Buy used shoes: Expert warns of “deformations” on feet

Buying used shoes: clever or harmful?
Photo: CC0 Public Domain – Pexels/ cottonbro studio

Used shoes are cheaper than new ones, and children in particular tend to choose used models. But there are concerns: Can used shoes damage feet? An expert explains why these worries are not unfounded and how to prevent them.

According to various statistics, more and more people in Germany are buying second-hand clothing. The market research company Kantar, for example, surveyed 1,037 people on behalf of Momox – in 2019 just under half had already bought second-hand clothing, in 2021 over two thirds. According to a representative survey that YouGov conducted in 2021 on behalf of eBay classifieds and with scientific support from the Wuppertal Institute, 28 percent prefer used products when it comes to clothing, accessories and shoes.

Shoes are probably much more controversial than second-hand goods than clothing and accessories. Most flea markets, second-hand shops and many second-hand online shops have shoes in their range. Many also see no problem in buying used shoes: After all, these are often cheaper than new ones and using them saves resources. But others find the idea of ​​wearing other people’s shoes unsanitary and fear negative consequences. The worries are not entirely unfounded, Jeannette Polster clarifies to Utopia. She is chairwoman of the Federal Association for Podiatry, i.e. medical foot care.

Buying used shoes: Danger of athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is one of the most common skin diseases. “There is definitely a risk of infection from used shoes,” confirms expert Polster. The fungal spores can survive for weeks or months on objects, surfaces and textiles. Even washing textiles at temperatures below 60 degrees has a survival rate of 10 – 15 percent. Many shoes cannot simply be washed in the washing machine, especially not at such high temperatures. Polster advises disinfecting used shoes after purchase. There are special products available for this purpose.

Can a deformed footbed damage feet?

“A foot is not always the same,” warns Polster. The anatomical structure and the gait differ from person to person, both of which affect the inner and outer soles as well as the upper material of the shoe. This means: The more often the shoes are worn, the better they are adapted to the shape of the foot.

If someone else wears the shoe, that can have consequences. “Used shoes can certainly cause changes or deformations in the joints or toes of their new owner,” says the expert.

From a podiatric point of view, buying used shoes is not necessarily recommended. Anyone who buys used shoes is advised to choose shoes that show only minor signs of wear. You should also inspect the insole carefully: “If severe discoloration and imprints are visible here, it is advisable to at least replace the insole.” A worn outsole should also be repaired, emphasizes the expert.

Buying used shoes for children: does it make sense?

Babies and children grow out of their shoes quickly – buying them used shoes can save a lot of money. However, the feet are still in development, and buying them second-hand is considered particularly controversial. Podiatrist Polster creates clarity:

“Babies don’t need shoes yet, not even so-called “walking shoes” – they don’t learn to walk faster or better that way,” she clarifies. “Even children only need shoes to protect themselves from cold, wet and injuries.”

Polster advises letting children go barefoot as much as possible. If children’s feet were put in shoes too early and constantly, foot muscles, tendons and ligaments would be weakened and malpositions could develop. “This effect is amplified when used shoes are already preformed, which is why I can’t recommend them for children’s feet.”

She therefore clearly advises buying new and recommends paying attention to a flexible sole, soft upper material and a good fit. Because children’s feet grow so quickly, the shoes should offer about 1 – 1.5 centimeters of space to the toe when you buy them. Preformed footbeds are not recommended.

If you do decide to buy used shoes, Polster recommends that you ensure the least possible wear and tear and, if necessary, replace or repair the inner and outer soles.

Alternative to second-hand: tips for sustainable shoe purchases

Anyone who buys used shoes should therefore take a very close look – not every shoe is good for your feet. If you find a pair that shows little signs of wear, you should replace the insole and, if necessary, have the outsole repaired to be on the safe side. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, but urgently need shoes, you can use new goods.

New shoes are less climate-friendly than used ones. Because they first have to be produced using resources and transported from the often remote production sites to the buyer. In addition, exploitation and pollution remain major problems in the fashion industry, including shoes. Tanning processes for leather, for example, are often particularly harmful to the environment: one kilogram of raw animal skin can be treated with up to 500 grams of chemicals. The animal protection organization Peta warns: a large part of the leather processed worldwide is produced in China, South America and India, where tannery wastewater often ends up untreated in rivers and drinking water supplies. The “Together for Decent Leather” initiative uncovered further abuses in the leather industry in 2022: Workers often do not have an employment contract, low wages below the subsistence level and are exposed to harmful chemicals – without protective equipment.

At Utopia we also present various brands for vegan shoes that do without conventional leather and for which no animals had to be slaughtered. And sustainable sneakers from labels that produce more sustainably than the competition in various areas. These models are not perfect either, but offer certain advantages over other brands. In general, the most environmentally friendly shoe is the one that you don’t have to buy new. Here are a few tips to ensure that your shoes last as long as possible: Shoe care: The best tips for leather and textile shoes.

Read more on Techzle\.com:

  • Buy used clothing: Here you will find what you are looking for online and offline
  • Leaderboard: Sustainable sneakers
  • The 4 best barefoot shoe brands: Are these shoes healthy in the long term?

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