A major advantage of welted shoes is that they can be easily resoled, but a worn-out sole is just one of many repairs that can be made to your shoes. Here we look at some of the most common types of wear and tear that occur and explain all the cases where it’s perfectly possible to repair your shoes – and the few cases where it’s not.
A version of this article was first published in Swedish on Carl Magazine in 2017.
This is often the earliest intervention needed. On leather-soled shoes, there is usually a piece of rubber slightly angled at the back quarter of the heel, the rest is leather. On rubber soled shoes, obviously, standard is to have full rubber top piece of the heel. Depending on how aggressive the wearer’s gait is and how the shoes are used, it varies how quickly you need to change the heel. It can be anything from six months to a number of years.
Re-heeling should be done before the rubber piece is completely worn down, so you’re not wearing down the heel lifts. The lifts that make up the heel are normally not made to be walked on and wear out quicker, and if these also need to be replaced, it immediately becomes more expensive. A heel replacement usually costs between €15-30 at a cobbler (note, the prices given here may vary vastly depending on where in the world you are located, see them more as a rough comparison between the various repairs). Another common thing is that you get separations between the heel and the sole or between the heel pieces, this can easily just be cemented at a very low cost.
When the sole is worn down and needs to be replaced on a pair of leather-soled, welted shoes, it’s most common to do a so-called half sole repair. This means that the sole stitch, which together with glue holds the welt and the outsole, is cut back to the waist and only the part of the sole that is towards the ground is replaced. The waist that is not worn is left in place. This is done together with a heel replacement. In a full sole replacement, the heel is removed (although the lifts are often reused) and the entire sole is replaced. This is always done with rubber-soled shoes, since it’s difficult to get the joint between the waist and the new sole piece in a good way.
There is no danger if the sole stitching on the bottom is worn down, especially in the toe it often happens rather quick, both on shoes with an open sole channel and where the seam is hidden. Because, as I said, the sole is also cemented and the sole seam is sewn with a lock stitch that locks each stitch separately, so there is no risk of it coming undone. It’s important that the sole is not worn down so far that you start to wear down the welt, since you want to avoid replacing this too.
If only the toe is worn, you can put a new toe piece in leather or rubber, and walk for a while longer. When the toe part and also the centre of the sole start to wear down, you feel that it is becoming thin in the middle and, in the worst case, holes start to form, then it’s time to do a resole. The price for a half sole replacement at a cobbler is usually between €70-120, and a full sole repair around €130-200. Many manufacturers of welted shoes also offer factory resoles, where prices vary considerably, between €100-€300, and for bespoke shoes it’s standard to send them back to he shoemaker for a full sole repair.
New heel lining
A common wear and tear that occurs is that the lining leather in the heel area is worn down, leaving holes in the inner heel area. Nothing strange really, when you walk there is great stress on the shoe here. This is also easy to fix, with the cobbler simply inserting a new layer of lining leather at the back. This is glued on and skived thin towards the edges so that it is not felt, and the top edge is sewn to the existing upper leather, in the same place that the original stitching, which means that it’s not visible from the outside that the shoe has been repaired. A new back lining usually costs around between €25-60. There’s also more basic shoe repair patches, they can work but won’t be as good as a cobbler’s professional fix.
Replacing buckles or elastics
It’s no secret that you can easily replace shoelaces, but other ways of holding the foot in the shoe can also be fixed if they break. One example is the elastics on a chelsea boot, which can become floppy or loose. A cobbler can relatively easily replace these.
On monk straps or jodhpurs, for example, the buckles sometimes break. This too can almost always be repaired, although in some cases it may need some unorthodox stitching through the upper and one might need to switch to buckles that has a different design than the original. If the leather part of a strap is worn out, this usually can be fixed as well, even if it will be visible to a certain degree.
Scratches in the upper leather
A common issue is that one get heavy scratches in the upper leather, usually due to banging the shoe into something sharp or hard. Depending on the shape of the scratch and how deep it is, it can sometimes be completely hidden, sometimes still visible but still much better looking. You can try yourself, with leather glue (if a flap has come loose), repair paste and shoe cream, but it will likely end up better looking having a cobbler fix it. If the scratch is in an area that moves, it can be more difficult than repair and hide an issue on the toe box, for example. Price depends a lot on type of scratch and type of repair needed.
Cracks in the upper leather
This is the wear and tear that is the most common reason for discarding a pair of shoes. A crack, or several, in the shoe’s upper leather. It’s almost always in the creasing of the shoe on top of its so-called vamp, the part between the toe and the lacing where the shoe bends. If the shoes are well cared for and made of fine full grain leather, it may take many, many years before this occurs, but in short, all shoes will eventually have cracks in the upper leather here in the creases. There are ways to fix it, but it needs to be done with patches of new leather and rarely looks good.
Cracks in the insole
The insole is the backbone of the shoe, the relatively thick leather sole around which a welted shoe is built. This inner part of the shoe also wears out, of course, and what is not entirely uncommon is that all the foot sweat and wear and tear eventually causes the insole to begin to crack. Again, this is something that is much more difficult to repair. It’s possible to send the shoes back to the factory or shoemaker and do a total make-over of the shoe (where more or less only the upper leather remains of the original shoe), but it often costs a lot and when it has gone that far, the shoes are usually so worn that it’s not worth the hassle.
There’s a bunch of smaller repairs and things that occur, like seams of the upper coming loose, separations between the heel and the sole or between the heel pieces, separations between the welt and outsole, and things like this, which all are rather basic repairs that often don’t cost much for a cobbler to solve. As always, this above is a selection of things that can happen, even more stuff that can and can’t be repaired exist, but are more rare.
For more in-depth info on resoling and re-heeling different types of shoe constructions and more, read this article.