DIY Shoe Repair
The notion of a cobbler conjures up images of an older man with a thick grey mustache bent over a wooden bench, using a wooden hammer to nail leather soles by candlelight. Few people would think to take their shoes to a cobbler to be repaired. When soles start to wear down and straps break, shoes are thrown away. However, the problems that prompt most people to throw their shoes out can usually be fixed with a minor repair. In fact, you can easily make many minor repairs yourself. Here’s how you can fix your own shoes to extend their life and reduce waste:
Cracks and Splits
Over time, leather and rubber will crack and split, creating cosmetic blemishes. Wood and rubber soles can also split, letting in water or reducing the shoe’s ability to protect against cold. These issues are easy to repair with a simple product called “Shoe Goo.” This product acts like an adhesive putty to fill in these gaps on leather, rubber, and wood. For wood soles, you can use a wood filler for the same purpose, as well as to smooth out rough, worn edges. Just use a bit of sandpaper (for wood) or rough cloth (for the leather) to smooth out the surface.
If you find that your leather shoes and boots are becoming damaged or porous, you can easily waterproof them to protect the fabric and your feet. Buff the surface with mink oil and spray the inside with a waterproof spray. The mink oil will reinforce and protect the fabric, and the waterproof spray will create added protection from inside.
There are many simple repairs that you can make to the uppers, depending on the type of fabric and the kind of damage.
Scuffs, scratches, stains, and other minor blemishes can easily be remedied with simple tools. For leathers, a leather lotion or oil can be used to buff out the scuffs and to restore the color and shine. These ingredients also help to put moisture back into the leather, helping to preserve it and extend its life. For suede, a scuff stick — similar in appearance and texture to an eraser — can be used to buff out stains and other minor imperfections. A stiff brush can then be used to restore the nap.
Eyelets can tear out of holes as the fabric slowly weakens and frays over time. This can be repaired by removing all of the eyelets (use an exacto knife to carefully cut around the other eyelets if they are not easily removed), then sewing a small strip of sturdy canvas or leather over the row of holes. Choose a canvas or leather that complements the type and color of fabric of the shoe. Sew the strip in place by hand or machine, and reinforce it with glue if desired. Then use a small punch to create new holes in the strip and set new eyelets. You simply need to purchase an eyelet setter, which come in two types: A separate punch rod with a hammer, or a handheld device that looks like a small vice.
Straps and tongues can start to detach over time when the thread wears out or pressure tears them out. These can easily be repaired by using a sturdy thread like carpet or leather thread. Use a large sewing needle (a leather needle works great) and a pair of pliers to pull the thread through the fabric, leather, or rubber.
Making repairs to the interior of your shoes is quite easy. For small holes and tears — like that hole that always seems to appear on the lining in the heel — use scraps of thin leather or a sturdy canvas to sew on a small patch. To replace interior soles, use a pair of pliers or a knife to pull up the old piece, then cut a new sole from a piece of foam-backed canvas, thin cork, or some other sturdy yet springy material. Use a strong glue to attach it to the shoe.
Replacing a sole can be the most difficult shoe repair to make. Typically, you can replace the soles on leather or dress shoes yourself. However, you would not be able to replace the soles on athletic shoes (which require more support and wear down more quickly) or other rubber soles. If the sole is showing minor wear or other flaws, but does not have major structural damage, you can replace it by using manufactured soles that are sold for a few dollars, or by cutting a new sole from a thin piece of wood or heavy, treated leather. Attach the sole with a strong glue (easier than trying to nail or sew the sole) and trim it to fit the shoe. You can then sand or stain the sole for cosmetic purposes. You can use the same methods to replace a low heel, like that of a men’s dress shoe.
Do not attempt to make repairs if there are major structural issues, such as the interior support of the sole or the last.
Do not attempt to fix high heels or stilettos, as the construction of these shoes has a significant impact on the support of the feet and the body. Improper support can lead to severe foot problems, back pain and other physical ailments.
Shoes and boots do not have to be discarded when they show signs of wear or are damaged, nor do you have to spend a significant amount of money having them repaired by a professional cobbler. Most shoe problems can be fixed with minor repairs, using easily accessible materials and tools. These repairs can be made with little technical expertise — a little sewing, perhaps, and some sanding and measuring. If you feel nervous about making the repairs, start with a cheap pair of shoes that you are ready to throw away and look for instructional videos on You Tube. Gain confidence repairing these shoes with guided instruction, and you’ll be ready to tackle bigger projects in no time!
By Bridget Sandorford
About the Author:
Bridget Sandorford is a grant researcher and writer for CulinarySchools.org. Along with her passion for whipping up recipes that incorporate “superfoods”, she recently finished research on culinary schools in France and nyc culinary schools.