There's something about a pair of shoes that lifts our spirits (and sometimes our height) when we need it most. If the shoe fits, it always fits, regardless how much weight we gain or lose. And so, when overcome with shoe lust, we turn to our favorite online shoe emporia with their seemingly endless variety of options.
Some budget ecommerce shoe stores sell off-brands you've never heard of while others sell brand-name shoes at discounted prices; memberships that yield extra savings are sometimes available. Each online shoe retailer offers different perks, but one is critical: a good refund and exchange policy because shoe size alone is no guarantee of a comfortable fit.
This ecommerce shoe site generally posts the best prices, and while there are no exchanges, unworn shoes can be returned within 30 days (at your expense) for a full refund. Standard ground shipping is free, two-day shipping costs $15, and $25 buys delivery in one business day on orders placed before 1 p.m. PST. 6PM rounds out its lineup with clothing and accessories.
A huge collection of shoes and handbags, loads of clearance items, and money-saving rewards make this a site worth visiting. There are brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, but the online store is the shoe-hound's best bet because it showcases the company's entire stock. Online orders exceeding $35 always ship free and rewards members (free to sign up) qualify for free next-day shipping. Returns are easy: Send unworn shoes back within 60 days for a full refund (minus an $8.50 shipping charge) and exchanges cost nothing.
An online-only shoe retailer that also carries clothing and housewares, Zappos earns its stripes with easy, no-questions-asked returns and excellent customer service. Standard shipping is free and full refunds are paid out for returns made up to one year from the purchase date. But the customer-friendly service comes at a price: Discounts are rare and there is no rewards program unless paying with the Zappos-branded Visa card ($25 back with first purchase).
Gotham City Online.
This site sells trendy and upscale brand-name footwear at good prices, a business strategy that frugal shoe hounds will appreciate. There's a clearance section where shoes (usually from last season) sell for up to 85 percent off, but the fashion-forward sensibility leaves the athletic shoe department very sparse. Gotham City Online charges a $4.99 flat rate for shipping and returns made within 90 days ship free.
This online vendor sells just about everything, including a limited selection of shoes at competitive but not particularly cheap prices. The loyalty program ($19.95 to join and $14.95 thereafter) entitles members to at least 5 percent back in the form of club rewards as well as free shipping. For non-members, shipping is free on orders exceeding $50, or $2.95 otherwise. Refunds are sent for unworn shoes returned in original packaging within 30 days; a replacement pair is sent for defective shoes.
To see how these online vendors measure up in terms of selection and pricing, we shopped for a pair of basic ballet flats, wedge sandals, and men's sneakers.
First up was Steve Madden's Heaven (MSRP: $60). We found these in many colors (including metallic), textures (patent, leopard, snake, glitter), and sizes at DSW, where they cost between $25 and $40. 6PM also stocks a wide assortment of sizes and colors and charges equivalent prices, although gold goes for only $18. Overstock.com carries this particular style but only in yellow reptile in two sizes for a comparatively whopping $53. Gotham City Online sells Steve Madden ballet flats but not the version Cheapism was seeking; an alternative, Kortship ballet flats with an elastic back, are available in black and limited sizes for $36. Zappos doesn't carry this shoe either, although it does stock other Steve Madden ballet flat styles at a $60 price point.
Wedge sandals are a hot look for summer. Crocs Leigh (MSRP: $55) struts an ankle strap and a 1.25-inch molded wedge with a 3.25-inch heel. 6PM stocks it in several styles and colors starting at $33. DSW carries it in black fabric only, at $50. Zappos features a different version with a lower height and no ankle strap in several colors of leather for $65 or $70. Gotham City Online doesn't sell this item at all, although it does feature similar wedge sandals by different manufacturers, such as American Rag Tilly and Etienne Aigner, in a handful of colors and sizes for $19. Overstock.com likewise offers a similar shoe, Blossom Plum-1, in black only, for $30.
Men's sneakers run wild -- price-wise, that is. Converse All-Stars (MSRP: $55) are an all-time classic. 6PM showcases the standard low-top in several colors for $45, and two colors of the slip-on style for $23. DSW carries the same model, priced at $50, in several colors and sizes. Zappos also stocks a wide inventory of colors and fabrics, including leather, starting at $50, and rising to $85 for retro '70s hi-tops. Overstock.com is offering blue denim All-Stars for $54, close to full price. Gotham City Online seems relatively uninterested in men's shoes -- there are very few styles of any kind in the current lineup.