ByKimberly Button

Jul 20, 2015
Worn shoes

How do you know if it’s better to repair a shoe or replace shoes? For many, it’s not just a financial decision, but an ecological and ethical one, as well.

Repairing shoes is actually not an expensive process — in relation to buying another pair of good quality shoes that cost more than $100. If your budget is more discount-store shoe buying, though, repairing shoes can be just as expensive as buying a brand new pair.

Converse shoes
Image courtesy of Leland Francisco

Do you want to keep the shoes?

First, determine whether the shoes are important to you or not. Are they sentimental? Do they work with every outfit you own? Do they fit just right and you could walk for hours with no pain? Would repairing them likely cost less than replacing them?

If any of the answers is yes, keep reading. If not, consider donating those shoes (we give you an extensive list below).

Second, is your repair something that a cobbler can handle? You would be surprised at how much shoe repair stores can do to turn your shoes like-new, including new soles, zippers, buckles, inserts, stretching, cleaning, etc.

What can’t a shoe repair business do? Turn cracked, damaged leather into new again. Shoe repair stores are great at repairing the base of a shoe, but not so much if the top part of the shoe is damaged, especially dried-out or cracked material.

So, now you need to repair those shoes. Finding a cobbler is harder than it once was. According to one estimate, there are only 7,000 shoe repair shops in the U.S. — down from 70,000.

  • Search for “shoe repair” or “cobbler” in your area.
  • Also, ask dry cleaners and alteration stores, which often can do some repairs, too, or work with those who do shoe repair.
Shoe Cobler
Image courtesy of peter burge

A look at the cost of repairing shoes ranges from $5 to clean the shoes to up to $80 for new soles.

Proper prevention can reduce these expenses or eliminate them. When you find that great set of shoes that you’ve spent a pretty penny on, make sure to weatherproof them and clean them regularly, ask for heel caps on high heeled shoes, condition leather regularly, and don’t store shoes in extreme environments (for the shoe materials), such as leather shoes in direct sunlight or in dry air inside plastic storage boxes.

Don’t want the shoes at all?

What if you simply do not want the shoes at all? You’ve decided the cost isn’t worth it, or perhaps the shoes don’t fit right anymore?

Donations to thrift stores and consignment shops are always the first step for shoes that might have minor imperfections. If someone else could get use out of those shoes, donating them is always the next best ecological step.

Damaged shoes can still be donated to Goodwill and other recycling collection facilities that can sell the items for scrap, and the materials will be used elsewhere.

There are several private and non-profit shoe donation programs that can repurpose shoes around the world, such as Soles4Souls, MORE Foundation, and One World Running.

Looking to recycle shoes in your area?  Search our recycling directory for options in your area!

Feature image courtesy of Lorenzoclick

By Kimberly Button

Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home and the Editor-in-Chief of GetGreenBeWell , featuring modern, sane ideas for living a non-toxic life. A professional journalist for nearly two decades, Button has written for magazines such as Martha Stewart's Whole Living, American Airlines, AAA, Sierra, National Geographic Traveler, and Vegetarian Times. Visit for more information.