Best online shoe stores 2023: Where to buy shoes online

Best online shoe stores
(Image credit: Zappos)

The best online shoe stores have become one of the best ways to get your feet snuggled into new homes. By best we mean not only having a wide selection of footwear options but also at some of the lowest prices too.

Of course buying shoes online does mean you can't try them on and take a walk before you buy. But with very favorable returns policies now, it is still possible to try before you commit to one specific pair of kicks.

From boots and high heels to sneakers and shoes, everything is available on the best online shoe stores. But some sites specialize, meaning if you have a certain shoe or type of shoe in mind, finding the ideal online store first can play a big part. If it's deals you're after then it might also be worth looking into the best online auction sites (opens in new tab) too.

Many sites also offer rewards with VIP schemes which can help you make savings or even gain access to shoes and other deals aimed specifically at you. It's also helpful to use these sites as a way to see review feedback from other buyers so you can best decide which is the ideal footwear for you.

The best online shoe stores

Zappos.com

(Image credit: Zappos.com)

1. Zappos.com

The best online shoe store overall

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent return policy
+
Great website
+
Good price range

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Visit Zappos.com and you will find one of the best online shoe store shopping experiences available. That means you can expect a wide range of shoes, competitive prices and excellent service.

From great photography to useful detailed descriptions, this site offers a very informative way to shop for shoes. This works in a really intuitive way, offering a drop-down menu on each shoe with details like sizes, color options, other styles and more. Expect to see nearly all angles of the shoe, just like looking at it physically. 

Useful customer feedback is also included with "True to fit" and "True to width" options that allow you to judge how it should fit on your feet. 

What do you get at Zappos?
Zappos.com offers the following on all orders:
365-day returns | Free returns | Free shipping | 10-day price guarantees| VIP Rewards scheme | 24-hour customer service (opens in new tab)

Zappos.com offers the following on all orders:
365-day returns | Free returns | Free shipping | 10-day price guarantees| VIP Rewards scheme | 24-hour customer service

One of the best features is free returns. This means you can order and try shoes before you decide if they're right for you, easily sending them back – up to a year later – if you decide they're not ideal. Should you run into any issues, there is a Customer Services tab right there on the website that allows you to connect with live chat, phone, email and more. All of which offer friendly and helpful support.

The great thing about knowing you're going to be supported by excellent customer service is that even if something doesn't go as you'd hope, it's like you'll be helped to get what you need. This site offers a full year refund policy and while refunds take a little longer than some sites, you do get your money back or replacement pairs.

There is a wide selection of shoes available via the easy to use website which has easy access to that 24 hour customer service already mentioned. It also offers a VIP service which is great if you want benefits like free expedited shipping, free pick-ups, points earned as you spend, and enhanced point earning if you're an Amazon Prime member.

You can also enjoy a sizeable sales selection on Zappos which can mean gettingsome great deals of shoes of all different types including those for men, women and children. This site also offers a clothing section, allowing your points to go further and for you to clothes shop all in one place, on one delivery order.

User reviews and ratings

Why you can trust Top Ten Reviews Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

  • Has an A+ rating, and accreditation, via the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 4 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

We looked at more than 200 user reviews of Zappos, both via customer review sites, and of products purchased via the site itself. Many applaud the excellent customer service and returns policy offered by Zappos, although some note that it does take the company a little longer than some rivals to refund you the money. The average refund time is ten days, and in some instances it has taken longer. For most with issues, the customer service team appear to be friendly, professional, and generous.

The largest complaint about Zappos appears to be that some people have accidentally received shoes with imperfections, incorrect sizes and combinations (a few people report getting two left shoes instead of a pair!), and - on rare occasions - shoes that appear to already have been worn. In most cases these were resolved, but one or two customers were unhappy that they were offered store credit instead of cash refunds. Overall, however, the customer experience from Zappos is very positive, especially when it comes to selection of shoes and customer experience.


DSW

(Image credit: DSW)

2. DSW Shoes

The best dedicated online shoe store

Reasons to buy

+
Large range of shoes and boots
+
Great clearance section

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

An excellent shoe shopping website is DSW, aka Designer Shoe warehouse, which offers a huge range of shoe choices for men, women and children. It also packs in boots and sneakers in a wide selection of sizes including very large. But it's the deals that this high-end site excels at.

The clearance section is excellent with the DSW Deals, as they're called, usefully organized so you can search by price - for example "Under $40" within the women's section. There are also categories like "Men's Clearance", "Kids' Under $50" and plenty more.

What do you get at DSW?
DSW offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns | Free exchanges | Pay for shipping and returns | Curb side pick-up | VIP Scheme | Day time customer service (opens in new tab)

DSW offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns | Free exchanges | Pay for shipping and returns | Curb side pick-up | VIP Scheme | Day time customer service

There is also a rewards section which awards you points with one given for every dollar you spend. These points can then be used to claim gift cards, making it a nice way to spend – or to use as a gift if you prefer. There is also a VIP section which gets you free shipping. On the downside returns are free but you have to pay for shipping and must do it within 60 days.

Getting a deal doesn't mean missing out on the more premium end of the market as the selection on DSW is broad and top-end. That means you can expect to find big name brands like Nike, Steve Madden and UGG, only at a lower price than a lot of the competition might charge. 

Site layout is great with large and clear images, letting you see lots of angles right away. But also plenty of information right there side-by-side so you have most of what you need immediately without having to do any page navigation at all.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A+ rating via the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

After looking at more than 150 user reviews for DSW, we noted that customer service - especially in their physical stores - was something people loved. Many also praised the benefits of the VIP program, and noted that the discounts you get from it more than make up for the 'costs' of sign-up. You do appear to surrender a lot of data, and DSW is persistent in sending you coupons once you're signed up, but this is no bad thing considering the discounts you will get.

On the negative side, some users noted that the delivery is far from perfect, and that customer service isn't always as effective at resolving the issues. While the majority praise the customer service experience, some have noted that they were unhelpful. DSW has also had a few issues with VIP points balances on its site, which has drawn a handful of negative reviews. Overall, though, users love the combination of online and physical stores when it comes to DSW, making this a strength of the brand.


6pm

(Image credit: 6pm)

3. 6pm

The best discount shoe store

Reasons to buy

+
Big discounts on designer brands
+
Free shipping on large orders

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

6pm is an online shoe store that specializes in giving great discounts. This means you can potentially get outlet priced footwear without having to actually leave your home or search through countless aisles. This is a part of Zappos, offering its outlet options meaning you get a lot of the same brands. This also means there is going to be a wide range of choice for you to pick from, only at a lower price than Zappos.

What do you get at 6pm?
6pm offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | No exchanges | Pay for returns | Day time customer service | Coupons accepted | Extended returns for COVID (opens in new tab)

6pm offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | No exchanges | Pay for returns | Day time customer service | Coupons accepted | Extended returns for COVID

There are discounts, sales daily and coupons that can make you even more savings. All that can be used once you find the shoes you want by navigating the pretty standard website which offers great imagery and a self-explanatory way to explore the options. Flip through images, try different colors and check multiple angles all from the lander page for that shoe.

Go for two or more pairs of shoes – at $50 or more – and you get free delivery as part of the deal. The downside here is that there is no option to exchange shoes and returns will cost you extra. So while the options and prices are great on this site, it's important you know you're picking the right size for you, and definitely the right shoe, before making the commitment to buying.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A+ rating and is accredited at the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Yelp

We looked at around 55 reviews of 6pm, and found them to be broadly well liked. People love a cheap price on shoes, and many were pleased with how little they paid while shopping at 6pm. Many highlighted the fact that you need to be quick to get the best deals, and almost every user has commented on how good the range of discounted shoes is.

The majority of the complaints about 6pm, especially those on the BBB, center on delivery and shipping issues of the shoes. Some users reported late dispatches for shoes, and others said delivery took longer than advertized on the site. One or two said that the shoes they received were not in a good condition, and these were returned. Overall, 6pm is good at responding to complaints, as this is a common theme of user reviews.


Overstock.com

(Image credit: Overstock.com)

4. Overstock.com

The best shoe store for discounts

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent prices
+
Easy-to-use site
+
Lots of other product choices

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

The Overstock.com store is a massive scale discount retail offering which extends to home furnishing, electricals and more – but also includes shoes. The size of this operation means you get some very big name brands for decent prices with the likes of Nike, Adidas and Birkenstock as well as high-end brands like Jimmy Choo making appearances. 

What do you get at Overstock?
Overstock offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | Pay for shipping and returns | Free delivery | Reward points scheme | 24-hour customer service | Coupons accepted (opens in new tab)

Overstock offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | Pay for shipping and returns | Free delivery | Reward points scheme | 24-hour customer service | Coupons accepted

Styles vary massively too with sneakers, heels, booties, clogs and more all available to pick from at great price points. Shipping is also free which is a great touch that applies to all states except Hawaii and Alaska. While returns are free within the 30-days returns policy, you will have to pay for that part of the shipping – even if it's just the size you want to change out.

The website itself is minimal making it easy to use. This could also be construed as a negative though where information is also kept on the lower side, which may not be enough for some shoppers. That said there is a decent amount of product information and images available, just not much in the way of customer reviews – although the Q&A section can be helpful.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A+ rating and is accredited at the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 1 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

We looked at over 200 reviews of Overstock.com and found that it's a company with a range of both good and bad user feedback. We were surprised to see Overstock score only a single star on Consumer Affairs, so looked at the reasons why this could be. Many are for defective products that required assembly, and few of the negative reviews apply to shoes purchased on site.

What we did see was a lot of praise for Overstock's prompt shipping, with users enjoying the fact their items arrived sooner than expected. The customer service has mixed reviews, with some stating it's helpful and others bemoaning the fact that it didn't resolve issues at all. Overstock is good at answering complaints via the BBB (of which there are a lot), but it does so in a very dry and factual way, which lacks a little human understanding.


Shoes.com

(Image credit: Shoes.com)

5. Shoes.com

The best store for speciality shoes

Reasons to buy

+
Great variety of shoes
+
Frequent discount codes and coupons
+
Great website with lots of search options

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Pay a visit to Shoes.com if you are in the market for a specific pair of shoes that you might not be able to find elsewhere online. This will not only most likely have what you're looking for but, thanks to some great discounts, should have it available at a good price too.

While there is a fine selection of your average shoes for men and women, this site also caters for those that require rarer options like narrow or wide shoes. But it also covers shoes for a specific task, like dance shoes for kids, for example.

What do you get at Shoes.com?
Shoes.com offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns | Free exchanges | Free returns | $6.95 restocking fee on returns | Rewards Club | Day time customer service (opens in new tab)

Shoes.com offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns | Free exchanges | Free returns | $6.95 restocking fee on returns | Rewards Club | Day time customer service

Usefully all these shoes are available under a search setup which has been filtered so you can narrow down your search using those. Perhaps you want to search by category narrowing it down to slip-ons or boots. There are even filters for the likes of vegan shoes, moisture wicking models, insulated and more. Or if you simply want to type in a specific search term then there is a search bar to help you that way. 

Everything is accompanied with bright and clear photographs with plenty of angles and color options, so you can assess if it's right for you. There is a lot of information as well as customer reviews and comments inline on the page.

All that, plus shipping is free with no minimum spend and you get free returns with full refunds within 60 days if you decide they're not the ones for you. Although there is a cheeky "restocking fee" at $6.95 you'll have to pay.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A+ rating and is accredited at the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 2 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

We looked at around 90 reviews of Shoes.com and found that they were largely positive. While the store scores low ratings on Consumer Affairs we did notice an awful lot of 'user error' reviews, or reviews calling out Shoes.com for very minor issues with their service, like being a day late with shipping. Where negative reviews and complaints were filed, we were delighted to see that the company's response - especially on BBB - was prompt, polite, and often resulted in customer satisfaction.

In terms of positive reviews, people were pleased with the exchange policy on offer, and the selection of shoes. The generous exchange period was mentioned too. While Shoes.com clearly isn't the cheapest online shoe store, it's well thought of and clearly has excellent customer service.


Amazon.com

(Image credit: Amazon.com)

7. Amazon

Best store to try before you buy

Reasons to buy

+
Prime Wardrobe lets you try before you commit
+
Great shipping and returns
+
Good selection of shoes and brands

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

The all-encompassing Amazon.com is an option if you want to order a few pairs of shoes to try on before you commit to buying. Primarily this is because, if you're a Prime member, you get free delivery (often next day) and can also send shoes back for free with no fees. 

What do you get at Amazon?
Amazon offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | Free exchanges | Free returns | Free shipping for Prime Members | 24-hour customer service | Try before you buy (opens in new tab)

Amazon offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | Free exchanges | Free returns | Free shipping for Prime Members | 24-hour customer service | Try before you buy

Amazon not only has new shoes but also used options, through third-party sellers, giving you a wide range of pricing options. As you'd imagine this site is so big with all the options that it can be more difficult than specialist shoe seller websites when it comes to navigation. 

If you're a Prime member then the Prime Wardrobe inclusion is helpful here. This lets you pick up to eight items of clothing to be delivered to your home with a three item minimum and a $1000 maximum. You've then got seven days from them arriving to try them on and mark the unwanted items for return. So you then just pay for what you keep and use prepaid packaging to return the rest. All the benefits of store shopping but from the comfort of home. 

Not everything on the site is part of Prime Wardrobe and you'll need that Prime membership to qualify. Other than that there is very little to speak of in terms of downsides to this option, apart from supporting the every growing leviathan that is Amazon, of course.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A rating and is accredited at the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 3 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

It's near impossible to get a sense of the Amazon user reviews for its shoe service, so we took a cross-section of about 50 reviews across a number of products we found in the shoe section on the site. Overall, they reflected the quality of each individual brand and, while there were complaints about shipping and lost orders, they were very positive.

Amazon's A rating on the BBB comes as little surprise, given the volume of complaints received for a wide range of problems encountered by users. Amazon's responses aren't always convincing, and many consumers fail to accept the resolution offered. Again, though, it's difficult to find a large number that specifically relate to shoes or the Prime Wardrobe aspect of the site.

We did check some style blogs for reviews of Prime Wardrobe. Many talked about the limitations of the service, such as the narrower selection, the fact you have to use a credit card, and the three-item minimum. However, the overall impression was positive.


Foot Locker

(Image credit: Foot Locker)

7. Foot Locker

The best store for sports shoes

Reasons to buy

+
Great range of sports and outdoor shoes
+
Good returns policy
+
Great for children's shoes too

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Foot Locker is all about the sneakers and other sports specific shoes, making it a great choice if that's exactly what you need. Also specializing in outdoor footwear, this can be a good pick for anyone looking to get some new hiking boots or the like.

The site covers everything from field sports and track to general exercise. So specific is this site, you can search by women's shoes with categories like cheerleading or tennis, as you need. There is also a section specializing in children's shoes all the way down to infant and toddler options.

What do you get at Footlocker?
Foot Locker offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | Pay for exchanges and returns | Curb side pick-up | VIP Scheme | Day time customer service (opens in new tab)

Foot Locker offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | Pay for exchanges and returns | Curb side pick-up | VIP Scheme | Day time customer service

The website has a discount area allowing you to shop by deals with filters that help to set a limit on the maximum price you're willing to pay. Sign up to the newsletter and you'll be sent discounts that can be applied when you come to shop on the site.

There's a minimum purchase amount on free shipping with an option to pick expedited if you're in a rush and don't mind paying more. Although if it doesn't arrive in time you'll get your money back on that from the site. 

If you need to make a return, there is a 30-day full refund option that applies to returns back to a store or via a $6.99 return scheme which covers postage in the case of exchanges.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an D- rating via the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 3.5 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

We looked at around 120 user reviews of Foot Locker, and separated the ones that were specifically for the online service offered. What users really like about Foot Locker is the brand and the way it treats its customers. The selection of shoes and the style of footwear is usually praised, and it was good to see a range of ages leaving positive reviews. Foot Locker's physical stores were complimented too, and several members of the online customer service team have been praised by name, which is a great sign.

Complaints usually stem from shipping and incorrect orders arriving, which are very common among other online shoe stores. There were several grievances around ordering via phone, which isn't a common method of buying shoes, and this does seem to have caused some confusion among customers. 

Unusually, Foot Locker has a terrible D- rating via the BBB, and it doesn't seem to be that good at closing customer complaints.


Famous Footwear

(Image credit: Famous Footwear)

8. Famous Footwear

The best store for sale events

Reasons to buy

+
Near constant sale events
+
Good stock
+
Members' club is worth joining

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Famous Footwear is the go to option if you want to make big savings off the back of major events. There is a specific sales tab on the site which allows you to search through the various deals that are on offer at that time. Expect there to always be some sort of promotion running where you can make a saving.

What do you get at Famous Footwear?
Famous Footwear offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns and exchanges | Pay for shipping and returns | Free returns in store | Member Club | Day time customer service (opens in new tab)

Famous Footwear offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns and exchanges | Pay for shipping and returns | Free returns in store | Member Club | Day time customer service

The end of season sales are some of the best where you can save as much as 50 percent off shoes, sandals, boots and more. You can also make savings as you spend using the rewards scheme which gives you a point for every dollar you spend. While these points can be spent later, you also get exclusive offers and free shipping as part of the deal for signing up. A great option when you consider you'll have to pay standard shipping charges if you don't sign-up to get rewards points, for free.

When it comes to exchanges there is a 60-day returns policy. You won't be charged but shipping it back is down to you – meaning the rate you're charged will be based on the courier you go with.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A+ rating via the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 3.4 out of 5 via Consumer Affairs

We researched around 100 reviews of Famous Footwear, and found them to be quite mixed. The positive reviews focused on the quality of the products that arrived, and the fact that they had been bought for so cheap. There's an assumption with outlet-style online stores that they're going to be sending substandard goods, but this isn't the case and people are delighted.

Complaints tend to center on errors with being charged for cancelled orders, and for problems with shipping. The response from Famous Footwear is inconsistent, if users are to be believed. Some like how efficiently the company resolves shipping issues, whereas others found them very unhelpful. 

Overall, there were no real red flags from the negative reviews, as you'll see a lot of complaints that revolve around shipping for every online shoe retailer.


Shoe Carnival

(Image credit: Shoe Carnival)

9. Shoe Carnival

The best for kids' shoes and costumes

Reasons to buy

+
Great range
+
Decent prices
+
Plenty of sale events

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey delivery and exchanges

Shoe Carnival has that fun name for a reason, it's tailored to kids offering both shoes and fancy dress wear. That means this is a good place to get your dressing up costumes with specific events catered for. Need to get something for Halloween or perhaps you want to search for a Marvel character? This has you covered for categories, search options and a wide selection of results. 

What do you get at Shoe Carnival?
Shoe Carnival offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns | Pay for shipping, returns, and exchanges | Return to store | Member Scheme | Day time customer service (opens in new tab)

Shoe Carnival offers the following on all orders:
60-day returns | Pay for shipping, returns, and exchanges | Return to store | Member Scheme | Day time customer service

While there are lots of fun shoe options for kids, this also offers a wide selection of functional shoes that your little one may genuinely need. Get to a shoe and you are shown a selection of photos with plenty of angles and color options alongside plenty lots of information. You will have a wide selection of shoe sizes but prepare to be upsold as you go here.

Shipping is free if you spend over $75 but since with kids shoes you likely won't unless buying for a few kids, you'll need to pay a $6.95 shipping charge. There's a 60-day returns policy which means you can try and return if needed only you will have to pay a $6 fee. Not ideal when you consider that you'll then need to pay the shipping fee again if you're simply returning in exchange for another size.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an A+ rating via the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 2 out of 5 via Yelp

We looked at around 45 user reviews of Shoe Carnival, as there were fewer related to the online version of the store than the brick and mortar retailer. What we found were a lot of critical reviews that took issue with the delivery and returns process of the site. Some users had really struggled to return items, and in some cases the issue had been ongoing for several months. While users had fewer issues with the stores, they also suggested that customer service was average at best.

Another more troubling review suggested that they were unable to get a refund for a defective item and, while there are often reasons why stores won't accept refunds on worn shoes, this wasn't an isolated case. We also noted that several users didn't like the more aggressive sales tone that both the regular stores and the website take with customers, with one noting "Just let the shoes be the shoes"! We couldn't agree more.


Asos

(Image credit: ASOS)

10. Asos

The best store for inspiration

Reasons to buy

+
Great range of brands
+
Good discounts available
+
Great returns policy

Reasons to avoid

-
Empty List

Asos is a UK brand that has made huge inroads into the US thanks to its offerings as a website that has a massive range of clothes including shoes. To be clear, this isn't as big as a name like Zappos, but it will likely offer different stock. As such this can be a great place to find something a little different like a new trend or something you may not have thought to look for.

What do you get at ASOS?
ASOS offers the following on all orders:
28-day returns | Free, paperless returns | No exchanges | Premier Delivery Scheme | 24-hour customer service (opens in new tab)

ASOS offers the following on all orders:
28-day returns | Free, paperless returns | No exchanges | Premier Delivery Scheme | 24-hour customer service

Since the site is well made, you can shop around searching for inspiration with ease. Get onto a product page you have lots of clear, multi-angle and color varied images to inform you, alongside the product features themselves. You won't get user reviews here but there is plenty of guidance to help with things like sizing guides.

Asos is a real winner when it comes to shipping and returns. Send back within 28-days and you get a full refund, or if it's up to 45-days you can send back to get store credit. Return via any USPS office and use the same packaging as you received the shoes in – an environmental win too then. Everything is also done online making it easier and getting another tick in the environmentally friendly box.

User reviews and ratings

  • Has an F rating via the Better Business Bureau
  • Scores 4 out of 5 via Trustpilot

We looked at over 200 reviews of ASOS, and found some very inconsistent things. While it has a terrible F rating at the BBB, many consumer review sites - like Trustpilot - have very favorable overall scores for the site. A rating of 4 stars on Trustpilot, for example, is higher than most other retailers on this list. Positive comments focus on the customer service that people have received, and the speed of resolution that occurred. The company is quite prompt at responding to complaints on the BBB too, so we don't see why the rating is so low.

The most common issues that people face with ASOS are around the time it takes to process some returns, and to refund the customer. While it's fairly standard, we note that the company promises a refund within 14 days, which is unacceptable given how quickly they're able to accept payments. A few people have bemoaned the lack of a complaints department, and seem to have vented frustrations elsewhere, but overall the customer experience seems very good with ASOS.

How we choose the best online shoe stores

About our online shoe store guide

We have considered all the big names in online shoe and clothing retail to create our guide to the best online shoe stores. We arrived at the final ten options by browsing and using each site in a variety of ways to determine the customer journey and the overall quality of service you will experience. Because we know this can vary across states and customer orders, we looked at over 1000 user reviews to give as accurate an impression as possible of the experience you're likely to get at each online shoe store. Our Promise to You

1. Range and prices

An online shoe store lives and dies by the value it offers, and the range of shoes you can get. The magic combination is good quality, cheap shoes, in a large range of popular styles. We often see online shoe sites offering discounts on end-of-line shoes, which is often the best time to buy, but many will have the latest styles in-stock at prices lower than what you find in your local shoe retailer.

2. Website experience

Our whole team are experts on website experience and user journeys. Because everything is done online when it comes to buying shoes from web retailers, we look at the whole process - from first arrival on the website, through to receiving and keeping the product you get. We know that the user journey doesn't end when you checkout, or when the package is delivered, and we take that into account with each store we assess.

3. Shipping and returns

The shipping and returns policy of an online shoe store is vital. One of the drawbacks of buying shoes online is that you can't try before you buy, so you need to be able to return shoes that don't fit with the absolute minimum of fuss. So, we consider things like: do stores provide packaging for return? Do they allow free returns? Do they allow you to easily return items via couriers or drop-off points? 

4. Customer service and knowledge

One of the reasons to buy shoes in physical stores is that you get to chat to knowledgable assistants who can advise you on fit, how to protect shoes from damage, and advise you on other shoes they have in stock. These are things online shoe stores have to replicate virtually, so we consider the methods they use to provide these aspects of the service - from information on how to measure your own feet, through to customer aftercare and similar product recommendations.

5. Discounts and sales

Finally, we look at the frequency with which retailers offer sales and discounts on their stock. Not only are these excellent opportunities to save money for you, but they're also good for clearing out old stock to make room for new shoes, so a retailer with more sales tends to refresh their range a little more frequently.

Online Shoe Store FAQs

While we're sure most of you know how to shop via the best online shoe stores, we have collected some useful advice for the overall process of buying shoes online. Most of this centers on refunds, exchanges, and your rights as a consumer, so it's worth a quick look.

What are your consumer rights for refunds?

While most of the best online shoe stores offer at least a 28-day refund policy on all items, we find that the terms of these policies vary wildly. You may be wondering what your rights are, as a consumer, and the answer is that it varies per state. This guide from the excellent FindLaw website (opens in new tab) breaks down your federal and state rights in relation to online shopping, so if you're in any doubt, head over there and look up your particular state. California, for example, mandates that a full refund must be offered within 30-days but ONLY if the retailer fails to clearly state their refund policy at the point of sale. Most other states do not offer these protections.

The basic summary is that, while it's seen as best-practice for retailers to do so, stores are not legally required to accept returns on goods whatsoever. So, while it's unlikely you'll find any online shoe stores failing to have a refund policy, you are not legally protected if you buy from somewhere that doesn't have a full returns policy. Ouch. 

When it comes to specific online protection, we note that federal law states that the site's refund policy must be clearly displayed on a website in order for online purchases to be valid. So, if this isn't the case, the site has no right to charge you for an item, and therefore you could very reasonably ask for the full amount of money to be returned on the ground that the sale wasn't valid in the first place. A little confusing, but it does offer protection for you, the customer. Of all the sites we looked at, the terms and conditions for refunds is clearly stated, and we didn't see anywhere that refused refunds on full-priced items (although some did state that refunds were unavailable on 'open-box' style products and outlet items). So you just need to make sure you follow the rules on each site for returns, and you shouldn't have any issues that can't be resolved.

Can you return shoes you have worn?

While there is often little specific guidance on each shoe store about returning worn shoes, we find the customer reviews section for each site offers more insight on this. Generally speaking, we would advise you to return shoes in the same condition they arrived in, if you expect either a full refund or an exchange for a different style or size. If the shoe doesn't fit, or you don't like the style when you first get it, there is no real reason why you'd wear it for a couple of weeks before returning it. Shoe stores will often quite reasonably refuse to refund customers if they return shoes that have been worn, damaged, or otherwise altered because this cuts down on people using returns policies like a rental service. You can't buy a pair of shoes for a party, for example, then send them back.

If it's clear that the shoe has a defect and this only becomes apparent after a few weeks of wear, we note that retailers are far more sympathetic to full refunds and exchanges. However, because you're not strictly protected by federal or state law when it comes to refunds, you are relying on the customer service department to give you what you need. This is why we like sites such as Zappos, who have excellent return policies, and are known for being good with customers.

If you cannot get a refund for a defective pair of shoes from a retailer, we suggest taking the issue up with the manufacturer, as they will likely be aware of defects in their shoes and are well placed to exchange or refund you for their product. When it comes to dealing with all refunds, we know for a fact that customer service representatives online always respond better to reasoned feedback, rather than aggression, so if you are attempting to deal with a refund you should always state your case firmly but politely to begin with. If you receive a rude or aggressive reply, which is extremely unlikely, you can then escalate to formal complaints and negative user reviews, but we would not advise this as a starting option.

Should you consider shoe subscription services?

If you are a real shoe lover, an occasional online purchase may not be enough, and it might make sense to sign up for a shoe subscription service. Sites like JustFab and ShoeDazzle offer memberships for about $40 a month. You get to shop their picks at discounted prices monthly, or you can save what you paid in membership fees to use toward future shoe purchases whenever you want to liven up your wardrobe. Usually, you can opt to skip months and not pay the subscription fee when you really can’t afford it. There are also shoe subscription services that cater to more specific interests – for example, Sneakertub.

And of course, there are many subscription sites that are much broader, offering all sorts of clothes, including but not limited to shoes. Whether any of these services is worth the money is largely a matter of personal opinion. We think it is worth a try if you really love shoes, especially since the companies' cancellation policies are pretty customer-friendly. 

What shoes are people shopping for in 2021?

Shoe shopping trends have undoubtedly changed over the past 18 months, as our world has undergone a radical overhaul thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. While online shoe sales have clearly skyrocketed, our buying patterns have also changed. According to NPD (opens in new tab) we've been buying 27% fewer fashion shoes, as a nation, while sales of more comfortable footwear is well up. Clogs are the big winner, perhaps surprisingly, with a 33% increase in sales, while we're also buying 21% more slippers too. I guess we know what most people are wearing on their feet while we're chatting to them on a zoom screen! 

What will we be wearing when we're back out fully this summer? Harpers Bazaar is predicting a big year for chunky sandals, as we look for something dressy and practical when we're outside our homes with greater frequency. You can see their 2021 trends right here (opens in new tab).

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Luke Edwards

Luke is a veteran tech journalist with decades of experience covering everything from TVs, power tools, science and health tech to VPNs, space, gaming and cars. You may recognize him from appearances on plenty of news channels or have read his words which have been published in most tech titles over the years. In his spare time (of which he has little as a father of two) Luke likes yoga, surfing, meditation, DIY and consuming all the books, comics and movies he can find.