Angie's LIST Guide to
Shoe Repair

Though shoe cobblers — those who repair shoes — may seem like the stuff of myth, many high-end shoe buyers hire these shoe repair specialists to maintain their quality, leather dress shoes and boots. Read this guide to learn more about the physical and economical benefits.
 

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Shoe repair
Shoe repair by professional cobblers extends the life of high-end footwear. (Photo by Gene Hale)
 
 

Shoe cobblers or shoe repair specialists

A cobbler can keep your shoes in tiptop shape for years, repairing them piece by piece.

dress shoe repair
Regular visits to the cobbler keep these dress shoes in tiptop shape. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Joshua J. of Huntsville, Ala.)

Before the industrial revolution, the point when cheap shoes became easily available, cobblers were the first stop for broken shoes. Now, many think of cobblers as an antiquity — if they think of them at all. However, wearers of high-quality dress shoes and boots still turn to their local cobblers for shoe repair.

It's not just about fashion. Cobblers and their customers tout the environmental and physical health benefits, as well as being able to wear the same pair of broken-in shoes for years.

A visit to the cobbler can cost anywhere from $5 to $85 or more, depending on the type and number of services your shoes require.

Typical services that any shoe repair service should offer include:

  • Whole or half sole replacement
  • Heel replacement, including high heels
  • Insole replacement
  • Orthopedic augmentation
  • Strap repair and replacement
  • Cleaning and shining
  • Dyeing to change or restore color
  • Golf shoe repair and spike replacement
  • Repairing puppy-chewed shoes
  • Waterproofing, in part to prevent salt stains

Save money with shoe repair

This video explains what a cobbler can do and how much it costs.

Besides shoes, many cobblers offer services for other household items, often made of leather.

These non-shoe services can include:

  • Belt repair and shortening, and belt buckle replacement
  • Leather jacket or coat repair and refinishing
  • Zipper replacement
  • Backpack repair
  • Re-lacing baseball gloves
  • Luggage repair and cleaning
  • Stitching handbags
  • Replacing binocular and camera straps or watchbands

Related: Save Money with a Shoe Repair Service

Leather care and service

Leather, an organic material, lasts longest and looks most attractive when properly conditioned and stored. It's often best to hire a leather or shoe repair expert for serious stains and tears.

Follow these tips to keep your leather shoes and other accoutrements in good condition:

  • Use an appropriate leather conditioning treatment on your new item as soon as possible. Untreated leather is susceptible to staining from water and other materials.
  • Use shoe trees in your leather shoes, stuff handbags with tissue and hang leather coats on padded hangers. Leather can lose its shape easily.
  • Allow a wet leather item to dry away from any heat source. Apply conditioner as soon as the item has dried. During cold weather, brush off and remove all moisture and salt from leather goods.
  • Don't store leather products in an airtight bag, which can lead to dryness and brittleness.

Try as you may, your leather items may become damaged. Leather restorers and leather cleaners tend to offer many of the same services: cleaning, stretching, resizing, mending and altering leather goods. Ask pertinent questions about turn-around times and service guarantees when searching for a service provider to take care of these problems:

Hiking boots repair
These 10-year-old hiking boots almost went into the trash, but a cobbler saved them with new soles. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Louis W. of Monroe, Conn.)

Stains. Deep staining requires special tools and supplies, and may best be done by a leather repair service. Dry cleaners sometimes provide this service as well. Depending on the size of the piece and effectiveness of the service provider, leather cleaning can take up to a week.

Tears. Leather's toughness means special tools are required to mend tears. Some leather repair products can be bought in stores, but aren't advised for large rips.

Resizing. To some degree, leather can be stretched and resized. The work requires skilled manual labor and can be pricey.

Related: 5 Tips for Shoe Repair and Care

Buying quality shoes

Not all shoes are created equal, and a cobbler can’t do much for cheap ones. Although buying high-quality shoes may be more expensive upfront, they can last for decades if properly maintained.

Cowboy boot repair
Within minutes, a cobbler adjusted the heels of these Lucchese boots. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Golden L. of Fort Worth, Texas)

The most important thing is solid construction that will support your feet, according to the Shoe Service Institute of America. Choose shoes with a steel shank, the piece that supports the arch.

The SSIA also says quality shoes should be made of natural materials, such as leather. Vinyl and other synthetic materials can trap moisture, which helps bacteria grow. Since it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between real leather and imitation, ask the sales associate.

Quality shoes should have sizes and widths, rather than a standard width, to ensure comfort. Everyone’s feet are different, and need some wiggle room. “When you take a step, your foot elongates by one-third of an inch. That is a full shoe size,” the SSIA website states. “If your shoes are fit short, your toes have nowhere to go when you walk and you end up with toe problems.”

If you need an abnormal size, a cobbler will know how to adjust a shoe to make it fit even better than it looks. If the shoe is too narrow, a cobbler can stretch it. A cobbler can also adjust shoes to make an in-between size — say a size 8 is too small, but an 8 1/2 is too large. Using insoles, jimmies, halters, heel cushions, arch supports or tongue pads, a cobbler can make your shoes conform to your feet’s specific needs.

Related: Repairs of Shoes, Boots, Appliances on the Rise

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