Back to top

My shoes broke, so I did something radical

… but it shouldn’t be!

Sometimes, the best units of clothing are those you’ve had for a while. It’s been worn in, and seems to have moulded to your body. However, that makes it even sadder when it gets a hole or something — and I assume many of you have kept using an item way longer than you should. It’s just so damn comfortable, so you don’t care that your nipple is poking out of your sweatshirt, The People Eater style.

Recently, I had this happen to a pair of shoes — and that’s when I did something that shouldn’t be as radical as it is.

Blown out heel, tired leather, and worn down sole.

The regular thing would either be to buy a new pair, or just keep wearing them until things got even worse.

But instead, I got them repaired. 😲

Most shoes aren’t made to be repaired, though

Imagine you’ve bought a new car: And after a while, you have to buy some new tires, as they, obviously, wear out quicker than the car itself. But then the people at the tire shop say: “Sorry, you can’t change the tires on this car — so you have to buy a whole car.” This is how most shoes work today. Soles wear out way quicker than uppers, but most shoes today are constructed in a way that they’re impossible to repair. This is usually because everything is (only) glued in place, instead of also being based on stitches.

However, if you look at the underside of my worn out sole, you can see that these are stitched together.

Be aware: Sometimes glue will do all the work, and brands just add some stitches to make the shoes appear repairable.

Constructions you can look for, are Goodyear welted, Blake stitch and Stitchdown construction — but there are more.

Image from White's: A brand that makes ultra-high quality boots, often with hand-sewn stitchdown construction, in the US.
Both me and my wife have (highly recommended!) sneakers from Crown Northampton. I'm not sure what this construction is called — but they are repairable.

Sadly, it’s a bit costly

I wish I could say that buying repairable shoes, and getting them repaired instead of buying all-new shoes, saves you money — but it often doesn’t. The repair cost me US$80 — which is more than many shoes.

The shoes themselves are usually more expensive as well, as making them repairable makes them take longer to make, and often require more expensive components. Furthermore, only brands that are slightly more high-end, even bother.

And when you get them repaired, you have to pay for the labour — and this labour usually happens somewhere with higher labour costs than in a south-east asian sweatshop…

However, depending on which shoes you compare, there is some truth to the Sam Vimes “Boots” theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

There are still (at least) these benefits:

  • It’s obviously more environmentally friendly, as your old shoes don’t end in a land-fill, and a whole new pair isn’t being made.
  • You’ll also probably end up supporting local businesses, and/or shoemakers with better working conditions than the norm.
  • Shoes where you can keep your upper for years and years, making it more and more comfortable, and with good quality soles (not made with foam that wears out in a couple of months), will give you very comfortable shoes.
  • The shoes you’ll end up using, will generally be of great quality, both in terms of looks and function.
  • And lastly: This might be a bit esoteric, but when you have to save up to buy shoes, and you know you’ll have them for a long time, you’ll think thoroughly about every purchase. And when you know they’re expensive, you’ll want to take care of them (including repairs). Simply put, the Own fewer, better things mentality, makes you love your stuff more!

But how did my shoes end up?

I sadly didn’t take a photo of the entire shoe before sending them in — but compare how they look now (I’ve worn them a bit after the repair), to the images I posted above:

As you can see, they don't look brand new — but they still look great, in my opinion. Another neat thing, is that I could choose to get a different type of sole, to vary the look a bit.
They also added a brand-new part of the insole!
These are my Alden Indy Boots. The upper is amazing (both for my wide feet, and in terms of looks), but the soles they come with are pretty slippery. So when they need re-soling, I intend to get a more rugged sole. Another benefit of re-sole-able shoes!

Some brands to check out, if you want good, repairable shoes

Lastly, I just want to fire off a few recommendations, if you want shoes that can be repaired. This is absolutely not a complete list — and they are not all amazing. There are many resources out there — among them, r/goodyearwelt and Stridewise.

In general, go for shoes made with natural materials (both in the upper and the sole), and ones that are constructed for repairability. The trap is that shoes that are super-comfortable brand-new will often become less comfortable with wear, and in general wear quickly. While some shoes from these brands, aren’t as comfortable when brand new, but they will only get better with age. Makes it a harder sell, but a better buy.

See if you can find a local shoe store that carries good quality shoes. It might not be the biggest chain-stores. Also consider buying online. It’s far from optimal — but it might be the only way to find good purchases. Contact them beforehand, and discuss sizing, and expect that you might have to send them back.

These are in random order, and are just some that I thought of at the moment. Please comment with other suggestions, and I’ll update the list!

Some images, from Oak Street Bootmakers and Crown Northampton, showing some of what to expect.
  • Rancourt & Co: The shoes I got repaired, are Ranger-Mocs from this brand. Made in Maine, U.S.A., and great quality. I’d recommend signing up for their newsletter because occasionally, they run “crowdfunding batches” of shoes. So if you can wait a couple of months, you get them at a great price. The brand also offers wide sizes, which is important to me. Their Read Boat Shoes are a great alternative to the lower quality Sebagos.
  • Oak Street Bootmakers: Similar brand to Rancourt.
  • Crown Northampton: Amazing minimalistic sneakers, and a few more models. About the same price as Common Projects, but higher quality. Made in England.
  • Koio: Sneakers at around the quality of Common Projects, but cheaper.
  • Thursday Boots: Makes both boots and sneakers. Not as high quality as others on this list — but as the price also reflects this fairly, I don’t mind at all.
  • Red Wing: A staple in American boots. The Iron Rangers are a classic.
  • Grant Stone: A brand that single-handedly proofs that “Made in China” doesn’t mean low quality. Amazing footwear for a very fair price.
  • White’s: Top-notch rugged boots.
  • Nicks: See: White’s
  • Alden: I love my Indy boots — but to be honest, this brand is a bit over-priced. Doesn’t change the fact that they make great shoes.
  • Loake: British, mostly dress shoes, at a good price.
  • Paraboot: A French brand with several legendary models.
  • Heschung: Paraboot’s sister brand, also making great quality footwear with iconic designs.
  • Skomaker Dagestad: The best shoe store in Oslo, Norway, which also makes their own shoes in Portugal.
  • Carmina: Really nice Spanish shoes — mostly on the dressier side.
  • Meermin: Carmina’s lower-cost sister brand.
  • Beckett Simonon: They take orders in bulk — so if you’re willing to wait, you’ll get good shoes for a good price.