Repairable Shoes Is Fashion Forward Solution For Sustainable Footwear

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.

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 Can Be Repaired?

Man with shoes, shoe company

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. Everyday wear should be easy to repair with real shoes.

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 Repairing Shoes

There are three things to consider when you buy a shoe, and you want it to be repairable.

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.

So any quality shoe such as dress shoes, leather shoes, steel toe leather boots, etc. are fine but cheap shoes, moccasins, etc. are not. This is something to keep in mind when buying new shoes – if you want your shoes repaired they need to be a good pair.

Wooden shoe trees are a good investment too if you want shoes to keep their shape.

When it splits and falls apart, not even the most talented cobbler on earth can repair your shoes.

Repairable boots

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 repairing 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. You could also check out our best vegan shoe brands.

If you want to tackle these kinds of repairs yourself, you might want to look at our book review for How to Repair Shoes.

A great sustainable solution to footwear is grabbing a pair of old and vintage shoes at one of your favorite thrift stores and doing the repairs and upkeep yourself. Be your own cobbler seems like good life advice.