I recently paid a visit to the cobbler for heel tip replacements (a simple fix), but it got me thinking of the many more interesting and lesser known services that a good cobbler can do! In addition to breathing new life into old shoes, an experienced cobbler can also help with fit and comfort, and work on leather goods and accessories beyond just footwear. Below I’ve rounded up a few useful services that either I or my friends have had done. I’d also love to hear some of your success (or not so successful) stories of work done by a cobbler!
How to find a good cobbler
Similar to tailors, it’s important to note that every cobbler’s skill set and pricing can vary greatly. Aside from checking Yelp reviews and looking at before and after pictures of a cobbler’s work online, another tip is to ask your local high end department stores or shoe retailers if there’s someone in town that they use and trust.
Also, similar to what I have suggested doing with tailors, when you visit a cobbler for the first time you can ask to see some of their handiwork at the shop waiting to be picked up. Inspecting some of the items they’ve worked on can help you get a better sense of their craftsmanship and attention to detail with glue, paint, stitching etc. I often get questions on cobblers and tailors in other major cities, so if you go to someone that you’d recommend, please lave a comment with their info and location!
useful services – footwear
1. Slim and/or shorten the calf of boots
The holy grail service for fellow ladies who can never find boots that fit. However, due to the complexity and cost, it’s a service I’d only entrust to very experienced cobblers, so definitely do your research. I have not had this done personally, but several of you have recommended it over the years. For lucky ladies living in the Toronto area, based on my online digging Leon’s Boot Alterations seems to be a reputable specialist in boot shaft narrowing, shortening and widening, and they accept some mail-in work for those located outside of Toronto. They also only charge $50 per pair of boots, which is lower than most other quotes I’ve gotten!
(before & after source: Leon’s Boot Alterations)
(menu of boot adjustment services source: Cobbler + Tailor shoe repair)
2. Dye shoes (or bags) to the same or a darker color
For when you have faded shoes that need color rejuvenation, or shoes that you want to be darker (i.e. bridal shoes that you want to make more versatile). I have seen this done successfully on leather (both shoes and handbags), suede, and satin. If the shoes in question are expensive designer ones or especially precious to you, this is where inspecting a cobbler’s handiwork comes in to see how much attention to detail they give to their work.
(before & after source: Derek’s Shoe Repair)
3. Stretch shoes or widen the calf of boots
If a shoe is too small, narrow, or if a certain part rubs an area on your foot uncomfortably, a cobbler (or the store where you purchased the shoe, like Nordstrom) can usually help stretch it out. Boot calves that are too tight can also be expanded either by stretching, or by having elastic gussets added in. For example, Leon’s Boot Alterations that was mentioned above also specializes in boot widening.I haven’t attempted this myself, but a DIY trick I’ve heard about often is filling ziplock baggies with water, placing them in your shoes and leaving them in the freezer overnight. As the water freezes and expands, it’s supposed to help to stretch out the toe area of your shoes. Just be careful to close the ziplock bag securely and don’t overfill the bag!
(image source: FootFitter)
4. Replace the tip of heels and patch up heel shaft
For your well-worn heels that are starting to click clack a little too loudly, a heel tip replacement is quick, easy, and shouldn’t cost you more than $8 to $15. Another common repair job is patching up scraped leather heels, as pictured below (this will cost a little more but shouldn’t be too bad). Living in a city of heel-eating cobblestone and brick sidewalks, I’ve had both of these repairs done several times on my heels.
(before & after source: MyShoeHospital)
5. Add a protective rubber non-slip sole
This can be added to a well worn pair of shoes, or done preemptively before you wear a new pair of shoes. I had this done on a few of my Louboutins in red Vibram rubber, and the rubber soles are especially helpful for shoes with smooth, hard leather soles that can be very slippery on carpet otherwise.
(before & after source: Cobbler Concierge)
6. Waterproof shoes
This is another common service offered at cobblers, and is a good idea to do before a wintry, wet season, or before you wear a pair of shoes for the first time. I usually spray my shoes myself at home and have tried two brands of waterproof spray recommended to me by high-end retailers – Apple Brand Spray and Cadillac Spray. Note that water repellant sprays are not designed to protect your shoes from being submerged under water or anything, it’s just to help repel water if you’re caught briefly in the rain. Also, most sprays wear off with time and wear and it’s recommended to re-apply seasonally after cleaning your shoes (so you don’t “seal in” any dirt or grime).
7. Adjust or replace the straps on shoes
If the straps on your sandals or slingbacks are too long, a cobbler can shorten them so they fit just right. In some cases, they may even be able to add length to the strap if needed or completely replace the strap if it’s damaged. If you just need an additional hole punched in a strap, I’d suggest using a leather hole puncher at home!
(before & after source: City Shoe Repair)
useful services – accessories + Belts
(before & after source: Leather Surgeons)
8. Shorten a leather belt
Depending on how the belt is constructed, a cobbler might propose shortening it from either the buckle end or the tail end, and I’ve been quoted $15 to shorten a basic belt up to $100+ to shorten an Hermes belt. For designer belts, definitely also inspect the cobbler’s work beforehand as I have had a shoddy job (unevenly cut and finished, stitched using the wrong color) done on a designer belt. For belts that almost fit, I usually just adjust them at home using my handy aforementioned leather hole puncher and then my inexpensive diy trick to keep the long tail end from flapping around.
9. Clean, condition and restore handbags
A good cobbler can perform miracles on handbags that have wear and tear or outright damage! Though it’s important to note, any high end designer bags that need TLC should be taken to someone who is very familiar with working on that brand. I’ve heard great things about both Leather Spa and Leather Surgeons in NYC which accept mail-in jobs, and it seems like bigger cities such as LA have a plethora of options (i.e. this mom & pop shop in LA Koreatown is a hole in the wall but with good reviews for designer repairs and lower prices).
10. Replace a handbag strap or handle
Similar to sandal straps, detached or worn down leather handles on a handbag can be be repaired or completely replaced. In speaking with local cobblers, this is a more common type of job that can be done at most shops compared to a designer handbag restoration.
(before & after source: Purse Rehab)
(before & after source: Shoe Hospital)
Do you have a cobbler that you trust? Please share below to help out other ladies in your area!