Shoe repair pricing explained
How much should you pay for a shoe repair? The cost of a shoe repair depends on several factors including the quality of materials used, expertise of the cobbler / shoe repairer and the type of job(s) your shoes require. This post provides a brief overview of the shoe repair industry including price-determining factors, common types of repairs and prices you should expect to pay for common jobs.
The cost of a Cobbler
Whether your the owner of a pair of luxury heels, handmade brogues or sentimental boots owned by your great grandfather, at some stage you might contemplate the possibility of a repair. In this case you’ll need to utilise the services of a shoe repairer also known as a cobbler to bring your shoes back to their former glory.
But before finding a good cobbler to assist with a repair, you may want to know what kind of costs you’ll be up for. Depending on the business you choose to utilise there will be noticable variations in the standard of service, quality of workmanship, level of personalisation and the selection of materials offered.
For most services you’d expect the final cost to be proportional to the level of service and quality of delivery. Unfortunately this couldn’t be further from the truth for the shoe repair industry…
Due to the loss of many generational craftsmen over the years and the decrease in demand for such services, the industry has a perhaps a justified reputation for shoddy work and uninspiring levels of customer service.
In short, your experience won’t alway equate to a value for money proposition.
If you’re thinking of getting your shoes repaired it is likely that they are of some sentimental value, so having an idea of the factors that influence the quality of the work and how they relate to the cost is important.
Our Price List
Before we delve into some price-determining factors and costs to expect for common shoe repair services, feel free to use our price list as a guide. Please keep in mind that because our workshop predominantly services higher-end shoes and leather goods our prices tend to be slightly higher than most shoe repairers.
Six Price-determining Factors to consider
Not all shoe repair services are the same and there are several factors that you should consider when weighing up the cost. These relate to things such as the quality of materials, expertise / skills of the cobbler and reputation of the business. The most important price-contributing factors that you should critique before approaching any cobbler or shoe repair business are summarised below
Standard of Workmanship
What is the standard of workmanship to expect? Is the business just a local shoe repair shop servicing everyday shoes or does the business specialise in higher-end items? What are the reviews of the business like? Are some too good to be true? Ask different retailers and friends for their recommendations on reputable and long-serving cobblers within the area.
Customer Service / Personalisation
How well does the business communicate with customers and do they offer any bespoke services? In what way are the shoes kept in the facility are they thrown around the workshop or protected from collateral damage. Theres really nothing worse than coming to pick up your designers shoes only for your cobbler to fish them out from a disorganised mess behind their counter!
Expertise and technical skills
How well-equiped is the business to handle more complex repairs? Is it a one-man band or are there other experts to draw on. More difficult jobs will usually require the input and technical skills of multiple leather specialists. Be wary of single operators promising more than their capabilities would allow, chances are you will get work at a sub-par standard
Location of business
A central city location will often coincide with higher rents, which means a higher price for your shoes repairs. However, a closer proximity to corporate and business hubs also may indicate that the business has a greater amount and variety of jobs offering specialist departments for certain services. If the business has been around for a long time, more than likely they’ll be more expensive but reliable and trustworthy.
If you want half rubber / protective soles does cobbler use TOPY, Vibram or SVIG? Do they stock different colour and style varieties? Similarly is the leather locally sourced or a cheap imitation leather from overseas. The quality of the materials used is important as this is what is going to be incorporated into you shoes and influence the aesthetics of the repair
Guarantee on work
A final price-determining factors, does the cobbler offer a guarantee on their work? This is an important safety net in case you don’t get the result you were expecting, the job is botched or your shoes are irreversibly damaged during the repair
Types of Shoe Repair Services
While the quality of materials, service and workmanship differs, the way pricing is derived by most shoe repairers is fairly similar. This means that for standard shoe repairs differences in pricing between an average shoe repair and an excellent job is actually not as much as one might think.
Considering the long-lasting nature of a good job and superior aesthetics of high quality mateirals paying a little bit more for a reputable cobbler actually goes a long-way. The expected price ranges for the most common jobs offered and performed by most cobblers are outlined below
Heel Tip Replacements
The rubber tips on stiletto heels are subject to large amounts of force and will require replacement every so often. The need for repair will be evident by the appearance of a metal ‘spike’ and the loss / damage of the rubber stopper on the ends of the heelpieces. This repair is not a complex job and simply involves replacement of the rubber tips – this can usually completed as a while-you-wait service (approximately 10 – 15 minutes).
While you can purchase DIY heel tips and repair kits, its always advisable to use a shoe repairer for both safety and aesthetic reasons. This also prevents any unnecessary damage to your heelpieces (which are more costly to repair!).
A standard charge for heel tip replacements ranges from $15 – $35 (per pair of heels). A higher price typically accounts for differences in finishing of the heelpieces, alignment and shaping / smoothness of the new rubber stoppers. Always ask a shoe repairer to replace both rubber stoppers together even if one is still intact. This is to avoid any balance issues that can compromise the structure of your heels.
Half rubber Sole Protection
Half soles (also known as TOPYs or Vibrams) are a cost-effective option of repairing worn leather soles. The repair involves two steps (depending on the amount of wear) with the cobbler having to build up the soles before applying protective rubber layers over the top. The rubber essentially seals the leather, providing protection, weathering and reviving the worn soles.
There is often uncertainty about applying half rubber soles or TOPYs to shoes. However, when done correctly half rubber sole protection is undoubtedly the best way of increasing the longevity of your leather soles
The repair is not complex but can be time intensity when done properly, with extras steps such as building up the leather, customising the rubber and applying the edge-finish to the soles. Some cobblers may skip on any of these steps in order to bring down the cost. The cost of applying half rubber soles ranges from $40 – $65 based on these factors. Its always advisable to get sole protection / rubber applied prior to wearing your soles in to avoid more expensive repairs at later stages.
Reglue, Patch & Stitch
There are several minor repairs that a shoe repairer may perform to mend a pair of shoes including sticking, stitching and patching. These jobs have different applications and may even be all used in combination for a single repair.
Reglueing is used for a varitery of jobs including sticking down the tip of worn rubber soles, insoles, wonky heels or even entire soles. Depending on the time required for preparation and adhesion the price of reglueing work can range anywhere from $10 – $50 . For example, leather soles need to be sanded down before glue is applied to stick the sole back to the upper part of the shoe – this can take up to half an hour.
Patching typically involves fixing minor tears in the upper part of the shoe. The correct method of completing this repair is to custom cut and adapt a patch of leather from the inside of shoe to render the tear invisible. Depending if this method is chosen or an external patch is simply stuck over the top of the tear a price between $20 – $50 should be expected.
Stitching is used for a variety of jobs such as rethreading a loose seam, hand stitching a detached ornament back to the shoe or heavy-duty restitching around a sole. Depending on whats required a stitch job can range anywhere from $25 – $75+. Hand stitching is typically more time intensive than machine stitching and used mainly for customised work.
Polish, Cleaning or Restoration
While all of these services can refresh or revive the appearance of shoes, each treatment has varying levels of difficulty and the price changes accordingly.
A quick polish / cleanup and shine is the most basic of services performed by a cobbler that nourishes, conditions and can provide a temporary lustre back to the leather. Depending on the polish this can range anywhere from $10 – $25. The higher cost is usually for those who prefer luxury polishes and traditional application methods completed over longer time periods.
Polish is a temporary solution to restoring colour. Permanent colour restoration often requires leather refinishing with custom matched dye, this needs to be completed by a leather professional rather than a shoe repairer.
Deep cleaning marks, stains or blemishes from suede, smooth leather or other materials usually requires specialist knowledge of leather restoration. For a basic clean, nourish and waterproof expect between $50 – $120 depending if you take a chance on a cobbler or opt for the work of a leather professional.
When it comes to severe stains or discolouration most cobblers simply don’t have the expertise to work with the dyes and chemicals required for leather refinishing. Colour restoration by a specialist can range from $120 – $250 and can involve simply ‘touching up’ the colour’ or full restorative treatment of the leather.
If your soles are beginning to feel particularly spongy or there are visible holes within the bottom layer of your shoes, a full resole may be the best option for repair. This type of repair may be completed on either leather or rubber soles (pre-moulded or flat rubber).
The differing qualities of the rubber / leather available means there can be a larger variation in price with resoling work. For example, imitation leather soles can be bought from Asia for as little as $10 a pair, at the other end of the spectrum JR oak-tanned leather soles from Germany may cost up to $40 a pair. In general, better quality leather soles are longer lasting, offer greater aesthetics and comfort.
The procedure for sole replacements involves removing the original soles, including the heels (if present), trimming and shaping the new soles and using a combination of reglueing or stitching to install the newly crafted leather or rubber soles. A full sole replacement can take several hours to complete for a single pair of shoes with the price ranging from $120 – $250 depending on the materials and finishing involved.
Tip – If you would like to save on resoling work, request a half leather / rubber sole replacement. In most cases only a half sole is actually required because it is usually the toe-half of the soles that wear down. The half of the shoe to which the heel is attached to and the mid-sole typically remains intact meaning only the front-half of the soles need replacement.
Stretching leather shoes is the most common method of resizing. This is typically accomplished with mechanised equipment that can alter the width of a shoe up to half a size larger. The process takes a few days with the shoes sitting on the stretching machine. Expect to pay from $35 – $50 for this service for a pair of shoes
Verdict: When is a shoe repair worth the cost?
As most shoes are now manufactured overseas its not uncommon for the cost of repairs to exceed the original value of a pair of shoes. In general, cheaply made shoes are not only too expensive to repair but in many instances are unable to be repaired.
For well-made or luxury shoes a good rule of thumb is to repair at up to 1/2 the original value, anything above this would be a repair done purely for sentimental reasons.
While you shouldn’t be discouraged from shopping around for the best price, it is worth remembering that there a widely varying levels of quality within the industry. In fact, the lack of skilled craftsmen within western cities means that many shoe repairers these days are transient and only train for a few months prior to entering the trade.
If you’re keen to re-invest in your shoes be sure to check the reputability of a cobbler or business as you don’t want to be risking your shoes with unqualified tradesmen that provide no guarantee for their work.
With over 60 years as an established destination for Melbourne’s shoe repairs, all our cobblers are professionally trained within our workshop. We offer all aspects of shoe repairs, alterations and restorative work on leather. Get in touch with one of our friendly team members today.