Repair your favourite shoes and extend their life

Have you got a pair of shoes you’ve been thinking to get rid of because they have worn out? Wait – you might be able to save them! 😊

I recently decided to get some of my favourite shoes re-soled. It’s not often that I’ve done this, but I had a conversation with my friend Pauline and was inspired to write this blog post after sharing my experience with her. Pauline said she hadn’t really thought of repairing shoes to extend their life – even though she used to work in a shoe store! I don’t think it’s common knowledge to repair shoes, but since sustainability seems to be so hot right now, and getting more out of the things we own is cool and not daggy – let’s talk about it!

The bottom of a pair of red plaid pointed-toe shoes. They appear to be re-soled and show light signs of wear
I recently had these new shoes re-soled. Keep reading to see what it looked like before!

I first knew about repairing shoes when I used to wear high heels. My mum encouraged me to take them to the cobbler – or rather, encouraged me to let her take them to the cobbler – to apply new rubber heels when they wore down. I will admit that I was often vicious with my shoes and did not take good care of them. I had only cared about high heels for the look: the height they gave me and how they made me feel classy. (These days I refuse to go anywhere near a pair of stilettos, but that is a story for another day.) Sometimes the heels of my stilettos got stuck in cracks in the pavement – absolute worst, I tell you, because that means the shoe felt effectively ruined – or I scuffed them as I walked. They wore down very quickly.

One of the downfalls of having uneven heels or soles of shoes is that they can impact the way you walk. If you have uneven heels, the shoe is no longer going to be supporting you and your weight properly as you walk. Ever since I learned about this, I cringe when I see women in stilettos where the heel is angled and worn down on one side more than the other. It makes me worry because it can be especially dangerous in high heels as well.

I didn’t think to repair other shoes like boots, until I had more conversations with my friend Monica about it. She pretty much religiously goes to the cobbler to continue to extend the life of her favourite boots. It made me think about the shoes that I have owned for years and that are still in great condition all around, except for the sole being worn out. Cobblers can replace the inside sole of shoes too, but I haven’t had a lot of experience with that. I had two pairs of shoes I bought in 2018 – at least two years ago – and have really given a beating. 😆 I recently got them re-soled because I love and enjoy wearing them and don’t see myself getting rid of them any time soon. I know they could have lasted longer with their original soles, but I chose to have them done up again now, so that they don’t get more worn out.

When should you repair shoes?

I think the main thing to remember when considering repairing your shoes is “prevention rather than cure”. As soon as you notice the condition of your shoes starting to deteriorate, it’s much better to address the issues immediately rather than waiting for the shoe to become more worn out. It might be more costly or the shoe mightn’t be salvageable if you leave it too late. Because I loved these giraffe print shoes so much – and I knew this because I wore them a lot – I decided it was worth whatever money to make the soles good as new again.

A close-up of a sand-coloured shoe with a black giraffe spot pattern. The shoe has a pony hair texture which is wearing off
Apart from the sole, this shoe had some scuffs on the pony hair texture, but I want to keep wearing them!
A close-up of the back heel of the pair of shoes in the previous photo; the bottom of the sole is uneven from a lot of use
These heels definitely show my walking pattern 😛
A close-up of the sole of the pair of shoes in the previous photo it shows significant wear and tear
That’s two years of wear and tear

Here’s how they look now!

A close-up of the recently repaired heels of a pair of shoes, sand-coloured with a giraffe spot pattern
The heels are lovely and even again.
A close-up of the soles of the same pair of recently repaired shoes in the previous photo
Back to a sturdy sole – almost as good as new

I had a pair of boots many years ago that I wore regularly for a period of four years. I wore them to work almost every day, and I even took them travelling where I did even more walking. The sole became so worn down that it eventually created a hole. I didn’t even think this was a big deal until it was a rainy day and my foot ended up getting wet. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Not only could this have been bad for my feet, but… four years is a long time! Imagine how many more years I could have gotten out of those boots if I re-soled them earlier.

I bought this pair of boots earlier this year, after lusting over them for a while and deciding that it would really work with my style and lifestyle. I waited for them to be on sale, but after just two wears – just going downstairs to the supermarket – they looked well nasty. I didn’t feel like I got what I paid for. ☹️

The bottom of a pair of red plaid pointed-toe shoes, showing some bad signs of wear and tear on the sole and heel.
They didn’t look great.

I wasn’t just going to put up with it, and I wasn’t going to complain to the company about it, really (maybe just doubt buying from them in future, haha). I was mainly confused as to how a well-made shoe made with a durable material like leather could have such a weak sole. I had to be so careful when I walked so as not to destroy them. But I loved the shoes that much that I decided to pay to get them fixed.

The bottom of a pair of red plaid pointed-toe shoes. They appear to be re-soled and show light signs of wear
What they look like today after wearing them at least another five times post-repair!

Rumour has it that having the cobbler do a re-sole ends up being a lot stronger than the original sole. My mum told me that some people even take brand new shoes to the cobbler to make the soles doubly strong or super resilient.

I haven’t tried to repair shoes like gym shoes or runners/trainers. I think that because of the construction, materials, and the rough treatment a pair of running shoes goes through, it might be best to buy a new pair instead. If you know otherwise, please feel free to correct me!

I’m someone who is really picky with shoes and has small feet. This is a lethal combination. 😛 The reason I’m really picky is likely because my feet are small. There are many styles of shoe that are not comfortable for a small foot, such as sandals with wide straps. The way I walk and having low ankle mobility means that I can’t walk in extremely flat shoes. Generally, I have problems finding shoes that are comfortable for my small feet, but that I also like and that are actually available in my size (EU 36). So usually when I buy and own a pair of shoes, I wear them until the moment they are completely worn out, because it can be hard to find a replacement. I could be getting more out of my shoes if I took them to the cobbler more regularly, especially if I plan to wear my shoes for such a long time.

Cost of repair – is it worth it?

I don’t often think about the amount it costs to repair my shoes. I think about the shoe. People might argue, “You can buy a brand new pair of shoes for a cheaper price, especially on sale”. And I agree with you, that’s actually completely true. But I ask myself questions. Do I love the shoe? Will I continue to wear it? To me, it’s very worth it if I love a pair of shoes enough to repair them and get more out of them. Additionally, I’m paying someone for their service and time, and it’s important to remember that my money is going to someone who is doing the work on my shoes, not just for their resources.

I think that repairing your shoes is definitely worth it, especially if you are wearing certain pairs of shoes regularly. Some people like to have multiple pairs of similar shoes so that shoes can have a “rest” between days, but I personally don’t do this. Even if you do, I think it’s still worth refreshing and repairing your shoes the more you wear them. Shoes support our weight and they do go through a lot daily – they can be extremely durable, but it’s wonderful to know that making them go a further distance (mind the pun!) is possible.

It’s true that repairing and re-wearing what you already own is a more sustainable approach than buying anything – so I encourage you to take a look at your shoes and repair the ones you really love.

I’m wondering if I should write more about sustainable living, what do you think? “Sustainable Saturday” or something like that. 😆 I’m not perfect, but I do really try to be sustainable where I can. I’m not sure I will have a lot to write about, but let me know if you’re interested!

🌱 Do you repair your shoes or have you ever considered it? What other sustainable approaches have you taken to shoes, clothes or your lifestyle?

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