When kids grow out of their shoes so quickly and good shoes can be very expensive to buy, second hand shoes and passing shoes down from one child to another seems like a good option.

However there are a couple of things you need to bear in mind as the shoes your little one wears in childhood can make (or break) their future foot health.

So yes, whilst it’s ok for kids to where second hand or pass me down shoes in most circumstances, here’s what to check for before they start wearing them, so you know whether they can be worn safely or really need to be thrown away.

General wear and tear

  • How worn are the second hand or pass me down shoes? Generally babies and crawlers don’t get much use out of their shoes, partially because their feet grow so fast, but also because they can’t walk or run around so much as older kids. However toddlers shoes are likely to have seen more wear and tear, with lots of everyday running, jumping and tearing around.

 Inner sole wear

  • Have the inner soles adapted to the original owner’s feet? Most shoes form to the foot, so wearing hand-me-downs with compressed cushioning or shoes that have already been "formed", may have a negative effect on your child’s foot.  
  • Pop your hand inside the shoes and see if you can feel toe imprints or heel dents. If you can, avoid these shoes as your little one’s feet will have no choice but to try and fit into these spaces a bit like a jigsaw puzzle.  Not ideal for soft, growing feet. 

Outer sole wear

  • Soles need to be in good condition, no worn down edges, holes or obvious breakdown of the rubber or leather.  Your child needs a flat, soft and bendy sole for their foot health. 
  • Look for signs where the previous owner had a tendency to walk on the inside or outside of their foot. Shoes with this type of wear and tear will put stress on your little one’s feet and should be thrown away. 


It’s important that the second hand shoes are clean before your little ones starts wearing them, inside and out! You don't want to share any nasties, especially if you don't know where the shoes have come from.

Check out these cleaning tips*:

Inner soles

  • Many leather and canvas shoes have removable inner soles which means they can go through the wash. If they don't have a removable inner sole and they are not too dirty, just give them a wipe with a cloth and some detergent or something to kill the germs. 
  • You can use baking soda to help get rid of the smell, but it won't get rid of the germs. You can also use a small amount of hand sanitizer (not too much as they are often alcohol based) or disinfectant spray. Unscented is great if you can get it, if it's scented you will have to live with the smell! 
  • Avoid alcohol based products as they can soften the glue.

Outside of the shoes

  • With leather shoes, creme cleanser and a damp cloth will clean the outside really well, even white leather comes up a treat. Most little shoes should be soft enough not to need moisturising or conditioning after being washed. However you can always use a specially formulated shoe moisturiser or hand moisturiser to help soften them.

Very dirty shoes

  • With very dirty leather or canvas shoes, the entire shoe can be hand washed in a bucket or put through a gentle wash in the washing machine (although this maybe a little harder on the shoes). Use cold water only and a soft detergent such as a wool wash or face wash so as not to strip the shoes’ natural oils.

Drying your shoes

  • Don't use direct heat to dry the shoes and try drying them in the shade or in the hot water cupboard. Take them out whilst they’re a little damp as you don't want to dry them out completely as this will make them hard. Pop the shoes onto your little one’s feet as soon as you can so they can mould and soften up straight away.


  • Try to have two pairs of leather shoes on the go so you can alternate them daily and let one pair dry out completely before re-wearing the other. This helps to stop them growing smelly and reduces their wear and tear. 


  • If your little one seems to have problems with their feet or with walking, take them to a paediatrician for a check up. Wearing second hand or hand me down shoes may not be an option for them as they may need to wear specific shoe styles.

* These cleaning tips apply to genuine leather shoes and are based on Bugalugz personal experience. The tips are to be used as a guide only as the same outcome on all shoes cannot be guaranteed. 

February 27, 2019 — Stephanie Wilson