Consumers' CHECKBOOK Logo

Nonprofit Ratings of Local Service
Companies and Health Care Providers

CHECKBOOK is a Unique Rating Service:
Nonprofit & unbiased
Accepts no advertising
Prevents ballot-box stuffing
Price comparisons
Quality comparisons
Expert articles and advice

Only $34 for Two Full years!
(View All Rating Categories)
Shoe Repair Shops (From CHECKBOOK, Spring/Summer 2013)
 
Go to Ratings of 25 Twin Cities Area Shoe Repair Shops

Introduction 

Shoe Repair

Check out prices of designer shoes at a local store. Wow. Now look down. Suddenly your old-and-well-worn favorites look better than when you set out on your shopping spree. They’re still stylish enough and oh-so-comfortable—just a bit worse for wear. 

Fortunately, the worse-for-wear problem is correctable—just drop them off at a top shoe repair shop. By reconditioning the shoes you have, you’ll get a pair that’s almost as good as new, lasts as long as new ones, and feels more comfortable than new shoes. 

Before having your shoes repaired, decide whether it’s worth the price. A well-cared-for $200 pair of leather shoes that survives several sets of soles and heels will be worth repairing. Repair inexpensive shoes, on the other hand, only if they have sentimental value. 

The best way to decide whether repairing makes sense is to talk with a top-rated shop about costs, how well the job can be done, and how long the shoes are likely to last. For jobs other than simple resoling and re-heeling, consult a few shops. You may find there are several ways to solve your problem—at substantially different costs. You also may get differing opinions as to how successfully the job can be done. 

What Can Be Done 

Heels 

Worn-down heels look bad; may put a strain on your ankles, legs, and back; and, if they’ve deteriorated far enough, may result in nail tips coming up and irritating your feet. 

Most often, replacement heels are made of rubber, but leather heels also are available, as are combination leather and rubber heels. The main reason for getting leather or combination heels would be for the sake of appearance; some high-quality new shoes have these types of heels. But rubber is softer and quieter to walk on, and rubber replacement heels cost around $3 to $8 less. 

To extend the wear of any type of heel, have plastic taps put on the back. These typically cost only a few dollars. 

Lifts 

The piece that goes on the bottom of the heel of high-heeled shoes is called a lift. Since the area of impact on such shoes is small, lifts wear out relatively quickly. Replacement lifts, usually made of nylon or similar synthetics, are either glued on or glued and nailed. For spike heels, the lift is attached to a dowel that goes up the length of the shaft of the heel. The dowel and lift must be replaced together. 

Soles 

Soles need to be replaced when holes appear, the old soles become soft at the points of greatest wear, or you begin to feel the ground. 

You can get either full replacement soles or half soles. Full soles cost more (typically $10 to $14 extra) and require that the heel be replaced, even if it has not yet worn down. There is a chance that a half sole will come loose, but that’s unlikely. The main reason some people prefer full soles is appearance—assuming you spend a lot of time displaying the bottoms of your feet. Half soles are almost always used on high-heeled shoes. 

While synthetics can be used for replacement soles, most consumers who bother with resoling choose leather. Although leather is slightly more expensive, it is more flexible and is porous, allowing your feet to breathe and not become too sweaty or too hot. However, synthetics do have the advantage of being waterproof. 

There are several signs of quality in resoling jobs. First, the shop should shape your shoe on a foot-sized form, or “last.” Otherwise, the shoe might lose as much as a full size in width. Second, if the layer of cork or felt filler between the inner sole and outer sole is not in good condition, the shop should replace it. Otherwise, the inside of the shoe will feel lumpy. Third, the shop should remove old stitches from the welt—the narrow strip of leather that runs around the top edge of the sole of many men’s shoes and to which the outer sole, inner sole, and upper are stitched. If old stitches are not removed, they not only look bad but cause the needle to punch new or larger holes—thus weakening the welt—when the new sole is stitched on. Finally, the shop should shape and glue half soles so that no crack appears where the new piece meets the old. 

Stretching and Other Comfort Improvements 

A shoe repair shop often can make shoes fit somewhat better. If your shoes are too tight, a shop may be able to stretch them. For example, a D width can generally be stretched to an EE width. A shop may also be able to add space for toes, raise an instep, or stretch the calves on boots. 

Other steps you can take to improve comfort— 

  • Jimmys can effectively adjust the size of a shoe. These thin pieces of cork, felt, or foam are designed to go under the lining in the forepart of the shoe. If a size 7 1/2 is too loose and a size 7 too tight, you can “jimmy” the size 7 1/2 to make it fit. 
  • Heel cushions can be placed under the lining to add comfort under the area where the heel comes down. 
  • Insoles, which come in a variety of styles and materials, can help in several ways. Flat foam or leather insoles add cushioning to the shoe and tighten up loose-fitting shoes. Contour insoles have built-in arch supports and heels that provide extra support and hold the foot firmly in place so it doesn’t slide inside the shoe. 
  • Halters, oval-shaped pads that go under the ball of the foot and shift the foot back in the shoe, are especially useful for eliminating toe overhang in open-toed shoes. 
  • Tongue pads, applied under the tongue of a shoe, tighten the shoe for people with low insteps by adding thickness and cushioning. 
  • Heel grips, applied to the back of the shoe, help prevent the heel from sliding in and out of the shoe, and also push the foot forward in the shoe. 
  • Arch supports reduce foot fatigue by distributing body weight evenly on the foot. 

Other Repairs 

Other jobs performed by shoe repair shops include dyeing, patching cuts in uppers, cutting out toe holes, replacing straps, re-securing uppers to soles, adjusting fit, waterproofing, and making orthopedic shoes. Some shops also do non-shoe work, such as repairing luggage, baseball mitts, leather garments, belts, and pocketbooks. 

Finding a Shop 

What Do Customers Say? 

Our Ratings Tables report how area shops were rated by their surveyed customers. (We survey primarily CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers.) In our survey, we ask raters to judge shops they used as “inferior,” “adequate,” or “superior” for questions such as “doing work properly,” “starting and completing work promptly,” “letting you know the cost early,” “advice on service options and costs,” and “overall performance.” Our Ratings Tables show the percent of each shop’s customers who rated it “superior” (as opposed to “inferior” or “adequate”) on each question. You can see from the ratings that many shops do great work almost all the time: at the time of our last full, published article, nine of the 25 shops were rated “superior” for “overall performance” by more than 90 percent of their surveyed customers. But three were rated “superior” overall by 65 percent or fewer of their surveyed customers. (Click here for further discussion of our customer survey and other research methods.) 

How Does the Shop’s Work Look to You? 

Before risking your own shoes, ask to see some finished work. If you first discuss with the shop what your shoes need, how much it will cost, and whether the result will be worth the cost, it’s reasonable to ask to see other shoes on which they performed similar work. If your job is a common one, the shop is likely to have samples of other customers’ shoes on hand. On resoling jobs, check for the points noted above regarding shaping and removal of old stitches. On many jobs, simply determine whether the trimming, stitching, dye-matching, and other features make the repaired shoes look good enough to wear. 

How Easy Is It to Communicate with the Repairperson? 

Some shops don’t perform their own repair work, or at least not on the premises. This is most often true of drycleaners, which may subcontract out their shoe repair work or serve as an agent for the actual shoe repair shop. Naturally, such shops won’t offer one-hour service, and you may also find it difficult to communicate with them. If you might want a strap added, for example, you’ll want to discuss with a repairperson how you want the strap to look and whether it will be possible to stitch and dye the strap to go with the shoe. Such a discussion is not possible if the repairperson is not on premises. 

Communication will also be difficult, of course, if the repairperson doesn’t speak your language or you find the repairperson abrupt and difficult to talk with. 

How Quickly Will the Work Be Done? 

Some shops are set up to do work more quickly than others. If speed matters, get a promise before you drop off your shoes. Shops’ scores on the “promptness” question of our customer survey (shown on our Ratings Tables) tell you how each shop met its time commitments. 

What Will It Cost? 

For simple resoling or re-heeling jobs, each shop will have a standard charge that is easy to find out by phone. For more unusual jobs, if the first shop you visit quotes a price that seems high, take the shoes elsewhere for more estimates. Sometimes prices differ dramatically. For example, to resole a pair of men’s dress shoes with full leather soles and rubber heel lifts, prices at area shoe repair shops ranged from $70 to $120. 

Our Ratings Tables list price index scores for firms that were evaluated in our last full, published article. Price index scores show how each shop’s prices compared to the average shop’s prices when our shoppers, without revealing their affiliation with CHECKBOOK, checked prices for eight common jobs. Price index scores are adjusted so that the average score is $100; a score of $90, for instance, means that the shop’s prices were 10 percent below average. 

Dealing with a Shop 

There are a few basic steps to follow in dealing with whatever shop you choose— 

  • Discuss the job with the repairperson, so that he or she knows what level of quality you expect and you know what level of quality the shop promises to deliver. 
  • Discuss the pros and cons of different materials. Higher-quality leather or rubber might more than double the life of the shoes compared to lower grades and cost not much more. But a lower grade may be sufficient, depending on how long you want the shoes to last. 
  • If you want anything other than basic resoling or re-heeling, put it in writing. This gives the shop a memory refresher when it gets around to the job. If the shop sends work out, this is the best way to communicate your desires to the person who actually performs the work. 
  • Get a repair ticket designating in writing the price for the job. 
  • Check the shoes carefully when you get them back. If possible, try them on in the shop. If the quality is not what you expected, insist that the shop make the shoes right or refund your money. 

Extra Advice:
How to Make Shoes Last 

You can make your shoes last longer and minimize trips to the repair shop by doing the following— 

  • Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every day. They will benefit if they have time for perspiration and other moisture to dry out completely. 
  • Keep shoes in a dry area where they get fresh air. 
  • Keep shoes on shoetrees. 
  • After each wearing, clean shoes with a soft, dry cloth. 
  • If shoes get very wet, stuff them with newspaper and let them dry slowly. Don’t put them near a fire or other heat source. 
  • Keep leather shoes lubricated and protected by polishing them regularly, using a polish with a high wax content. Most liquid polishes contain little or no wax, and may cause shoes to dry out. 


Go to Ratings of 25 Twin Cities Area Shoe Repair Shops Back to top