Arrow-right Camera


Save your soles

Sun., Dec. 28, 2008, 9:09 p.m.

THE SURGE IN FRUGALITY has brought back a variety of habits from days gone by. Layaway got attention as a holiday shopping option. A renewed emphasis on home cooking and kitchen wisdom has sprung up. And shoe-repair shops – the cobblers of old – are seeing more business than they have in years.

“Everybody’s cutting budgets,” said Wayne Johnson, who has owned Lake City Shoe Repair in Coeur d’Alene for almost 30 years.

Greg Ressa, owner of Ressa’s Shoe Service in Spokane, said the practice of having shoes resoled, repaired or otherwise refurbished fell out of favor in the last couple decades.

“It kind of skipped a generation,” he said, as people started simply replacing shoes that wore out.

“Guess what?” he said. “That attitude’s changing.”

Got a hole in your sole? Here are some questions and answers about shoe repair.

Q: What kinds of wear and tear can be fixed?

A: “A lot of times we can fix things for people they don’t even realize we can fix,” Ressa said.

Beyond replacing soles and heels – and heels wear out most often – shoe repairers can clean and waterproof shoes, replace worn insoles, repair rips and tears, replace eyelets and laces … in short, make them nearly as good as new – or, as Johnson puts it, “Broke in, with a new appearance.”

Q: How much can repair extend the life of a shoe?

A: A good men’s shoe can be resoled seven to 10 times, according to the Shoe Service Institute of America. “It is not uncommon for a man to get 30 years out of a good pair of shoes,” the institute says.

Women’s shoes generally can’t be resoled as many times – between three and five times.

Q: What about tennis shoes or casual wear?

A: A lot of people mistakenly assume that repair is just for dress shoes, high heels and the like. Ressa said he rebuilds the heels on running shoes and resoles rock-climbing shoes. Birkenstock sandals can be refurbished. Johnson said he often sees tennis shoes and casual shoes for repairs on the uppers – torn eyelets or rips in the fabric.

Q: Are local shoe-repair shops seeing the same upswing in business as the big cities?

A: Not quite, although they say things have been busier than usual.

“Nothing ever happens really quick in Spokane,” Ressa said. “I understand there was a huge surge in the larger cities on the East Coast. That usually takes a while to get here.”

Nationally, repair shops are seeing increases of 20 percent to 45 percent, the shoe institute says, with Chicago and New York shops the busiest.

Q: What does a repair cost?

A: Depending on the style of sole and whether you need to replace the heel as well, it can run between $20 and $80. Replacing the soles on a pair of $200-plus Florsheim dress shoes would cost about $50.

Prices for women’s shoes run slightly less.

Q: Does anybody use the term cobbler anymore?

A: “Yeah, I get that a lot. It’s an old term,” Ressa said. “I like to refer to myself as a ‘shoe technician’ these days.”


Click here to comment on this story »