Who Repairs Shoes? A Guide On How To Repair Shoes

A shoe being repaired
Image by wirestok on Freepik

Who repairs shoes these days? Not many do, the truth be told, and that’s a shame. Many types of shoes can actually be repaired and save you the cost of buying new ones.

Don’t throw away that pair of shoes you just found at the back of the closet until you finish reading this.

What are people who repair shoes called? Cobblers, or shoe repairmen, as some of them prefer to be addressed.

In many Asian countries, cobblers are a common sight on the streets. In the US of A and Europe, they’re not and should you find one, can be rather pricey.

A specialist service like this can often be expensive since it’s also gone high-tech. The equipment and materials used today are quite modern and up to date.

In the past, people didn’t want to work as cobblers, because it used to be a rather low-paying and menial job. Not any more. These days, cobblers have their own YouTube channels, and endorse products for shoes care.

Are shoes worth repairing?

A cobbler repairing shoes
Image by wirestock on Freepik

Picture this: you’ve graduated, and just landed your first job. Your parents are bursting with pride and joy.

As a gift, they’ll pay for your first real business suit. Your grandparents decide they’ll take you shoe-shopping. They buy you a beautiful pair of formal leather shoes that look and feel just great.

You’re all set for that climb up the corporate ladder.

Years pass. You’re successful now, a manager at your neighborhood bank. That first suit has been replaced by a closetful of new ones.

And your shoes? Well, you’ve obviously gotten new ones, but you didn’t have the heart to throw that first pair away, even though there are holes in the soles, and the leather is scuffed. It’s in the back of the shoe cabinet somewhere.

Here’s good news for you. That beat up pair of shoes can be repaired, sole and all. How much it’s going to cost is something to ask your neighborhood cobbler.

Is it worth repairing, though, or should you just purchase a new pair?

That depends on you. If they remind you of your grandparents, and those wonderful early years of your career, go ahead and repair them, because pretty much any type damage to a pair of shoes can be repaired.

If that pair of shoes were rather expensive to begin with, yes, certainly do repair them, as it will be well worth it.

A high end pair of leather shoes by Beckett Simonon or Allen Edmonds can cost upward of $ 1,000. Repairs will cost a fraction of that.

However, if it’s a pair of cheap no-brand sneakers, for example, with a tear at the toe, and a floppy sole, you might want to consider some in-house shoe-mending instead.

There are loads of kits and products available for repairing them yourself. If that doesn’t appeal to you, just throw them away and get a new pair. Shoes like these are often not worth patching up anyway.

Here’s an interesting tidbit.  The name for a shoemaker whose profession was to make, sew or repair shoes was called a cobbler because they “cobbled” together pieces of leather or other material to form shoes.

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Shoes for men and women

There is a big difference between shoes for men and women. We’re referring to formal work shoes or dressy, dinner shoes. Sneakers, on the other hand, are rather generic, and they come in designs that can often be worn by both sexes.

In general, men’s shoes lack the numerous choices and designs that women’s shoes offer. Men’s shoes are also typically larger, that is, wider and longer, than women’s shoes.

Another notable difference is that women’s shoes usually have higher heels.

Before we go any further, have a look at the various types of shoes available for both men and women.

All types of shoes for women
Types of shoes for women

For men, these are the common shoe types.

A range of men's shoes
Photo Credits: Gent With

What can you repair?

The Anatomy of A Man's Shoe
A typical man's shoe. Photo Credit: Cobblers Direct.

Different types of shoe will suffer different types of damage, and thus need to be repaired differently. Here are the most common repairs for footwear:

  • Replace and fix soles or apply non slip soles
  • Repair & patch damaged sections
  • Stretch shoes
  • Fix broken heels and tips
  • Repair the toes
  • Replace straps
  • Deodorize shoes
  • Replace Buckles
  • Fix zippers
  • Repaint or customize shoes

Let’s focus on the most common, and practical, repairs for both men and women’s shoes.

Repairs for Men’s Shoes

The sole of the shoe

The sole of a man's shoe
Photo Credit: Cobbler Direct
The sole and heel of a men's shoe
Photo Credit: Mr Minit

We’ll start with the most common repair for shoes – the sole. Most shoes can be re-soled when they begin to show wear and tear; note, though, soles can become damaged in a number of different ways.

The most common is the upper part of the sole. This section, right beneath the ball of the feet, may wear thin due to constant walking. It becomes slippery and dangerous.

Holes may appear, letting in water & grit. Walking is uncomfortable, because you can now feel every bump on the road or pavement.

If you go to a cobbler, he or she may suggest a more robust sole than the shoe originally came with.

You may want to add an anti-slip sole while you’re at it. This prolongs the life of the shoe and also avoids accidents when walking on wet surfaces.

Here’s an interesting idea. Buy a new pair of shoes, but don’t use them just yet. Go to a cobbler and ask for a sole protector.

Put it in when your shoe’s new, not when there is already a hole in your sole. It’s preventive maintenance and will really help protect those shoes.

If the shoe has a one-piece sole, like many sneakers do, the entire sole may come off if the glue is no longer adhesive or the stitches holding the sole and upper section give way.

Sneakers may or may not be worth repairing. The price of a new sole, and the cost for workmanship may not be worth it unless they’re rather expensive sneakers to begin with, or you can do it at home yourself.

Sneakers, unfortunately, don’t repair well.

So remember, when the soles are ruined, they can be cheap and easy to fix. A repair in the range of $20-$100 can give them several extra years of life, and leave you feeling like you have a brand new pair of shoes.

Don’t throw those shoes away, get them re-soled instead.

The Heel Of The Matter

The heel of a man's shoe
Photo Credit: Cobbler Direct
The heel of a man's shoe
Photo Credit Mr Minit

A heel gets worn as we walk daily, and often gets worn unevenly. Our posture, the shape of our feet and how we walk affect the way a heel gets worn.

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It’s advisable to replace or repair the heel to retain the shape of your shoe and avoid further damage.

One of the most common repairs is heel replacement. The heel is a vital part of the whole shoe and should always be taken care of.

Replacing and installing new, protective rubber heel caps is a quick, inexpensive procedure. It will preserve the heel’s shape and integrity. They also provide extra comfort and traction.

Stitching and Patching

Over time, our shoes can take a tremendous beating. Seams can become frayed and worn, while the shoes’ material such leather or suede, can collect minor rips and tears, and appear scuffed.

It’s good to have these rips & tears attended to while they’re still minor and manageable.

A quick visit to a cobbler nearby will allow them to assess the damage and advice you on what needs to be done, or even if it’s worth doing.

They’ll have the tools stitch up little tears, and they know to use patches to cover larger areas which are damaged.

These running repairs will make your shoes look nice and new, especially if they are high quality shoes, which are actually easier to repair.

The Toe

The toe of a man's shoe
Photo Credit Mr Minit

The toe piece is the front section of the shoe which often wears down quickly, particularly on pointy shoes.

The natural way humans walk, and the constant friction with the ground tends to harm the soles, heels and toes as well.  

The toes continually rub on the inside of the shoe, and begin to cause cracks along the exterior of the toe region of the shoe.

On a more aesthetic note, it just looks bad when the front of your shoe appears all worn down and chewed up.

If this does happen, make sure you ask your cobbler the cost of repairs first. Repair the toe of a shoe is a difficult and expensive affair. It might not even be worth it.

So do check prices first. While you’re at it add a toe piece as well. This will also help prolong the life of your shoe.

Stretching Your Shoe

Why do we need to stretch a shoe? What stretching does is make the shoe less tight. If you purchased a pair of shoes a tad smaller than your foot, stretching them makes for a perfect fit.

If you leave shoes in the closet for too long they tend to become stiff and shrink a little. Again, stretching them will ensure a comfortable fit.

Finally, tight, incorrectly fitting shoes can lead to bunions. After a good stretch, shoes can feel less constricting, and may help in preventing bunions.

Head down to your neighborhood cobbler and ask about shoe stretching services.  Many cobblers have shoe stretching machines in their stores, and can get the job done fairly quickly.

Common repairs for women’s shoes

Anatomy of a woman's shoe
Picture Courtesy of Cobblers Direct

Shoes make women happy, and that’s a fact. Every lady, woman or gal has at least a few pairs she absolutely can’t live without.

They become perfectly broken in over time and feel comfortable and look great. Alas, over even more time , the soles start wearing out, or the heels snap or wear down, the straps, buckles, or velcro breaks.

Such misfortune to a ladies’ shoe is common and to be expected. Don’t give up on them just yet, ladies! All your heels, sandals, sneakers, flats, slip-ons, boots and wedges, and more, can be repaired.

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Read on and revitalize your shoes so that they last for a long time to come yet.

The sole of a woman’s shoe

The sole of a woman's shoe
Photo Credit: Mr Minit

Heels (the type of shoe, not the part of the shoe!) are an essential part of most women’s wardrobe. A pair of heels for the office will differ greatly from those for a dinner party. They may be lower, less flashy, and perhaps even more comfortable.

Whatever the case may be, these shoes have soles that can wear out too, just like men’s shoes.

Women have to be rather more careful in heels, because the taller the heels, the harder it is to walk. Slipping and twisting one’s ankle is a constant worry.

One of the most important additions to a women’s shoe is an anti-slip rubber sole, to reduce the chance of slipping.  

Different types of soles and colours are available to suit a variety of shoes and even boots. This is probably the most important add-on or repair to a women’s shoe you can make, so don’t put it off.

The heel of the matter

The heel of a woman's shoe
Picture Credit: Mr Minit

Heels themselves can suffer a variety of damage. Heel tips can break, and often do, altering the heel block in the process.

There are rubber heel tips to replace plastic ones, which greatly helps walking on wet surfaces. They cushion each step, and best of all, reduce that clackety sound heels make when walking.

Stitching and Patching

Women have many different types of shoes, to go with different type of occasions or outfits. Each shoe suffers wear and tear differently.

Some are more delicate and often need preventive repairs to avoid being discarded altogether.

A little stich in time to that sandal will help keep it together and wearable for some time to come, and a leather patch applied to your pair of dressy, and expensive, boots will avoid further damage to it.

Stitching and patching are best done at a cobbler rather than at home, so do take the time to bring in your shoes in batches and have them assessed.

Your cobbler will tell you what needs to be done for each pair and how much it will cost, so you can decide what to do next. As the saying goes, a stitch in time saves nine.

The Toe

After repeated use, shoes often become scuffed and worn. Pay special attention to the toes as the toe section of any shoe tends to kick and boot things as you walk.

A scruffy toe section spoils the look of the whole shoe, since it’s very visible. Replace the toe piece to make your shoes look as good as new and extend the life of your favorite pairs.

Stretching

If your shoes such as boots feel too snug, get them stretched. Leather boots and shoes can be stretched quite a bit, relieving pressure on the foot.

Leather is the easiest to stretch. Your cobbler will examine the material of your shoe and advice you if it can be stretched.

There are even stretching machines that can make more room in the calf section of your tall fashion boots, but it depends on the material used.

Vinyl and fabric can be stretched, but not much; leather can take the most stretching.

Other Common Repairs For Shoes

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