Buying Shoes: When to Buy Quality Shoes vs. Cheap Shoes

This post may contain affiliate links, view our disclosure policy for details.

Having a variety of careers and children’s ages in our household mean that we go through a lot of shoes for our family of 5! And shoes aren’t cheap! They can run anywhere from $15 a pair to over $100 a pair! But is cheap really better? And do the expensive shoes really last longer? Should I buy shoes new or used? Here is a guide to help you narrow down your choices on when to buy quality shoes and when to buy cheap shoes.

Shoe Shopping: Quality vs Price - Which to Buy?

Recently I took my kids shoe shopping and my oldest son, who is a size 7, is now smack dab in the middle of the youth and men’s sizes which not only means it’s impossible to find his size in something he’ll wear but that it’s insanely expensive for his shoes now! I dragged that poor kid to so many stores refusing to pay for a $75 pair of shoes.

When the kids were little (toddlers and preschool age) I happily bought cheap secondhand and clearance shoes for them. And I saved a bundle doing so! I rarely bought new shoes for them but if I had to in a pinch I’d just run to Walmart for $8-15! They went through shoes like they did outfits – they grew quickly and they are boys – nothing stays nice for long. But now that they are getting older and in elementary school, almost middle school.

They are staying in their shoe sizes longer than a month at a time and they rip their sneakers to shreds putting on an endless amount of miles on those things. The CHEAP shoes are now becoming the expensive shoes – not initially, but because I have to buy them so many times.

Sometimes I wonder if the school playground or our backyard is made of glass and sharp objects meant to specifically tear up their shoes. Or perhaps the kids just hack at their shoes with scissors all day. How they burn holes in so many places I’ll never know. More than once in the dead of winter with ice on the ground I’ve found their shoes practically in two separate pieces before they tell me. Cheap shoes no longer work for them – they need quality. GOOD quality – you know, the kind that you pay for? Yeah, the expensive kind.

Me on the other hand- because I work at home most of my shoes are whatever I can find cheap and comfortable…..unless I’m headed out to go hiking, then I need something better. The lesson I’ve learned when it comes to shoes, is cheaper is NOT always better. Even when your kids need new sizes fairly rapidly. And when it comes to work shoes – good quality is a must. But that doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive pair out there.

Hiking shoes, like work shoes, are not something to skimp on. Cheap shoes need not apply where where quality is a necessity.

When to BUY CHEAP Shoes:

  • Babies (really don’t need shoes until they are good at walking!)
  • Young Children (preschool age and younger)
  • Junk Shoes (gardening, farm work, the beach, crafting or building outdoors, etc.)
  • Occasional minimal wear dressy shoes (recitals, formals, funerals, etc)
  • One time use (photo props, out of town emergency, etc)
  • House shoes / slippers
  • Water / Pool Shoes
  • After Surgery Shoes (if you need a big size after foot/leg surgery)

WHERE to Buy CHEAP Shoes:

Buying cheap shoes USED to be my specialty when my kids were little. I’d hit up yard sales, thrift stores, consignment shops (if I had to but they can run pricier), clearance at Walmart and Target, eBay, Craigslist, and local facebook “sale” groups in your area. For young children I always bought bigger sizes if they were cheap to have on hand.

When to BUY QUALITY Shoes:

  • For Work – especially if you’re on your feet a lot (teachers, nurses, etc.) or work with heavy machinery
  • Steel Toe Boots – ALWAYS buy quality, safety first
  • Children (elementary age & up) & Teens
  • Hiking and Extreme Sports
  • For the Elderly & Specially Abled
  • ANY type of shoes you’re putting a serious amount of miles on
  • For Travel – you never know what situation you’ll find yourself in


Personally we like Skechers shoes for quality which we usually buy at an outlet store, at Costco, or on eBay but there are of course a lot of good quality brands out there. Costco or Sam’s Club is a very hit or miss place for shoes but when they have what you need you usually can’t beat the price. My husband is personally a fan of NuBalance shoes found primarily at Kohl’s since they hold up well for him and are a decent price.

We have recently branched out to try kid’s shoes at Target and although I found the boys section to be severely limited in selection they have lasted us well and held up so far for a great price. Outlet stores can be great – especially for buying multiple pairs as many times they have special sales (Buy 2 get 1 Free, Buy 1 get 1 50%, etc) If you have a DSW near you check out their clearance section and sales too. Occasionally I can snag a good deal at athletic shoe stores in the mall but those are also hit or miss.

WHERE do you buy your shoes? Do you have a favorite MUST BUY brand? Chat with me below and let me know if shoe shopping is as much of a pain for you as it is for me!

Share with your friends!

Similar Posts

One Comment

  1. Randomly ran across this page while searching about used shoes, which you mentioned buying at times.

    I’ve gotten into wearing dress shoes this year and I’ve become an aficionado of them, so I appreciate ones that are really well-made and feature good quality materials. Problem is, the really good quality dress shoes typically start between $200-400 per pair when they’re new, so I quickly turned to buying second hand.

    I bought a pair of nice used dress shoes on Ebay for $58 in the past 3 months that would have been around $400 new, and they are still in great shape despite being at least 12 years old at the time I got them! Plus, this is nowhere near the best deal I’ve heard of people getting on this type of product. Thus, I’m a big fan of buying second hand dress shoes, as you can get high quality for low prices.

    BTW, I’m a prospective teacher. I will likely will start student teaching hopefully in the next few weeks (High School Social Studies)!

Comments are closed.