What makes one of the best online shoe stores? Is it the level of information they provide, the images they show, the return policies that mean you can buy with confidence - knowing you can send the shoes back if they don’t fit? Perhaps it’s the user reviews, the guides to fitting, or free shipping. For others, it will be specialist knowledge or sizing, as feet can be tricky things sometimes.
Whatever your need, we've got the best online shoe store for you, in the list below. We tackled the tough job of shoe shopping to test these sites, and looked thoroughly at all the features they offer - from stock levels and range of shoes and boots, through to the fine print surrounding returns, restocking fees, and things like curbside pickup from physical stores.
Zappos.com - Best shoe store overall
DSW - Best dedicated shoe store
6pm - Best discount store
Overstock - Best for discounts
Shoes.com - Best for special shoes
Amazon.com - Best for 'try before you buy'
Foot Locker - Best for sports shoes
Famous Footwear - Best for sales events
Shoe Carnival - Best for kids shoes and costume
ASOS - Best for inspiration
While physical shoe stores are sometimes limited by the amount of stock they can keep in-store at once, an online show store has fewer such problems, as it can be the front-end to a huge shoe warehouse like the one at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And while obtaining a good pair of shoes certainly can be a religious experience, an even greater feeling of euphoria can be found if you happen across an online shoe store that’s having a sale, or accepting discount codes. You can often sign up for a store’s VIP program, and receive news and discounts by email - handy if you buy a lot of shoes online.
Whether it’s sneakers, boots, pumps, wedges or sandals you’re looking for, the best online shoe stores will have something to spark your imagination. We gone for a store with a broad range of styles as our best overall pick, but if it’s more than the basics you’re after, you’re often better off going for a specialist store that will have more styles in stock in the kind of shoe you prefer. Things can get expensive when shopping for shoes, so we’ve included some budget choices too, as a good pair of cheap shoes is the best pair of all.
If you still can't find what you're looking for, perhaps the best online auction sites will have your dream pair?
Best online shoe stores
Below is our list of the best online shoe stores. While we have Zappos as our top pick, all the retailers below it are seriously worth checking out, as each one offers something we really like in a shoe store. Don't think of this as a ranked list - it's a guide to our favorite shoe stores, designed to help you find exactly what you need.
Zappos.com: Best online shoe store overall
- Excellent 365-day return policy
- Great website with user reviews prominent
- Good price ranges, and a wide variety of shoes
Zappos.com is our top pick for online shoe stores because it provides an excellent all round service, while offering a good range of shoes at competitive prices. The website itself is easy to navigate, has excellent product photography, and offers loads of useful information on each product page.
When you choose a pair of shoes to view you're given a range of sizes available, a drop-down menu with color variations, and other style options - all contained in the right-hand navigation of the page. We love that the picture of the shoes has pride of place, and there are so many images for each pair, showing you almost all the angles you could possibly want to see. Zappos also makes a feature of its user reviews, and underneath each product you get statistics from customers detailing information on the shoe, like 'True to fit' and 'True to width', so you get an idea of how your particular shoe compares to others of the same size and style.
You also get free returns on Zappos shoes, which is a big deal, and you can return shoes within a massive 365 days of buying them - one of the most generous returns policies of any online shoe store. The only downside is that you need to either print your return label, or have a sticker delivered by the USPS, which does slow down returns a little. We really appreciate how Zappos has 'Customer Service' right at the top of the page, in the primary navigation, and this is consistent throughout every page you visit on the site. Phone, email, live chat, and other options are all available, and the customer service is prompt and friendly. Overall, it's a very good user experience.
Zappos.com User Reviews and Ratings
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 serviceVIEW DEAL ON Zappos
- 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: Best dedicated online shoe store
- A large range of shoes and boots, with no other clothes on site
- Excellent clearance section for cheaper prices
- The JLO collection is great to browse
DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) carries many of the biggest brand names, including Nike, Steve Madden and UGG, so it is a good place to shop if you’re looking for designer shoes, boots, athletic shoes or sandals. There's a JLO collection on there too, which has its own zone on the website, and the range is fabulous to look at. While it may not be to everyone's taste, there's no doubting the prestige of it. In terms of range, DSW is one of the best.
The product pages are good, but not perfect. You see good, clear product images, and we appreciate the fact that you don't have to click through a gallery to see your shoes from all the different angles. Sizes and shoe variants are listed in the right-hand side of the page, along with an overall user score. We'd like to see more feedback from customers included here, and more buying advice, but overall the display is good.
When you sign up for DSW’s rewards program, you earn points for every dollar you spend. These points can be redeemed for gift cards, which is a nice touch. DSW only offers free shipping on all sales to VIP members, which isn't the best. While exchanges are free, and can be done within 60 days, returns come with an $8.50 charge. Another one of DSW’s drawbacks is it doesn’t offer as deep of discounts as other shoe stores we looked at, although there is a well populated 'Clearance' section on the website. While this is welcome, it doesn't feel like an event in the same way as the sales you'll find on other websites.
DSW User Reviews and Ratings
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 serviceVIEW DEAL ON DSW
- 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: Best discount shoe store
- Some deep discounts on designer brands
- Plenty of stock to select from
- Free shipping on larger orders
If you're hunting for outlet-level prices online, 6pm is a great place to start your search. It's the outlet site for Zappos, and carries many of the same brands. However, as it's an outlet, you can get shoes for much, much cheaper, if you're willing to dig around for something you like. You'll find regular discounts, daily sales, and there are numerous coupons available for the site if you know where to find them.
The site itself is more standard than many of its rivals, but is easy to navigate and contains some bright, colorful product images. Once you're on a product page you get to see shoes from many different angles, and you can change the size and color/style settings by using the drop-down menus on the right of the page. There are no user reviews on the product pages, so you do lack that additional information on each shoe.
On the negative side, the service you get from 6pm simply can't match that of Zappos. While you do qualify for free delivery if you buy two or more pairs of shoes, or spend more than $50 (which most will), returns cost extra and there is no option to exchange shoes. You simply need to pay to return the ones you bought, and buy something else. Customer support is available, but limited in terms of hours, and there are no VIP clubs or price-match promises here (as you'd expect from an outlet store). Overall, you'll love the prices at 6pm, but be sure you want something before you buy.
6pm User Reviews and Ratings
6pm offers the following on all orders:
30-day returns | No exchanges | Pay for returns | Day time customer service | Coupons accepted | Extended returns for COVIDVIEW DEAL ON 6pm
- 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: Best shoe store for discounts
- Excellent prices, and some great additional discounts
- Clean and easy-to-use site
- There are loads of other products here too
Overstock.com is one of the bigger names in online discount retail. The site covers everything from home furnishings to electricals, but there is a superb selection of shoes to be found here too. You'll find sneakers, heals, clogs, booties and all kinds of different shoes, all from brands such as Nike, Adidas, Birkenstock, and more. You'll even find some designer labels like Jimmy Choo here, although they are very limited in number.
The product pages are clean, but lack a little information when compared to the likes of Zappos. You'll see good product images of the shoes, and if you scroll around the page you will find a limited number of user reviews, but rarely enough to inform your decision-making. There's a Q&A section, which is good when it's populated by users, and while we applaud the effort of the Tips and Inspiration tab... the content in there isn't very inspirational.
Shipping is free to all states except Hawaii and Alaska, and is quicker than most other stores on this list. There's a 30-day returns policy, which is standard, and users are responsible for the cost of 'buyers remorse' returns. Sadly, this does include shoes that don't fit, which is one of the perils of buying from a more generalist store.
Overstock.com User Reviews and Ratings
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 acceptedVIEW DEAL ON Overstock
- 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: Best store for specialty shoes
- Great variety of shoes, especially if you need specialty pairs
- Frequent discount codes and coupons
- Great website with loads of search options
Shoes.com has a large inventory of shoes, free exchanges and helpful customer service. In addition to a large selection of everyday footwear for women and men, there are many specialty footwear options, covering narrow and wide shoes, and even things like dance shoes for kids.
The search browser is useful to find a specific shoe, or you can find a category type, like boots, oxfords or slip-ons if you want more browsing options. You can also filter for such specialty features as orthotic-friendly, vegan, moisture wicking, insulated and diabetic-friendly. You can refine your search further under specifying categories like canvas, clogs, flats, size, color, price range and brand. The product photography on each page is clear and bright, and there are further options for changing size and style. Scroll a little further down, and you get a good range of customer reviews and comment on the fit of the shoes. The site is really good.
Shoes.com offers free shipping, and there's no minimum value needed to qualify. If you decide you don’t like the shoes, you can return them within 60 days for a complete refund, and shipping on returns is free. However, there is a fee of $6.95 for 'restocking'. Items that are labeled as final sales, however, don’t qualify for returns. There's also a rewards club called Shoefans, which is worth enrolling in.
Shoes.com User Reviews and Ratings
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 serviceVIEW DEAL ON Shoes.com
- 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: Best for 'try before you buy' shoes
- Prime Wardrobe lets you try before you commit to buy
- Amazon has excellent shipping and returns
- Good selection of shoes and brands
We all know Amazon and, love it or hate it, there's no denying it's an excellent place to buy stuff. The shoe selection at Amazon is very good, and there's a decent range of both new and pre-owned shoes thanks to the various third-party retailers associated with Amazon. The website is actually harder to navigate than many of its rivals, but that's because Amazon has such a massive range of items - you need to drill into the site to find shoes.
What sets Amazon apart, however, is the Prime Wardrobe services, which is included as part of a regular Amazon Prime membership. Here you can choose up to eight items of clothing - shoes included - at a time, and order them to be delivered to your home. There is a three-item minimum and a $1000 maximum value. Once they arrive you have seven days to try them on, and mark all unwanted items for return. After that you pay for the stuff you want to keep, and use pre-paid packaging for all the returns. It's so, so simple and is a great way of shopping for clothes and shoes.
The downside? Well, it's tough to see one, although the fact you need to be a Prime member is something of a barrier. You are slightly limited in terms of choice - not everything on Amazon is part of Prime Wardrobe, so you may not be able to use it for your chosen pair of shoes or boots. Overall, though, it does feel a lot like the future of shoe shopping...
Amazon User Reviews and Ratings
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 buyVIEW DEAL ON Amazon
- 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: Best for sports shoes
- Superb range of sports and outdoor shoes
- Good returns policy and refund period
- Excellent for children's shoes too
Foot Locker has an impressive selection of athletic shoes of all kinds, including field sports, track and field and general exercise. Women's shoes are organized by brand, price and category and you’ll find shoes specifically designed for things like cheerleading and tennis that you won't find elsewhere. You can find shoes for children that have extra support or safety. Children’s shoes come in a wide selection of brands and colors – there are even name brand infant and toddler shoes available.
The website has a discount section so you can search for a good deal on the type of shoe you’re looking for, and you can filter by maximum price. You'll also get discounts on site, and via the Foot Locker newsletter. Shipping costs from Foot Locker vary depending on your purchases. You can receive free shipping on select items or if you meet a certain minimum purchase requirement. If you choose expedited shipping, Foot Locker guarantees delivery within the promised timeframe or they will reimburse you for shipping, which is a nice touch.
You have 30 days from the product's shipment date to get a full refund. You can either take your shoes to your local Foot Locker store to return or exchange them, which is a nice feature if you're based near a physical store. The rest of the returns and exchange options aren't great - you pay $6.99 for return shipping, although you won't be charged for the postage of replacement items in the event of an exchange.
Foot Locker User Reviews and Ratings
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 serviceVIEW DEAL ON Foot Locker
- 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: Best for shoe sale events
- Near-constant sale events and discounts
- Good turnover of stock
- Members club is worth joining
If you’re looking for the best prices and opportunities to save more, Famous Footwear is one of the best options. It isn't quite on the same level as 6pm, but is one of the best discount shoe stores out there, and has an impressive range of sales.
It has a sale tab on its site and consistently runs other promotions. For example, it often runs end-of-season sales during which you can get shoes, sandals or boots for as much as 50% off. Famous Footwear also has a rewards program that earns you points for each dollar you spend. These points can then be redeemed later. When you sign up for the rewards program, you also get exclusive offers and free shipping on any orders you make online. This may be one of the best perks because standard shipping applies to non-rewards members’ purchases.
If you want to exchange or return items you get 60-days (or 90 if you're a member) and you can ship back via any courier of your choosing, so the fee for this is variable.
Famous Footwear User Reviews and Ratings
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 serviceVIEW DEAL ON Famous Footwear
- 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: Best for kids shoes and costume shoes
- Good range of kids shoes and fancy dress wear
- Decent prices on shoes, although delivery and exchange is expensive
- Plenty of sales events to save you money
Shoe Carnival is - as the name suggests - a good place to pick up both unusual and costume footwear. While it has all the usual categories that normal online shoe stores have, Shoe Carnival has a bunch of other categories to help you complete fancy-dress and Halloween costume outfits. You'll see sections like 'Cowboy' and 'Character' on there, which demonstrates a breadth of shoes that many other retailers can't quite match.
The site is great for kids shoes too, and there are loads of categories that children will actually want to shop from (as well as the more practical ones they need too). Everything is sensibly laid-out when you get to a product page, with multiple photos of the shoes clearly displayed. You can select size and colors from a drop-down menu, and there are user reviews on page... even if Shoe Carnival doesn't get the same volume of reviews as many other sites. We don't really like how much the site tries to 'sell' extras to you, as it makes the experience feel a bit cheap.
Shipping starts at $6.95, although it's free if you spend in excess of $75. Annoyingly, there's a $10 surcharge if you live in Alaska or Hawaii, which other shoe stores don't impose. You've got 60-days to return items, which is pretty generous, but you will be charged a $6 fee. Exchanges are essentially treated like returns, so if you do get the wrong size, you'll need to pay that fee when you send the original pair of shoes back, and then you'll pay again for delivery. Of all the shoe stores we reviewed, Shoe Carnival has the worst exchange policy.
Shoe Carnival User Reviews and Ratings
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 serviceVIEW DEAL ON Shoe Carnival
- 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: Best for shoe inspiration
- A great range of brands, some of which are lesser known
- Good prices, and lots of discounts available
- Great returns method and policy
ASOS is a UK brand that is rapidly growing in the US. And with good reason - the site has a large range of shoes, and other clothing, and it's incredibly easy to buy from. While the selection isn't as wide as the likes of Zappos, you'll find a number of brands here that aren't as common across the rest of the shoe stores we've listed here, so if you're looking for something a little different you'll likely find it here. It's great to just poke around on the site looking for new shoes and clothes, so we've listed it as our top pick for inspiration.
Product pages are laid out a little differently to many other shoe retailers, but you'll recognize all the elements, including a gallery of pictures of the shoe itself, and an option to change the size and style too. There are no user reviews on site, but there are help guides to assist you with finding the right size and fit.
When it comes to delivery and returns, ASOS is very good. While the returns policy is only 28-days for a full refund, you can also get store credit for up to 45-days. You can return items via any USPS office, and you can often use the same packaging your shoes arrived in for the return, which does save you money. There are no paper slips to fill out in ASOS orders, so all the returns process is done online, which is better for the environment. Overall, we like what the company is trying to do here.
ASOS User Reviews and Ratings
ASOS offers the following on all orders:
28-day returns | Free, paperless returns | No exchanges | Premier Delivery Scheme | 24-hour customer serviceVIEW DEAL ON ASOS
- 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
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 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.
Shoe Store Glossary
- Credit note: If you are not issued with a full refund, stores will often issue you with a credit note for the value of your goods, which you can spend at that site.
- Curbside pick-up: If you don't want to pay for delivery, but do want to order online, some stores allow you to pick-up items from inside or outside their physical stores.
- Exchanges: When you send an item back to the retailer because you want the same product in a different size or style, or you want to swap for a different item of equivalent value.
- Refunds: When you expect to return the item in exchange for a return of the money you paid.
- Restocking / Relisting Fee: Some stores charge you a fee for 'restocking' if you return an item. It's usually about $6-8. We fail to see why it costs $8 to put an item back into a warehouse, but there you go.
- Return slips: Old-fashioned retailers will include 'return slips' with your order (usually pink in color) that you need to fill out and return with your goods in order to get a refund. Many online shops usually let you fill out returns via the website now.
- Shipping: The method by which the shoes get to you - usually via a courier or the USPS.
- Sizing charts: Some sites show you how to size your feet, and will provide sizing charts to give you detail on shoe sizes in different countries (for imported shoes). They may also show you how to tell if your feet need wide or narrow shoes too.
- VIP clubs: Often stores will invite you to join a special members club, for a fee, that will entitle you to things like rewards, free shipping, and extended returns.
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