What Can Shoe Repair Shops Do?
Last updated in November 2016
Worn-down heels look bad; may put a strain on your ankles, legs, and back; and, if they’ve deteriorated far enough, result in nail tips emerging to irritate your feet.
Most replacement heels are made of rubber, but leather heels also are available, as are combination leather and rubber heels. The main reason to get leather or combination heels is 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.
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 soften 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 it is porous, allowing your feet to breathe and not become too sweaty or too hot. However, synthetics 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 ways 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 is too loose and a size 6 too tight, you can “jimmy” the size 7 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 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.