One of the great things about well-made shoes is that they can be repaired. This post explores how to find a skilled shoe repairman.
First off, why should you go to a cobbler?
Why You Need to Find a Cobbler
If you’re like most guys, you’ve never used a cobbler before. If you’ve always bought cheap, disposable footwear it’s understandable why shoe repair might seem odd– why spend money on old shoes when you can just buy new kicks?
However, once you invest in quality footwear, using a cobbler’s services makes more sense.
Finding a competent shoe repairman is crucial for extending the life of your shoes. If you buy high quality footwear not only will your feet thank you, so will your wallet. Simply getting the heels on your boots and dress shoes replaced when needed can add years to the life of your footwear.
Spending a few extra dollars initially for higher quality shoes and boots will almost always bring you a lower cost per wear ratio. If you perform even basic maintenance and get them repaired when needed, they can last for years or even decades.
Shoe repairs often require specialized tools and expert knowledge. While no one’s stopping you from trying to resole your own dress shoes, do you really want to risk ruining your investment?
You’re better leaving it to the experts.
Finding a Cobbler
You might have to ask around, but even in very rural areas you’ll likely still be able to find a cobbler, as many people get their work boots repaired.
Google is your friend here. Try Googling “shoe repair near (your town).”
Many higher end shoe stores offer repair services.
Unlike tailoring, which requires you to visit a shop in person for the best results, you can easily ship your shoes to a reputable cobbler. Some companies, such as Allen Edmonds, even have their own recrafting programs for their products.
Usually, it will take a few weeks to a couple of months for you to get your shoes back in the mail.
Testing Them Out
When you’re looking for a new cobbler, read some online reviews. Besides just reading online, consider calling ahead and asking shoe repair shops what kind of fixes they do most often.
If you live in a big city you’re likely to find that many cobblers will have a speciality– be it women’s heels, work boots, or men’s dress shoes.
FYI: Many shoe repair shops also provide zipper repair services.
Test #1: Install Heel Guards or Sole Protectors
Ask the cobbler to install “heel guards” (also called heel taps) onto a pair of shoes. Heel guards provide an extra layer, usually hard rubber or metal, between rubber heels and the ground. They are easily installed.
After installation, check to make sure the heel guards are firmly in place. The guards should be tight. Generally, you shouldn’t be able to fit your fingernail in the space between the guard and the rubber heel. The small hobnails should not be protruding as they can scratch floors.
If the cobbler can’t get this small job right, you might want to try a different shop. Another great thing about this “test” is that heel guards are easily removed if you don’t like them, leaving behind only small holes in the rubber heel.
If you don’t want to try heel guards, you could also get sole protectors put on. Sole protectors, also called Topys, are rubber half soles that are glued or cemented to the bottom of shoes or boots.
Toppys will prolong the life of your soles. They also provide an extra layer of protection for leather-soled footwear in wet conditions and can give you a little more traction.
Some men are adamant that this added layer ruins the sleek look of dress shoes, others won’t go without them. Some things to consider before getting sole protectors is your climate, how much you walk (particularly outdoors), and how often you are willing to get your shoes resoled.
If you decide to opt for sole protectors, be sure to make sure that they are solidly adhered to the bottoms of your shoes. You shouldn’t be able to see or feel any separation between the shoe’s sole and the sole protector. Check the edges of the shoe.
You shouldn’t feel much of a ridge between where the shoe’s sole ends and the Topy begins. If the cobbler was sloppy cutting out the sole protector or if you notice separation, think twice before trusting them with more complicated tasks.
Test #2: Get Heels Replaced
Did your cobbler pass the first test? If they did, now’s the time to put them through the second, and final test– replacing rubber heels.
It’s important that you get the rubber heels of dress shoes or boots replaced before you wear through to the upper portion of the heel stack. (If you do wear down the wood or leather stack you can usually still get that fixed, but it will cost more).
If you’re just getting the bottom rubber layer of the heel stack replaced, just drop them off at your local cobbler and say you want new heels. It’s that simple.
If the shoes or boots have a solid, fully rubber heel, you know it’s time to see a cobbler when the wear becomes noticeable when you walk. (My fellow frugal folk might know what I’m talking about). At any rate, replacements are needed well before wear reaches the outsole of the shoe.
If you are replacing the entire rubber heel, make sure to specify that you want them reheeled with rubber heels of the same thickness. A heel significantly shorter or taller than the original will affect the boot’s posture and will be noticeable when you walk.
After you pick up your shoes from the cobbler, see how the heels look. The edge of the heels should be flush to the rest of the heel stack (or the outsole). Gently tug on the heels to make sure that they are well adhered.
There should be no separation. If after a few days you notice some separation, take the shoes back before the problem gets worse. A good cobbler will “touch up” heels they replaced for free.
Continue the Relationship
If you’re satisfied with the results of these two tests, you’ve found yourself a competent cobbler!
By now you should have a pretty good idea of the quality of their work and their customer service. Going forward you can more comfortably trust your cobbler with more complicated tasks such as resoling, redyeing, or stretching your shoes.
Over time you’ll get to know your shoe repairman. He or she can be a great resource for answering your footwear-related questions. Not only that, you can ask them questions about the area, as it’s very common that cobblers have worked in the same city for years, or even decades.
These days, many small local businesses live and die by online reviews. Consider leaving a positive review online. Your cobbler will appreciate it.
Find a Cobbler Soon
Find a cobbler before your shoes need major reconstruction. By testing them out in advance with simpler tasks, you can be confident that your quality footwear is in good hands.