Why Our Upscaled Shoes Can Help Both Your Wardrobe & Our Ecosystem

Why Our Upscaled Shoes Can Help Both Your Wardrobe & Our Ecosystem

How Select Upscaled Shoes Can Help Our Ecosystem & Your Wardrobe

24.2 BILLION pairs of shoes are manufactured globally each year. Most of those end up in landfills. While leather shoes may take up to 40 years to decompose, those made with PVC parts can take up to 1000 years!

Giving a Second Step, a second life, to preloved shoes has the power to bring great value to society.

New shoes come with a more significant price than the money you pay. The production of new shoes contributes to approximately 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution! The production of plastic, used to make cheaper shoes, is very harmful to our environment. The production of one pair of shoes produces approximately 30 pounds of CO2. Transportation of these shoes across the world's oceans contributes additionally to their CO2 footprint.

Chemical adhesives are used in the process of making cheap shoes. Examples of some of these chemicals are Chlorinated phenols, tribromphenol, chlorinated paraffin, dimethyl fumarate, etc. These are leaked into the air and water through discharge from factories. These chemicals can harm wildlife that consume infected water or plants. These chemicals can also destroy the habitats of wildlife. The manufacturing process alone for shoes (especially cheaper ones) poses threats to our entire environment chain due to CO2 emissions and chemicals leaked. 

Then comes the waste and damage of unnecessary disposal. Ninety-five percent of the 20 billion pairs of shoes produced globally each year end up in landfill sites. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the amount of clothing and footwear in landfills was 12.8 million tons in 2017 alone. While leather shoes may take up to 40 years to decompose, those made with PVC parts can take up to 1000 years!

In a truly circular economy, one would strive to keep the things we use, in this case shoes, to extract the maximum service and value from them for as long as possible. One would restore, reuse, and upcycle shoes for as long as they were doing their job.

When thinking about discarded footwear, we need to understand that nothing actually “goes away” when we throw shoes out; there is no “away,” it just ends up in a dump in or on top of the ground somewhere. For all the benefits of constructing new footwear out of natural and organic substances such as leather, hemp, linen, and so on, or recycling shoes by physically breaking them down into their component materials for remanufacturing, it requires less energy and resources to restore and upscale what we already have. 

That is what we do at Second Step Shoes, restore the finest preloved shoes to their former glory. Because of leather’s fantastic properties, we designed Elima-Clean, our proprietary process for upcycling quality-made shoes, to give quality leather shoes a new lease on life, to set them up for years or decades of further service.

More than ever, Eco-Friendly fashion choices are at the forefront of cutting-edge companies in the fashion industry. One of the criteria for having a sustainable wardrobe and timeless fashion is owning upcycled shoes. Wearing preloved shoes is good for the environment, and as such, it is a trend being practiced by many eco-friendly A-list celebrities. Stars like Emma Watson have pledged only to wear Eco-friendly and sustainable outfits. Anne Hathaway is a vintage shopper; a vintage wardrobe is a great way to reduce one’s environmental footprint. But while one can thoroughly wash or dry clean vintage clothing to prepare them for use by a new owner, the same is not true for shoes; before now. That is why we created Elima-Clean.  

Buying our shoes reduces waste because we extend our shoes’ usable life by years! Often, people buy pairs of shoes then don’t wear them because they might not fit right or are uncomfortable. These are some of the types of shoes Second Step Shoes seeks out and restores. 

Other shoes, the best in the world, have been used but were crafted using top leather and stitched soles, sometimes taking days or weeks to construct. They were designed to be resoled many times and to last for years or decades. Fathers hand these types of quality shoes down to their sons. The quality leather used to make high-end shoes is like the fine wood used to make quality antique furniture; restoration for both, to their former glory, can be accomplished with hard work and skill. Restored shoes present a fantastic opportunity to get expensively made dress shoes at a fraction of the original price!

Many people are hesitant to wear preloved shoes. We understand. We were too. When you buy used shoes off the internet or at a Tag Sale, you have no idea where they have been or stored and what they have been exposed to, and what, besides feet, have been in them! This is especially true for older, high-end shoes, which, though they are some of the best ever made, may have been sitting in a closet for years or decades!    

Our Elima-Clean system was created for just that reason. Our founder is, admittedly, a bit OCD. Dirt, germs, fungus, bacteria, remnants of sweat-he wanted no part of it. No way was he going to slip his foot into a pair of uncleaned, undisinfected, preloved shoes and hope for the best. But, he saw the quality, the build, the greatness of high-end preloved shoes. He also knew unless unworn or barely worn, preloved have had often already gone through the break-in process and so are more comfortable than new shoes since they do not pinch the wearer’s feet—particularly around the toes or sides of the feet. Finally, he knew great shoes did not belong in a dump somewhere because someone had grown tired of them when they had years or decades of useful life left in them.

He wanted to invent a way to give them a second life, a second step. So he created our proprietary Elimi-Clean system. A single cleaning/disinfection method was not enough for him; he reasoned that something might slip by only one process. He wanted multiple redundant treatments. He wanted to ensure that anything unhealthy would not exist after Elima-Clean finished its work. He additionally insisted that the process be completed by skillful restoration. So, after cleaning and disinfection, we use a mindful multistep restoration and polishing system using our commercial-grade equipment to ensure that the preloved shoes going out our doors are clean, safe, and shining. If you have watched our Explainer Video, you know we take our Elimi-Clean process very seriously.

 Buying preloved shoes is also a great way to obtain world-class shoes at a fraction of the new shoe price. Most of our world-class shoes were made in Italy, England, or by the finest American shoemakers. The result is our buyers are wearing world-class shoes and doing their part to support our precious ecosystem. All for less money than buying a cheap pair of glued together imports from whatever countries has the least expensive labor and materials.

The trend for buying and supporting preloved shoes is steadily rising because many luxury brands and renowned companies are joining the preloved movement. Fashion giants such as LVMH, Richemont, and Stella McCartney have shown their support for the sustainable practice of restoring and recycling preloved shoes.


The buying and selling of used shoes promote a circular economy. In a circular economy, we utilize resources for as long as possible. When shoes enter the circular market, it displaces the manufacturing and production of new, often times cheaper, more environmentally damaging, shoes. Furthermore, when resources are reused and recycled, it puts less burden on the environment in terms of resource extraction.

By purchasing preloved shoes, we can reduce the number of shoes dumped into landfills. Discarding used shoes in landfills allows the release of toxic materials as the shoes decompose. These poisonous materials pollute the land, air, and water.

Putting preloved shoes back into circulation reduces waste. It is a sustainable practice that raises your fashion profile without cleaning out your bank account. The recycling of preloved shoes is one of the most efficient ways to  reduce carbon emissions in the air and reduce shoe waste in landfills. At Second Step Shoes, we make it easy, fun, and affordable to help you take a small step towards making the world a cleaner place.



The Importance of Skillfully Constructed Shoes In Your Life


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