Reheeling Shoes

In my experience, good quality women’s shoes often wear out first at the heels. (Sorry men, not much personal experience here.  But take comfort in the fact that higher end men’s shoes are made to last longer and be more easily repaired.)  Mine often wore unevenly, so the heel was no longer flat and the shoes were not safe to walk in.  It always seemed like a waste to just tossthem, since they still looked decent and were so comfortably broken in.  About a year ago, I discovered there was a better option than the trash – they could be fixed.  A cobbler can replace the rubber part of the heel for a fraction of the cost of a new pair of shoes.

With the recession, cobblers have seen a large increase in business.  This should not be a big surprise since shoe repair can be a great money saver.  A pair of nice heels that retail at $120 can be reheeled for $20 or less – it seems like an obvious frugal choice.  Plus, your shoes can probably be reheeled once or twice before needing resoling or other more major repairs.  So reheeling alone can double the life of your shoes!

Last week, I had a pair of boots reheeled.  As you can see in the pictures, I had completely worn through the base of  the heels and even, on the outer edge, a bit into the core of the heel.  (Yeah, they were more than slightly overdue for repair, I should have brought them in sooner.)  The leather was pretty scuffed up in some places too.  So I took them to my reliable cobbler.

Finding a good shoe repair shop takes some research. Ask around and check out online reviews.  You can find reviews for even the tiniest shops with no web page using Yelp or Google (search by for “shoe repair” and your city/town on  Google Maps and the reviews will pop up as part of the results).  Then bring a pair of shoes that needs a minor fix, but not a favorite pair, to try out the cobbler and make sure you like their work.  The shop I use had previously fixed a pair of boots I thought were a lost cause.  I was so impressed with his work, I now will bring all my shoes there.  If you do not have a cobbler’s shop near you, there are online businesses you can mail your shoes into for repairs, but it will cost more.

Depending on how much work needs to be done, price can vary quite a bit. Because of that, many cobblers will not give a quote over the phone, they want to see the shoes in person first.  If you bring them in before you have worn completely through the heel, the repair will be cheaper than if you damage the heel shaft (like I did).  Often cobblers will polish and condition the leather uppers as part of the service.  Since they have lots of professional-grade products and tools on hand, they can do a better job they I can at home with Kiwi polish – which works well between shoe repairs.  I paid only $15 to get my boots fixed.  If you need new soles too, it can cost quite a bit more.

A simple reheeling job can be done fairly quickly. So if the cobbler is not inundated with shoes, expect a short turnaround time.  My boots were ready the next day which is great service! I have heard cobblers even repairing them while you wait.  If you drop them off, be sure to get a ticket or some type of receipt with some identifier for your shoes (it might just be a number), the price, and whether you prepaid.

So what are the results like?  Amazing in my opinion. I went in knowing that with the extensive wear to the heel and leather uppers, the shoes could never look absolutely perfect again, but I never expected them to ever look this good again either.  If you look closely, you can see the heel was not able to be repaired seamlessly, but if you not lying on the floor with a magnifying glass, you probably would never notice.   The boots were originally dark gray and the cobbler did a great job maintaining the color.  The contrast stitching got a slightly darkened in the process though, but it still stands out nicely.

Your cobbler can do a lot more to make a pair of shoes perfect. They can reduce the height of heels to make them more comfortable, widen the calf on a pair of boots, replace entire heels (go from a stiletto to solid heel), stretch out the toe box for wider feet, redye leather, and add a non-slip layer to your soles.  It never hurts to bring your shoes to your cobbler for ideas or to get a quote.


Frugal Score

Time: It just takes two trips to your local shoe repair shop.  For me its under 20 minutes round trip.  If your shop is further away, combine it with other errands in that direction.

Money: About $5-20 for reheeling, more for new soles.  I spend $25-55 on a pair of shoes, (I only buy quality shoes when they are  hugely discounted).

Environment: Reduces waste and makes an old pair of shoes like (almost) new again.

Quick calculation: It took me no more than an 40 minutes and cost me $15 instead of buying a new pair at $40.   However, shopping for new shoes would take just as much time if not a lot more, so really it is pure savings of $25 per pair!

Conclusion:  If you have a good quality pair of shoes that fit you well, I highly recommend getting them repaired.  There is nothing like slipping on  shoes that look new but feel completely broken in – and its so much cheaper than a new pair too.  Since shoes can probably be reheeled 1-2 times before needing other repairs, it can save you (and the environment) from having to trash and replace a pair or two.