It’s funny but in a day of constant conversation about the important of reusing and recycling, the one industry that seems to have been left out of the conversation is the shoe making industry.
Repairable shoes were a common facet of our parent’s lives and even more so in our grandparent’s lives but what happened to high-quality shoes that can be given a constantly expanded lifetime?
What Kind Of Shoe Is A Repairable Shoe?
Despite the lack of talk on this issue – the good news is that they still make repairable shoes, they just don’t advertise them as such in the main.
Why not? Well, how else does a shoe company get you to come back and spend a little more money with them every year?
Three Considerations For Repairable Shoes
There are three things to consider when you buy a shoe, and you want it to be a repairable shoe.
They are the shape of the shoe, the material it is made from and how the soles are constructed.
Shape is vital, if the shoe doesn’t conform to the contours of your feet, then your feet will push at and strain the upper and over time, it’s going to distort.
When it splits and falls apart, not even the most talented cobbler on earth can repair your shoes.
As for material? We know this isn’t going to make everyone happy, but leather is the most durable material and after that, simulated leathers are probably your next bet.
That’s because these materials are hard-wearing, and they flex with your foot rather than trying to constrain it.
The most important bit when it comes to repairable shoes though is the sole.
They must be built in a way that they can be replaced when they wear away.
This is why the EVA soles on a pair of sneakers can’t be replaced, they’re integral to the shoe. You want to find a Goodyear welt, ideally
What Can You Do With Repairable Shoes And What’s Beyond The Scope Of Your Cobbler?
Your next step when it comes to repairable shoes is to find a cobbler and yes, they still exist though not in the kind of numbers that they once dominated the high streets with.
But there are hard limits on what a cobbler can do with a pair of shoes and you won’t be able to do everything you want to do.
So, this is what they can do:
Re-sole a leather bottomed shoe. If your shoes have any kind of leather or fake leather sole, they ought to be able to be re-soled. A cobbler worth their salt will walk you through how your choice of sole can improve the shoe’s lifespan too. It is not impossible to resole some rubber-soled boots and shoes, so it’s worth asking about this.
Replace the heel tips. Every woman who wears high heels has seen a heel tip and then cursed as it’s worn out and fallen off their shoe. Instead of replacing the tip when this happens, the best bet is to visit the cobbler when you buy the shoe and have them replaced with strong quality ones. These can be more easily replaced when they wear out too.
Stretch shoes that are too tight. This only applies to leather and possibly some faux leather substitutes but with a little judicious application of force on the shoe – the cobbler can add a little width or length. So, if it’s just a slight squeeze to get into your shoe and they’re not too comfortable this the ideal way to deal with it.
Change light shoes into dark ones. This is easy and repairable shoes can almost always be darkened by the use of a leather dye.
Reduce the height of a boot shaft. Not every cobbler will be happy to do this but you may be able to get them to remove an inch or two from the top of your boot shaft to make them sit lower on the leg.
But cobblers can’t work miracles and there are things they can’t do too:
They can’t resole sneakers
They can’t make a heel taller and only very, very rarely can they make one shorter
They can’t make a shoe smaller, though you can always pad the inside of a large shoe
They can’t make dark shoes lighter
They can’t make boot shafts much wider
Last Word on Repairability
Repairable shoes are brilliant for you, your bank account and the environment.
If you’re wondering what vegan leather substitutes might work for you then we’ve got a run down on them here.
If you want to tackle these kinds of repairs yourself, you might want to look at our book review for How to Repair Shoes.
*Affiliate Disclosure: We may be compensated if you purchase through affiliate links on this site. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Whole People is dedicated to publishing the best ideas and tools for sustainable living.
Whole People is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.