February 3, 2016

Shoe Repair Is Green

If there is one job I would think obsolete it would be shoe repair, or cobbler. Not that they don't perform valuable work, but that most people don't see their services as necessary any more.

Does anyone, besides myself, actually repair shoes these days? Or are shoes like everything else and shoesumers find it cheaper and easier just to throw out worn or damaged shoes and buy brand new replacements?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2010 and 2020 the number of cobblers will decrease by a whopping 53 percent. It appears that cheap, disposable shoes are the downfall of the trade.

However, as soon as a recession hits, they say, workers in the shoe repair industry may actually encounter a spike in business caused by wallet-tightening consumers wishing to have their shoes repaired instead of buying brand new.

So these "make it last" repair personal persist in our wasteful world, although in a somewhat diminished state compared to the pre-disposable days. No doubt they will, if are any left by then, regain their former glory in a post-consumer, post-disposable, post industrial world.

If TV and movies reflected the real world there would definitely be cobblers in every zombie apocalypse story. It would be very hard for the still living to run away from the undead with damaged footwear. Cobblers would be kings!

High heels would finally go extinct, because you can't run away with them, damaged or not. Sensible, comfortable and fast shoes would rule, and fashion would drool.

"Your anti-zombie trainers will be fixed next Thursday. Don't forget your ticket... and something to barter."
Cobblers tools

In the pre-zombie world you can still find cobblers in most large cities, but may not have such a service in smaller population centres. Luckily, many shoe repairs can be done right at home. And you don't have to wait until something is chasing you to do it.

A tube of shoe goo will go a long way to reattaching soles or any loose bits. You can use this amazing substance to build up worn heels, plug a hole, and waterproof seams.

With a few simple tools and gear, as well as a good dose of patience, one can do more extensive repairs.

Websites, like the Odd Shoes Blog can help with most repairs. This same website also has information about what you can do with your old shoes after you are done with them. Your old footwear might be donated to someone without shoes, or they could be recycled into playground surfaces or padding to go under basketball courts.

If you are planning to go green and save money, the services of a lonely cobbler or a bit of home shoe repair might be for you. If you are planning on a post-industrial career path, there still might be time to apprentice with a master cobbler while there are still a few around.


  1. Anonymous6:17 PM

    This post brought back some wonderful memories of my girlhood. In my small Midwestern town back in the 1970's, we had a shoe repair shop, a typewriter and business machine repair shop, appliance repair shops, and several dressmakers and a Finnish rug weaver's shop. I did not know how truly lucky I was to grow up in an environment that respected well-made objects and made it easy and normal for everyday people to repair those objects and keep them for a long time. The shoe repair shop also did leather goods repair, and I had several purses that they repaired for me time and time again. I do see more and more people beginning to appreciate this mindset, so maybe we are at a turning point for sustainability. Plus, it was just so much fun going to those shops and watching the craftspeople and repair people do their magic!


    1. I read in our local paper about a new repair person in the area. He fixes iPhones. Exclusively. A good idea, but I don't even own one of those and never will. Hopefully the mindset will reach critical mass before the other repair shops disappear.

  2. We have a proper cobbler in our smallish town- we've just had three pairs of shoes repaired by him. There is another place that sells shoes and repairs them, and I think there are several places that do shoe repairs as well as key cutting, engraving and so on.
    We always go to the proper cobbler though, as he does a really good job and it's good to support someone with proper skills.

    I had to buy new walking boots recently, and I chose some that were more expensive but repairable. Given that my last pair lasted for 13 years without me looking after them at all, I plan to have these for a long time!

    1. That is so good to hear. Good shoes can last a very long time and are worth it if they cost extra. So awesome of you to be thinking about footwear longevity.

  3. I have a great shoe repair guy who has become a good friend to me too. He knows that I work as a professor and walk on the hard pavement of my campus. He also knows that I have to stand on my feet a lot. He also knows that I over pronate! He will often fix the immediate repair (usually I need a strap to be resewn) and then he will do some preventative care of replacing my soles so that the shoes last longer. I often get his advice about shoe brands- like which ones he thinks are best made. He is such a great guy and great source of knowledge. I learn a lot from him. My shoes last much longer and I do save money by extending their shoe lifespan.

    1. Wow. Everyone needs someone like that. You are fortunate indeed.

  4. Anonymous4:26 PM

    We had a wonderful cobbler in our town for many years, sadly the shop closed a few years ago. He repaired shoes and and leather goods. I loved going into the shop for the sights of all his tools and smell of leather.

    I have a pair of shoes that is at least 25 years old. Not that I do much walking in them these days, but I wouldn't hesitate to try to repair them if necessary.

    1. You may not walk, but you rock Miss Marla. Linda also has some shoes that will never wear out. I guess that is a bit of good news.

    2. Anonymous5:38 PM

      Let's just consider it a perk! :-)

  5. Ah, such fond memories of the craft of repairing things. Thanks to all of you for filling me with warmth. Those folks took pride in repairing our things. So sad that many are gone and trades and those wonderful relationships are being lost. We can blame "planned obsolesce" a.k.a. cheaply made stuff so we have to keep buying new stuff. Grrrr!

    I hate buying shoes. I don't like owning many pairs either. I like buying better shoes that aren't faddish so I can wear them a long long time. In the past year, I've taken two pairs to a local shoe repair shop believing the shoes could be repaired or resoled. The cobbler said no they can't. I thought something must be up with that. There is another shop in town. I'll try them next time.

    I use a local vacuum cleaner shop to take my vacuum in for servicing. I bought it from them many years ago. I buy my bags there too. Love that they are local, been in business for years and take good care of my vacuum cleaner. Also a joy to go to their shop! (I have carpet where I live so have to have a vacuum for now.)

    I remember having places that would repair your watch too. In fact, used to we could get most things repaired.

    Hopefully as things are shifting, we'll have more repair business in the future. Gosh that would be great!


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