How to Return Your Walking Shoes or Running Shoes

Know the shoe return policy when you buy walking shoes

Athletic Shoes in Boxes

Richard Newstead / Moment / Getty Images

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One of the biggest investments for walkers and runners is in their shoes. A good pair of athletic shoes can cost $50 to $150, with some hiking boots topping $200.

For comfort and to prevent problems like blisters, you need shoes that fit well. If they don't, you'll want to return them or exchange them as soon as possible. Know the return policy of the store or online vendor before you buy shoes so you aren't stuck with shoes that are a poor fit.

Return Policy Essentials

The most generous return and exchange policies are usually found at local running or outdoor stores that thrive by developing lifelong customers. Often these stores will accept shoes that have been worn several times outdoors and exchange them until they find the right shoes for you.

Discount stores and mass market chain stores may have better prices but a much more strict return and exchange policy. Online stores are convenient, but you can't try on shoes before purchase and a return will require you to mail the shoes back.

When shopping at a store, ask the sales staff about the return policy and get it in writing when possible. When shopping online, find the shoe return policy page. Check these requirements:

  • Money back or exchange: Does the vendor refund your money or offer an exchange?
  • Procedure: Do you bring the shoes into a store? Do you call to get a return authorization number? Can you get a return authorization number online?
  • Reason for return: Can you return them for any reason, for no questions asked, or do you need to cite a reason?
  • Shipping: Does the vendor foot the bill for return shipping? What is the shipment method for returns?
  • Shoe condition: Must you return the shoes looking new, in the original box, or can you return them after wearing them outdoors?
  • Time limit: How long do you have from the date of purchase to return the shoes?

Tips for Returning Shoes

Following a few basic guidelines may help you make the most of your walking or running shoe purchase.

Wear Shoes Indoors First

Because return policies vary, wear the shoes indoors or on the treadmill for the first several wearings. If you find any discomfort in wearing them, return them. This may include the shoes being too tight, too loose, blisters, pain from the shoes rubbing in the wrong place, new knee pain, etc.

Many chain shoe stores and online vendors have return policies that specify the shoes must be unworn and in the original packaging. That means that you should only wear them indoors on clean surfaces for a few days before deciding to return them. If they appear to be worn, you may not get a refund or exchange.

Take Action Quickly

Don't expect a fit problem to resolve with continued wear. Break off your relationship with the shoe as soon as you detect a problem and take them back or send them in for an exchange. Shoes should be supportive yet comfortable from the first wearing or you need to exchange them for shoes that fit your feet better. No pair of shoes fits every foot.

If you are using a local running shoe store, knowing what didn't work well with the shoes can help the staff find the right shoes for you.

Don't Expect a Warranty

Check the vendor's policy about returns for defects, but don't expect your walking shoes to last for more than a year. As shoes are items of clothing, it is expected that they will wear out and that some will have defective stitching or glue. Athletic shoes are only expected to last for 350 to 500 miles of wear, which is three to six months for most fitness walkers and runners.

Return Policies by Brand

Knowing the shoe return policy is important for ensuring you are able to return the shoes when they don't work for you. Here are examples of some popular vendor policies.

  • DSW: Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW) has a very strict policy for returning any item, including shoes and boots. You can only return them for refund or exchange if they are unworn, in the original product packaging, and you have the receipt or invoice. While they say you can return items for any reason for up to 60 days, they can't appear to have been worn.
  • Famous Footwear: This chain sells discounted footwear and it has a strict return policy. The shoes must be unworn and in their original packaging, even if they are defective or damaged. They can be returned within 30 days of purchase.
  • Road Runner Sports: Their 60-day return policy means you can return your unused shoes within 60 days. Refunds are only given if you return unused shoes within 60 days. Road Runner Sports has a more generous 90 day return or replace policy if you're a VIP member.
  • The Walking Company: You can return shoes for any reason for up to 30 days after you received them. However, they must be unworn and in the condition you received them in the original box, with your original sales receipt in order to get a cash/check refund or credit on your credit card. If you don't have your receipt, they will offer an exchange or store credit instead.
  • They allow returns within 365 days, with free shipping both ways, no reason needed. The catch is that the shoes must be in the same condition as received.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.