Payless shoes totally fall apart, but, if your kid is growing fast that may not matter. But in my experience Payless shoes are almost always branded with cartoon characters too, so I've tended to stay away from that source. I did get some good water shoes there.
posted by serazin at 11:10 AM on December 3, 2009

I've had luck buying clearance shoes on, although I usually buy them to grow into.

Also, Nordstrom Rack has some really good deals right now. I think I probably talk about Nordstrom Rack all the time though. Sorry.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:10 AM on December 3, 2009

Consider buying the shoes larger than you are now. Buying shoes often is somewhat a fact of life with toddlers, but buying new ones every three months because they're outgrown seems extreme -- we always got at least six months out of ours before they outgrew 'em, and my kids are pretty f'ing tall for their age, always have been.

I would recommend buying your next set at stride-rite, despite the expense -- or at least going there, getting the recommendation on how large they should be to allow for growth, and compare that to how tight or loose you've been buying them to date. The stride-rite people have always done right by us in that regard.
posted by davejay at 11:11 AM on December 3, 2009

Response by poster: Oh and yes, I have bought shoes at Stride Rite, too. Taken her in and gotten sized and all that. They were nice and I bought a pair on sale but would like to have other options.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:14 AM on December 3, 2009

Like I said, I've had really good luck with Payless shoes. They don't actually always have characters, and I've had lots of experience with them. They hold up a lot better than I could have hoped. Maybe they used to be crappy, but not anymore.
posted by pyjammy at 11:20 AM on December 3, 2009

Where I live there are ~10 consignment sales every year. Maybe more. Austin is a smaller city than SF, so I can't imagine these things do not exist there. These are huge events at warehouses and convention centers.
Prices at the consignment sales are significantly cheaper than at the stores.
Go early if you want great selection. Go later if you want cheaper prices.
Buy multiple sizes ahead. There is nothing worse than having to buy something when there are no reasonably priced options. Better to have a box in the closet that you have sorted by size and delve into when necessary.

I searched "kids consingment sales" and found this.
Only two in the Bay Area, but perhaps there are more.

(Austin has 6 on this list. I wonder what that tells me.)
posted by Seamus at 11:22 AM on December 3, 2009

I'll defer to you on Payless pyjammy. We've only had a couple pairs.
posted by serazin at 11:23 AM on December 3, 2009

I got my son some Chuck Taylor All Stars at Famous Footwear. They have a BOGO deal everyday. I bought shoes for my older kids on sale and got the All Stars for $9. Even without the 50% they were under $20. They're high tops, which is a plus because he can't take them off himself. When he outgrows these, I'm seriously thinking about going back for more. Also, he thinks the shoes are awesome.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:23 AM on December 3, 2009

Our 18 month old gets her sneaks and impossibly glittery ruby slippers from Target. We've been perfectly happy with them; the Chuck Taylor sneaks we can even throw in the washing machine, and since as you note they don't fit for long the fact that they're not built for lifelong quality doesn't bother us much. We buy from the boys' section too, for all items for our girl--especially jeans and that sort of thing. The sneaks are boys' I think.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:31 AM on December 3, 2009

When you see shoes under $10 buy several pairs in several sizes. For my 3 boys, I once found a sale of shoes for $5 and so I bought 2 pairs in each of 6 different sizes. I do the same with boots. I've rarely Not used a pair, and the total cost is low. Nevermind the convenience of having a pair when the kid needs them, and not having to shop (at whatever price) Right Now. My personal experience is that new on sale is typically cheaper than used. YMMV.
posted by kch at 11:34 AM on December 3, 2009

*snicker* One of my little ones says "SHOOOOOOES" too.

Surprisingly, I have been impressed with the Fisher Price shoes sold at KMart. They are still pink, but are at least calm about it. They fit reliably and well. The selection is a little lacking, but I'm trying to shop for two girls that are not (and it bugs me to dress them like) twins.
posted by wg at 11:38 AM on December 3, 2009

I always put my kids in shoes from KMart or Target, especially when they were toddlers. As they got older, and stopped growing so quickly, I sometimes bought shoes at Kohl's or Penney, depending on the sales, but my 'go-to' for kids' shoes was Target. When they were little, they always outgrew the shoes before they wore them out anyway.

Re: buying shoes at thrift stores. It's hard to find a pair of everyday adult or older kid shoes at a thrift store that aren't worn in to the stride pattern of the original owner. Toddlers/kids don't wear the stride pattern into their shoes as quickly, and you can often find unworn but outgrown kids' shoes (I've put a few pairs like that into the thrift stream, as kids blew right through a size before they ever wear them).
posted by jlkr at 12:04 PM on December 3, 2009

My wife swears by Target. Every time we're driving somewhere new, she scouts out the local Target and raids the kids shoe racks. Some amazing deals have been found there.

Stride Rite has excellent shoes but they're only affordable when on sale.
posted by camworld at 12:36 PM on December 3, 2009

I've had very good luck at Payless---much better than Sears, and better selection than at Target, depending on what you want (although Target's good too: wish I had one here!). Ok, the shoes are not terribly well made, but they're usually about $10 for kids, and they hold up ok. Like you said, they don't have to last all that long.

(My daughter likes sneakers with lights, and I'm highly amused by the lights, even if they do come with princesses or dora, and Payless is definitely a better source for this sort of shoe. And they've got cute mary janes.)
posted by leahwrenn at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2009

Do you have a Stride Rite outlet store? We do, and we get their shoes for about $20 a pair. Not a bad price if she is wearing them nearly every day. I couldn't bear to pay $50-60 full price. Normally I'm not a big fan of outlet malls but this is an exception.

Also, her growth will slow down a little as she gets toward age 2, and you won't have to buy new shoes so often.
posted by Knowyournuts at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2009

My son's orthopedist gave us this advice once, and it's applicable to those without bone issues: don't buy used shoes because the shoe conforms to its owner's foot (unless the shoe looks like it was never worn, I suppose), look for shoes that aren't too heavy for the child and that have flexible soles, and laces really are best for new-ish walkers (avoid velcro and slip-ons). Lace 'em up snugly but not too tight.

With those criteria, you can get shoes pretty much anywhere. My son's feet were rather wide and I could only find him shoes at WalMart for the longest time, which just killed me a little...but that's another subject altogether.
posted by cooker girl at 1:29 PM on December 3, 2009

I've gotten great shoes at the Carter's outlets and the OshKosh outlets. I also found some painfully cute Stride Rite maryjane sneakers at Marshalls. There is a Nordstrom Rac in SF, I bet they have some cute ones.
posted by 8dot3 at 5:34 PM on December 3, 2009

I've had amazing luck at our local REI's used gear sale. Great shoes (lots of Keens), lots in good shape for great prices. For some reason shoes an especially kids shoes don't seem to be as hot as, say, strollers. Picked up shoes for my 2 year old, 4 year old, and 7 year old last time; it was a great haul.

Be sure to check them out before buying, sometimes they'll have a hole or something broken that you don't want to deal with. The reason for return is attached to the item, and many say things like "didn't fit right".
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:37 PM on December 3, 2009

H&M has okay toddler shoes ranging from $5.90-17.90
posted by ashputtel at 9:15 PM on December 3, 2009

I watch the blogs babygoodbuys and babycheapskate. Every few months Amazon or or somewhere has a closeout and I stock up.
posted by k8t at 10:34 PM on December 3, 2009

Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, etc are all good alternatives to thrift shops, consignment sales, and the like. I found a Ross in Union Square on a really quick Google and I'm sure there's one closer to your area as well.

Typically, people react to Ross et al with a look that says, 'yeah, but I want quality though.' I buy name brands (Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, even Levis) all the time there for myself and I know they have a children's section in their shoe department.
posted by librarylis at 10:44 PM on December 3, 2009

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