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. Theyre still stylish enough and oh-so-comfortablejust
a bit worse for wear.
Fortunately, the worse-for-wear problem is correctablejust drop them off
at a top shoe repair shop. By reconditioning the shoes you have, youll
get a pair thats 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 its 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
problemat substantially different costs. You also may get differing opinions
as to how successfully the job can be done.
Worn-down heels look bad; may put a strain on your ankles, legs, and back;
and, if theyve 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
To extend the wear of any type of heel, have plastic taps put on the back.
These typically cost only a few dollars.
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 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 thats unlikely. The main reason some people prefer full
soles is appearanceassuming 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 weltthe narrow
strip of leather that runs around the top edge of the sole of many mens
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 holesthus weakening the weltwhen 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
doesnt 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
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.
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 shops 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 Shops 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, its 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 dont 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 wont offer one-hour service, and you may also
find it difficult to communicate with them. If you might want a strap added,
for example, youll 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 doesnt
speak your language or you find the repairperson abrupt and difficult to
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 mens 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 shops
prices compared to the average shops 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 shops prices were 10 percent
There are a few basic steps to follow in dealing with whatever shop you
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
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.
You can make your shoes last longer and minimize trips to the repair shop
by doing the following
Dont 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.
Dont 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.