Walk A Mile In My Shoes

Do you remember your last shoe purchase?  I do.  It was a pair of New Balance trail shoes I found on sale marked down from $44.99 to $29.99.  I was blessed with a wide, flat foot (thanks, Dad) in a size 13, so finding comfortable shoes on the cheap can be a challenge.  In fact, footwear is one of the few areas I have to sacrifice a little frugality in the name of health.  However, once I find a comfortable pair of shoes, I tend to wear them out, and then some.  I mentioned the idea for this post to my wife and got the, “Sometimes you really take this frugal living stuff too far” look.  I assured her I wasn’t the only one meticulously calculating the cost and service life of their shoe collection.  She still wasn’t convinced, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise.  So with my apologies to Imelda Marcos, here’s a run down of my “extensive” shoe collection.

The Ten-Year Boots

Not long after my wife and I married I found a comfortable pair of Timberland hiking boots.  They were expensive, compared to my current standards, at around $70, but they do last forever.  I don’t hike, but the boots are comfortable and warm in the winter, and provide a thick sole and a high ankle in case I do explore a trail here and there.  They don’t see much action in the summer, but I do occasionally wear them in the fall and winter seasons.  In ten years they’ve become a little scuffed at the top of the toe, and I’ve replaced the laces a time or two, but overall they are in great shape.  In fact, with the weather turning chilly these last couple weeks I’ve brought them to the front of the closet for their seasonal use.

Work Shoes:  One Brown, One Black

Funny how your job environment can actually make you more frugal.  Years ago when I worked in landscaping part time, and in a home improvement warehouse full time, I wore out shoes a lot more frequently.  I’m fortunate (I suppose) to have a desk job, so footwear is not a major concern for me.  And since I’m not out to make a fashion statement I typically can get by with two pairs of work shoes–one brown and one black, with two belts (or a reversible) to match.  For my feet, you can’t be a comfortable pair of Hush Puppies, but they are getting harder and harder to find, locally.  I picked up a great pair of black ECCO brand dress shoes a couple years ago on Ebay, and because I wear black shoes less frequently than I do brown, they’ve held up great and are by far my most comfortable work shoe.

The Trail Shoe

Part cross-trainer, part running shoe, part walking shoe, the trail shoe is just about the best style of tennis shoe around for my needs.  The toe box and the heel of this style of shoe tends to be a little wider, which works well for me since I tend to roll on the outside of my feet when I walk.  Trail shoes do a better job of keeping me stable.  When I inevitably wear out the inside of the shoe before the outside I remove the insole and pick up a replacement for around $15, further extending the life of the shoes.  When that replacement insole wears out the outside is usually pretty ragged as well, so I pick up a new pair and “retire” the old pair to be my designated yard-mowing shoes.

I figure I walk about a mile a day in each type of shoe (averaging out steps taken around work, exercising, etc.).  Some days I don’t wear any shoes, particularly in the summer, so I factored that in as well.  Assuming I wear all three styles of shoes 300 days out of the year, and average a mile or so in each type of shoe, I get about 900 miles out of these four pairs of shoes each year.  I replace the trail shoes and work shoes annually at a total cost of around $150 (including replacement laces, insoles, etc.).  HmmI wonder if $0.17 a mile is a pretty good miles-per-tread figure?

While I don’t expect you to calculate your own miles-per-tread estimate, I am interested to hear about your frugal shoe collection.  Feel free to share in the comments below.


  1. One of the best pairs of shoes I had was a pair of Doc Martens boots. I bought them in university and discarded them earlier this year. I basically got 7 full years worth of use out of them (kept them the last three years because I couldn’t bear throwing them out).

    My other shoes, I usually manage to buy using my rewards from my credit card. It’s great!

  2. Shoes are one of the areas of our life where frugality takes second place to quality – my husband broke his back about 10 years ago and has to wear quality shoes and insists that the rest of us do too.

    I watch for sales and we stick to basic colors and styles – so I guess we are a bit frugal in that us women in this family don’t have shoes to match every outfit 🙂

  3. I’m on my feet most of the day, doing home inspections, so I chose a pair of ASC Comfort shoes. Sears sold them for about half the price of other stores, and they strike the right balance between “professional” and “practical.” Longest lasting shoes are a pair of Coleman hikers that I’ve had for at least 15 years, put LOTS of hiking miles on them and they’re still holding up well.

  4. My college cross-country coach told us to replace our running shoes every 500 miles. I still use that figure on athletic shoes for safety reasons. Everything else I wear to pieces.

  5. oh, Imelda Marcos! lol. I am from Philippines, and boy, that woman’s appetite for everything pretty and expensive is out of this world! anyway, I am lucky to have size 6 feet in that almost everything on display fits me, but then the style of shoes on sale is questionable!

  6. I admit, I have an extensive shoe collection. I purchase only very good brands, but I only buy them when I find them on sale. Like your recliner story – I wait and seek out a great deal before committing. Because I can rotate through them, it takes years before a pair wears out, and because they are quality brands and well made, frequently I can just have them resoled.

  7. Oh dear, my shoe collection is probably nowhere near frugal–in fact, my shoe collection is probably my biggest fashion indulgence. I have, of late, resolved to stop buying various pairs of cute, cheap shoes that wear out quickly and save for gorgeous, timeless pieces that are worth the money for repairs. I also try and keep the overall cost down by repairing over replacing.

  8. Still wear my second pair of golf shoes (first
    ones were hushpuppies). Purchased nice quality
    black leather shoes (still in style- I think)
    in 1969. Obviously the golf has been limited. Nothing compared to the 100 plus rounds per year
    Dad used to play.

  9. Oh, you’ve found my weakness. I counted the other day when I was cleaning out my closet. 35 pairs. Yikes! And I purged just a year ago.

    But, it’s precisely because of my ‘problem’ with shoes that I DON’T buy quality. Shoes are probably the only part of my wardrobe that are ever actually “in style.” I love heels but I’m clumsy so they scuff easily. I tend to accidentally mow the lawn in anything casual. And I have a weakness for any pair of shoe I see that’s red, sparkles or fits me perfectly.

    So I stick to Payless or Rack Room and rarely pay more than $30 for a pair of shoes. Luckily, I hate shopping for anything else so I’m not often at the mall or in a position to be tempted.

    But I have been known to follow up a bad day at work with shameless emotional shoe shopping.

    There, my secret is out. Please don’t take my frugal badge!!! Haha 🙂

  10. Sounds like my husband’s shoe wardrobe … one pair each of brown and black dress shoes, one brown and one black belt 🙂

    We tend to buy shoes that are multi functional. I buy shoes that can be worn with jeans or dress pants, dressy sandles that can be worn with a dress or shorts, etc. It’s definitely tough because I want to have all the cutest shoes, but there are just better things, wouldn’t you agree? 😀

  11. @femmeknitzi: Perhaps men have it easier in this category. After all, I don’t have to worry about heels, or things that are red and sparkly causing an impulse buy.

    No worries, your frugal badge is safe.

  12. When I trained for a fund-raising marathon held in Anchorage, AK in 2000, I decided not to get the new pair of shoes they suggested, because I didn’t want to spend the money, and because I was a walker. I also didn’t want to spend the time breaking in the new shoes. Those 26.2 miles were walked in 9.5 hours by me just fine in my not-so-new walking shoes, thank you. When a friend moved out of the area soon afterwards, she left some clothes and things behind, and I became the beneficiary of a nearly new pair of walking shoes. I saved my first pair in the back of the closet, and eventually wore out the pair from my friend to the point that the ones that had weathered the marathon looked almost new. Point is, I always keep an “old” pair around in the back of the closet or the trunk of the car–you never know when the “old” pair is going to look better than the ones you’ve been wearing every day.

    I got rid of a lot of shoes a couple of years ago, ones that didn’t fit, were broken, out of style, or for some reason I did not think I would wear anyway. What a relief to have the space in my closet. I only have about a half-dozen pairs of shoes, but I actually use all the ones I have now. I can truly resist impulse buying now, because I’ve planned my shoe wardrobe and feel confident that I have enough for all my needs. Each summer, I splurge on an inexpensive pair of sandals (less than ten dollars) as an indulgence in current fun and fashion, and they last longer than a movie, too. Everything else is purely practical as far as my shoe budget is concerned.

  13. Shoes is an area where I don’t mind spending a little more for quality. But in the recent past I’ve come across some great shoes for low prices. A friend works at a Sporting Goods store, and they were getting rid of last years leftover supply of basketball shoes. Happened to be the ones I was using were 10 years old. I got the most comfortable basketball shoe I’ve ever worn, regular price $110, marked down to $20. I bought a pair for my brother as well. I’ve had my black dress shoes since 1997 and I noticed this Sunday that the heel is falling off. They are a little outdated and this is a good excuse for a new pair. I’m comfortable spending up to $100 on a good pair of shoes that will last.

  14. I wear through $100 running shoes about every year, but they are worth it. Cheaper than a gym membership and they support my rather large frame.

    I haven’t bought tennis shoes outside of running shoes in over 3 years now, because I rarely wear what I have. Day to Day casual clothes are my flip-flops. I own a few pairs with cost ranging from $20 to $40 and they have each lasted more than 5 years.

    For work I have a black pair and a brown pair, each cost less than $50 and show no signs of wear after over a year.

    My fiance is so small it will take a decade to wear out any shoes.

  15. We have eight children. You don’t want to know how many pairs of shoes are in our house. I am the Dad. I believe I have reached the pinnacle of frugal. I Take the hand-me-down shoes from my older teenagers. I also have found Rockports to wear extremely well and buy them on eBay for about 1/3 of the regular price. eBay works great once you find a brand and know what size in that brand to buy.

  16. I will spend a little money on my shoes because they carry “the load” all day! But, many of my more expensive shoes are still around years later because they are just better quality.

    And, for exercising, it is imperative to get a good, quality pair to avoid injury (and stay motivated).

    For me, making an investment in my shoes pay off in the long run.

  17. Shoes are one area where I’ve had mixed luck. Sometimes I find really good shoes and they last for years, other times I buy shoes and they just don’t fit right and I end up replacing them.

    My Wife swears by Skechers, when we back in Canada last year we went to the Skechers outlet in Buffalo and bought 8 pair for about what it could cost to buy 1,5 over here. Gotta love that weak dollar.

  18. For those who buy cheap shoes you’ll find as you age that your feet change and cheap shoes won’t cut it anymore. Best bet is to get good shoes when they go onsale.

    Also my wife bought some “cheap” running shoes at the outlet mall and after about 3 months her feet hurt so bad we had to buy new ones. 165€ out the door. Ouch Lesson learned no more cheap runners.

  19. My feet are strange – wide forefoot and a “narrow” heel. I stand on concrete all day and I have mixed reviews on the shoes I’ve worn over the past decade. The most comfortable have been the Columbia hikers (moderately priced) that I purchased about 7 years ago. They’re just now starting to bother me after a few hours at work. The least comfortable were the Dansko’s “Jocelyn” $$$$ Very expensive and they seemed ok, but after a little while, my heel started it’s usual sliding around…causing blisters. The shoe store where I purchased the Dansko’s helped me by building up the heel with sewn in filler and leather, which helped the heel sliding problem, but then my toes starting touching the top of the inside of the shoe….toe blisters. (Good Grief!) So I went back in and they took out the original Dansko insoles and put in lower-profile “Birkenstock” insoles which then helped my toe problem, but my heels started sliding a little bit again. By this time, I was so frustrated, I stopped wearing them out of frustration and needed some time for my feet to heal up. Anyone else have a narrow heel and a wide fore-foot? New Balance are OK but my feet start burning after 5 hours of standing. I need new shoes!