Best clothing and shoe stores that ensure durability

June 3, 2023 — by George Hu
Courtesy of Mike Mozart
A picture of the front of a Banana Republic store in a Westgate mall in San Jose.
Recreational Equipment Incorporated, Roadrunner and Banana Republic deserve to be more popular for their special policies and quality items.

According to the Huffington Post, the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing annually. Similarly, according to the Unsustainable Magazine, America’s population of 337 million discards 300 million shoes per year. 

These eye-opening statistics prove the extent of Americans’ shopping habits and their addiction to fast fashion.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Americans could avoid throwing away this amount of clothing and shoes by going to stores that sell quality products. In the long run, buying durable clothing saves people money; those who repeatedly buy low quality products have to shop more frequently. 

To give some options for an ideal clothing shopping spree, below is a list of three underrated clothing and shoe stores, ranked in terms of their product quality as well as their special policies that result in more durable fashion.

3. Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI)

REI primarily sells equipment for outdoor activities, including camping, hiking, cycling and skiing. Even though it seems most Saratoga High students tend to spend their time sitting miserably in classroom chairs surrounded by countless books and papers, a trip to REI will surely awaken their instinct to reconnect with Mother Nature.

The best deal is REI’s return policy: If a customer does not like the product they purchased, they can return it for a full refund and get a replacement 90 days after the original purchase without REI membership and 1 year after the original purchase with REI membership. All this is effective even if the product has been used.

Additionally, REI’s product quality is outstanding; its shoes, in particular, deserve the same recognition as shoes from other stores such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Patagonia.

Since I was in Boy Scouts for the first two years of middle school, I was a loyal customer of REI. When I first joined Boy Scouts at the start of sixth grade, I went to the closest REI, which is located in San Jose with an address of 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, to buy hiking shoes because my dad had bought hiking shoes from them in the past and had found them comfortable. I found a sturdy pair of shoes that comfortably fit me, which were the Bridge Low Waterproof Hiking Shoes. 

These shoes are light and bouncy and the midsole provides cushioning, preventing blisters. Simultaneously, they possess good traction, minimizing injuries from falls on steep, uneven and rough sections of hikes.

REI’s products offer comfort, utility and durability — making it the go-to store for outdoor apparel.

2. Banana Republic

Banana Republic sells clothing for men and women of all ages and sizes, offering top-notch quality. Prices range from $10 to $500. Luckily, there are three Banana Republic stores across Santa Clara County with the closest one being located inside the Westfield Valley Fair that has an address of 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd.

In middle school, I — along with the majority of my classmates — was blessed (or cursed) with the era of my life known as puberty, and my family had to take me to Banana Republic to find clothes that would actually fit my rapidly growing frame. 

To my surprise, the clothes were extremely comfortable; no matter how much they stretched, they still managed to stay in shape, unlike the other clothing brands, which ripped under the slightest bit of tension. They’re even comfy enough for me to wear them to sleep. If this kill-two-birds-with-one-stone trade isn’t enough to convince you to start buying from Banana Republic, I can only say that your standards are simply far too high.

The products Banana Republic sells are just as good as clothes sold by Old Navy and Macy’s but they are somehow less popular by a large margin.

1. Roadrunner

As the name suggests, Roadrunner provides a large variety of sporting goods, including athletic clothing like shoes for different types of exercise, socks and energy gels. Two Roadrunner stores are in Santa Clara County with the closer one being located in Campbell with an address of 1646 S Bascom Avenue.

What I liked most during my most recent visit about two months ago was the opportunity to buy quality shoes with unique customization. During that visit, I was looking for a perfect new pair of running shoes with which I could run six days a week. 

When I used the store’s 3D Foot Scan Machine, I learned that I had an imbalance in my feet with the arch of my right foot being slightly higher than my left one, so I bought a customized insole. Prior to that day, I had not seen a 3D Foot Scan machine in a store, highlighting the benefits of going to Roadrunner over other competing stores.

Additionally, Roadrunner has a great variety of shoes for different purposes — such as hiking or running — from many brands, including Nike, Asics, Brooks, Hoka and New Balance. To further ensure that everyone finds a comfortable shoe to buy, Roadrunner offers different sizing for people with wide, narrow and flat feet because many shoe brands like New Balance and Hoka make shoes that are tailored to a specific type of feet.

Luckily, what made it easier to choose between the endless options were the treadmills inside the store. They allowed me to run while wearing a shoe that I had picked out along with the customized insole, helping me determine its level of comfort.

After testing several shoes, I ultimately decided on buying the ASICS GEL-Kayano Lite 3 along with my customized insole, feeling that they were the most pleasant combination to run with. After several weeks of running with my new shoes and my customized insoles, the difference between them and my old shoes shone through. Without customized insoles, my feet sometimes felt slightly painful during and after runs. With insoles, my feet remained comfortable during and after runs.

In the age of fast fashion and throwaway culture, these three stores have proven to be exceptions to rules. Based on personal experience, I’d say all of them sell high-quality products that can be used for extended periods of time.

Tags: clothing