The Sneaker Dilemma

April 2, 2010 8:44:24 AM PDT
As I've mentioned in some of my earlier blogs, my sons are into sports. And sports require the purchase of all sorts of equipment, including specialty shoes. They also grow - a lot. That requires the near-constant purchase of lots of clothes and shoes for everyday wear.

When they were little, I could find a pair of sneakers at Marshalls or T.J. Maxx. If they fit and they cost under $20, I figured we were all in good shape. I'd even browse the clearance racks and buy shoes that were great deals that were a size or two bigger than their current sizes and put them away until the boys grew into them.

But, somewhere fairly on in elementary school, my taste in sneakers (which was mainly determined by size and price) and their taste in sneakers (which was mainly determined by brand and athletes' endorsements) went in two different directions. Needless to say, their direction was far more expensive. And since I was the one paying, this became a bit of an issue.

I don't spend $100-plus dollars on shoes for myself - and my feet haven't grown in some 30 years. So, there was no way I was going to spend that kind of money, or more, on the boys. Not only are they still growing, they're really rough on their shoes. While I might keep a pair for years, they rarely get more than three months of wear out of a single pair.

So, shoe shopping became a time of strategizing and compromising. I understood, especially as the boys got older, that both their fashion-consciousness and their physical needs during sports would require that I increase my $20-per-pair threshold. But I've found that with some clever shopping, I don't have to spend more than $50, and they can pretty much get what they want.

Here are some of the things we do.

1. Shop the sales. Stores like Footlocker have clearance sales and clearance sections, where they drastically reduce the prices on certain shoes to move them out and make room for more inventory. We've found name brands with discounts of 50-percent to 75-percent.

2. Shop the outlets. Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Converse, and Skechers all have outlet stores, at either The Walk in Atlantic City or at The Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Limerick, Pa. Some of the inventory at these "factory stores" is only 10-percent off regular retail. But if you find the clearance racks at the rear of the stores, you can often find discounts up to 50-percent. We've also found good deals on sneakers at Nordstrom Rack (in King of Prussia and Franklin Mills)

3. Check catalogs and online sites. The boys have found some great deals in the Outlet section of the Eastbay catalog and website.

And here's one final idea. I've made the boys part of the process. If they have an idea about a pair of shoes they'd like, but they're over my $50 threshold, they have a couple of choices. They can look for them at a discount somewhere or they can pay the difference themselves from their allowance or baby-sitting/job money. It's amazing what great bargain-hunters they've become. Now, when we hit Footlocker, or the outlets, they head straight for the clearance racks themselves. And they also get excited now, knowing they've gotten a "steal" - even if it's in a store, instead of on the basketball court or baseball diamond.