Exploring the Global Market & Sustainability of Second-Hand Shoes

The world of second-hand shoes is shaped by a variety of varying cultural trends, economic factors, and environmental concerns. 

From the bustling streets of Pakistan to the sophisticated sorting centers of Dubai, let’s take a closer look at the second-hand shoe market across the globe and its impact on the economy and the environment.


Uses shoes in bulk


Types of Used Shoes and Prominent Donations


When it comes to donated shoes, you can find a diverse array of styles within the second-hand market. Shoes are integral pieces of clothing, and as a rule of thumb, should be replaced every 350-500 miles or every 8-12 months. In general, the types of used shoes received in donation bins are sneakers, running shoes, boots, sandals, dress shoes, athletic shoes, espadrilles, slip-ons, and high heels, but other variations may find themselves in donation bins across the world as well. 

Charities and collectors across the world are highly discriminating in their selection process, and will often exclude damaged footwear, winter boots, and high heels over 5 cm in height, meaning that not all donated shoes will go on to find a second life.


Regions with the Highest Volumes


Many regions are contributing to the used shoe market, but Pakistan and Dubai have emerged as key players, and have become synonymous with grading and sorting expertise. Both of these regions specialize in extracting maximum value from institutional shoes and single shoes, catering to both domestic demand and international export.

With a focus on value extraction and waste reduction, Pakistan leads the charge in sustainable practices with its low-cost structure.

In a landscape marked by technological advancements and evolving consumer preferences, Pakistan’s continued commitment to innovation underscores its pivotal role in shaping the future of the second-hand shoe market.

Alongside Pakistan, countries like Guatemala showcase a strong second-hand retail market, where credential shoes are highly sought after for their quality and durability. 


The Types of Used Shoes 


The secondhand industry typically focuses on 3 different categories of shoes. These include:


  1. Credential shoes: 


These are collected by private collectors via donations. To be classified as 100% credential, they need to be untouched and sorted, something that Bank & Vogue makes sure of with our shipments. Credential shoes include wearable paired shoes, athletic shoes, and dress shoes. On average, our suppliers load 35,000 lbs in 350 lbs bags for export.


  1. Institutional shoes: 


These are shoe shipments collected by nonprofit organizations through donations. These shoes have been sorted and sold at retail stores for a period of 6 to 12 weeks. Once the retail sales cycle is complete, this inventory is returned to the warehouse; this is where it will be packaged in cap sacks or gaylords for wholesale.

On average, our suppliers load 35,000 lbs of institutional shoes in 350 lbs capsacks or 20,000 lbs in 500 lbs gaylords within 40’ High Cube containers.


  • Single shoes:


These are shipments of unpaired shoes, usually produced by nonprofit organizations and graders. This product is in high demand due to its low cost, particularly by customers with large warehouses and abundant labor. 

On average, Bank & Vogue suppliers load 35,000 lbs of single shoes in 350 lbs cap sack bags or 20,000 lbs in 500 lbs gaylords within 40’ High Cube containers.


Environmental Impact and Sustainability


The environmental impact of used shoes cannot be understated. Unlike clothing, shoes often contain plastic or non-biodegradable materials, posing a challenge to waste management. On average, it takes 30-40 years for just one pair of shoes to decompose. With 300 million pairs of shoes being thrown away in just America each year, this is a staggering number and an insight into the importance of second-hand shoes.

Shoe recycling offers a viable solution, promoting sustainability by repurposing materials and reducing landfill waste.


The global market of second-hand shoes is a mixture of tradition and innovation, sustainability and economic opportunity. 

An industry deeply rooted in sustainability, it paves one of the many roads on the path to a more circular world and economy.

For more on used shoes and the role Bank & Vogue plays on the world stage when it comes to the second-hand market, click here.

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Wholesale used aka second hand shoes