It might seem like repairable shoes are nothing but a thing of the past. The explosion of fast fashion filling our landfills beyond capacity is impossible to deny anymore but there are very few affordable alternatives for those of us on a smaller budget.
So, what if I told you, aside from an initial purchase investment, that a pair of repairable shoes could save you hundreds of dollars over the next few years?
The fast fashion honchos have us stuck in an unsustainable cycle of purchasing cheap shoes and clothing only to have to replace those items less than six months later.
Are you ready to get on the repairable shoe bandwagon? Keep reading to find out what repairable shoes actually are and some of my favorite repairable shoe brands you can rely on.
What Are Repairable Shoes?
Repairable shoes are footwear styles that can be easily mended and repaired as the years pass to get every possible inch of wear out of them until we have to say goodbye to them.
We, as a society, have become so comfortable with throwing away perfectly good shoes or spending our hard-earned money on footwear that will only survive a few months of wear before heading to landfill.
Although technically any kind of shoe can be repaired to a certain degree it’s always much harder – and in many cases impossible – to repair poor quality shoes made from cheap materials.
When looking for repairable shoes, you want to choose footwear made from high-quality materials, such as leather or vegan leather. However, it’s not just material that makes a repairable shoe.
The very design and shape of your shoes can designate them repairable or non-repairable.
It’s also important to be aware that most shoe repairs can’t be done yourself. You’ll need to find a reliable cobbler who can repair and mend your shoes for you.
The cobbler trade may have been on the wain over the last few decades but the resurgence in sustainable practices, like purchasing repairable shoes, has seen an increase in cobbler services.
Many high-quality shoe brands are now offering repair services for their customers as well and who better to fix your shoes than the very people that made them in the first place?
What Kind of Shoes Can Be Repaired?
In short, most high-quality shoes can be repaired. Think leather boots, hiking boots, high-quality heels, and even sandals but it will come down to the materials used and how worn your shoes are.
If the soles of your shoes are made from a cheaply formed plastic or fake rubber, your cobbler may struggle to find sole materials that will actually adhere to the rest of your shoes.
However, soles made from strong leather or a vegan leather material are generally very easy to repair.
The only shoes that may be tricky to repair, regardless of how high quality they are, are sneakers. The soles of running shoes tend to be formed as part of the shoe itself and can make repairs difficult. However, many brands sell repairable shoes that have branched out into trainers and running shoes.
Meaning, the kind of shoes that can be repaired is growing every single day. If you aren’t sure whether the footwear you have your eye on are repairable shoes, you can always ask the advice of your local cobbler before you purchase them.
The Best Repairable Shoe Brands
The trend of purchasing repairable shoes and really getting your money’s worth out of your footwear is finally back on the increase and thank goodness.
Our high streets are awash with cheap, disposable footwear options but there are tonnes of brands out there that craft beautiful shoes that are made to be loved for years and are easily repaired.
So, here is a list of my favorite brands that sell repairable shoes.
1. Vivo Barefoot
This UK-based footwear company believes that barefoot is best and that is how they design their shoes. From ballet flats to hiking boots, this company has a massively large range of repairable shoes designed to support your feet as if you were to navigate the world barefoot.
Even better, you can dress your children’s feet with their feet-happy designs.
Vivo Barefoot is a company that recognizes the wasteful fashion industry and to combat this they have created their Revivo campaign. Here you can purchase second-hand, reconditioned Vivo footwear, you can choose to return your no longer worn Vivo’s or, if you are in the UK, you can send your Vivo’s in to be repaired so that you can continue to wear them.
I know it is disappointing that their repair service is only available to UK customers. However, they do have plans to extend this service globally very soon.
Sneakers are naturally a lot more difficult to repair but that’s where Swiss designers, Catherine Meuter and Stefan Mathys, have broken the mould and brought running shoes and fashion sneakers to the repairable shoes table with VYN.
Relatively new to the scene, VYN has a unique footwear design that makes the more wearable parts of your sneakers repairable at home by.
The heels of our shoes are the parts that tend to wear out the quickest but with VYN you can easily snap off your old, worn-out heels and replace them with the VYN self-repair heel pieces. You can even choose different colors to give your sneakers a fresh look every time you repair and replace the heels.
You can even purchase replaceable heel counters – the bit that sits inside the sneaker and nestles around your heel – to extend the life of your sneakers.
Although VYN doesn’t offer any repair services to their customers, they have created a truly unique system that keeps their footwear on the feet of their customers for as long as possible and that is the ethos of repairable shoes.
Another UK-based brand that sells repairable shoes, Goral also offers their customers a lifetime repair guarantee. Thankfully, all their customers over the globe can avail of this repair service and extend the life of their Goral footwear.
Goral has been handcrafting repairable shoes for over 80 years and they still use many of their original crafting technique. So, you know these shoes are really made to last.
With footwear styles available for both men and women, Goral even sells repurposed repairable shoes for extra sustainability.
Goral uses the highest quality leather in the majority of their footwear styles to ensure their customers get the longest life possible out of their shoes and each piece is handmade in the family workshop in Sheffield, UK.
None of their processes are outsourced, and the majority of the materials are sourced within Britain. This way they can maintain a truly sustainable and ethical business model.
The majority of Nisolo’s repairable shoes are made from high-quality leather, however, they do have some vegan leather options across their ranges. Even then, the leather they source is obtained as a by-product of the tanning industry.
Nisolo wants to reduce its contribution to wasteful practices in the fashion industry by sourcing its materials more sustainably.
Their handmade shoes can be easily repaired to extend their life and you can find a variety of styles on their website from flats and heels to boots and loafers.
If you are looking for an ethically minded brand that sells repairable shoes, Nisolo is really going to blow your socks off. Not only do they have really in-depth information on their website about the current state of the fashion industry, their efforts to provide a living wage for all their workers, and their climate-neutral certification.
They are also incredibly candid about mistakes they have made in the past when it comes to their endeavors and how they have corrected them.
You’ve got to hand it to a business that will own up to its mistakes and actively strive to do better.
That aside, Nisolo also provides a shoe donation service where you can return your old, worn-out footwear so that they can redistribute them to communities where micro-entrepreneurs can clean, repair, and resell your old footwear within their communities.
ABLE really is a one-stop shop for people who want to give their hard-earned cash over to a sustainable, people-first business. Not only do they sell repairable shoes for women but they also have a stunning selection of clothes, accessories, and jewelry.
The ABLE spark was ignited by a desire to provide safe and stable jobs for women in Ethiopia who were coming out of the commercial sex industry.
Starting with a series of high-quality, handwoven scarves in 2010, fast forward to 2023 and ABLE has expanded into a place where you can source high-quality leather goods, clothing, handmade jewelry, and even repairable shoes.
With partnerships all over the world, ABLE is committed to supporting women in poverty all over the world, as well as 90% of their staff is comprised of women, it truly is a business that blends ethics and sustainability in an effortlessly beautiful way.
For those looking for repairable shoes, ABLE has a wide selection of boots, sneakers, flats, heels, and even stylish sandals.
Kavat is a Swedish-born brand that has been rocking the sustainable, high-quality scene since 1945. Still very much a family-run business, Kavat focuses on timeless footwear styles that can withstand our fast-paced fashion industry which is constantly changing.
However, if you are averse to leather-based shoes, Kavat won’t be the brand for you. Leather is by far one of the most long-lasting and sustainable shoe materials on the planet right now and that is why Kavat uses leather for most of its footwear designs.
They choose their leathers and textiles incredibly carefully, ensuring they are sourced from trustworthy suppliers that care for both their people and their environments.
The classic design of these repairable shoes makes them easy to mend for your cobbler or you can avail of Kavat’s repair service.
Some of the services that Kavat provides for their customers are: new insoles and outsoles, mending torn seams, new laces, and general cleaning.
7. Wilding Shoes
With a massive emphasis on partnership-based production, the use of innovative materials, and the support of renaturation projects, Wildling Shoes is trying to ensure that every impact their business has on the environment and the people is positive.
Founders Anna and Ran created Wildling shoes after returning from Tel Aviv to Germany with their three children. The change from year-round barefoot play to having to wear shoes during the cold German winters gave them the inspiration to craft high-quality, long-lasting shoes that were as close to a barefoot experience as possible.
In fact, all of the soles of their shoes are anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 mm in thickness.
With a wide selection of styles for men, women, and children, their focus on sustainability, quality, and radical collaboration has given birth to a brand that produces superb quality repairable shoes that will last customers for years to come.
8. Thousand Fell
Proud of their closed-loop production system, Thousand Fell creates sustainable and repairable sneakers for men and women. Using waste materials like recyclable bottles, coconut husks, and sugar cane, they create repairable shoes that lower their environmental impact and last for years.
Thousand Fell has an exciting campaign for their customers to lower their impact on the environment even more.
Their trade-in efforts allow customers to send their old sneakers that can’t be worn anymore back to Thousand Fell so that they can be recycled. Plus, all customers who trade in their old footwear can earn credits in return that can be used on future purchases.
Thousand Fell proudly displays the positive impact they have had throughout its years of operation. These include 345,697km of driving emissions having been avoided and 117,821 PET bottles being saved from landfill.
Made from natural materials, Thousand Fell has crafted some wonderfully sustainable shoes that give their customers some really good feel every time they purchase.
Mohinders, based in San Fransisco, as well as Amsterdam and Mumbai, has a unique design for their repairable shoes.
Using high-quality leather, Mohinder’s repairable shoes draw a lot of their design inspiration from the traditional footwear of Northern Karnataka, an area in India.
Not only has the inspiration for these beautifully woven styles been adopted from the area, but Mohinder’s also employs the families of shoemakers and leather-tanners from the local Northern Karnataka area to create beautiful footwear that honors its country of origin.
The design of these shoes is purposefully made to last for years and are easily resoled to stretch out every inch of life.
For current customers, there is a re-soling service available. All you have to do is send your Mohinder footwear to their expert cobblers in Texas and they will bring your shoes back to life.
8 Things A Shoe Cobbler Can And Can’t Do
Different cobblers will have different skills. Some can fix all manner of repairable shoes and their types of damage, while other cobblers will only focus on specific repair jobs. A lot of this comes down to experience and whether or not they enjoy different aspects of shoe repair.
So, always make sure you double-check with your cobbler that they can carry out the repairs your footwear needs.
However, here are some common things your cobbler should be able to do and some they definitely won’t do.
They Can: Re-sole Your Boots And Shoes
I mean, what’s a cobbler if they can’t give you a shiny new pair of soles on your favorite shoes? Always check that your shoes are made of suitable materials that are easily repaired like leather and even some rubber-soled shoes.
Any cobbler worth its weight in gold will likely suggest a weightier sole for repair so that your new repairable shoes will last even longer.
They Can’t: Re-sole Your Running Shoes
The soles of our sneakers and running shoes are typically integrated into the body of the shoe. This makes them impossible to re-sole.
There are a few rare exceptions and your cobbler may be able to repair some smaller damage on your sneakers but it is unlikely they will be able to fully re-sole sneakers.
They Can: Replace Your Heel Tips
Most footwear with heels will have some sort of protective tip – usually plastic – to give your heels a longer life span. However, these heel tips wear out fast and are prone to falling off, especially for thin-heeled shoes.
Luckily, this is an incredibly easy job for your cobbler. Replacing heel tips on most shoes is a very quick and relatively budget-friendly job.
They Can’t: Make Your Heels Taller Or Shorter
Most heeled shoes are made with very specific angled footbeds to accommodate taller heels. This can make it close to impossible for a cobbler to increase or decrease the height of a pair of heels without setting the shoe off balance.
Not only this but this kind of repair will only lead to ugly-looking heels that are uncomfortable to wear.
They Can: Shorten A Tall Boot Shaft
As long as the height of your boot has a zipper, there are a few cobblers that may take on this kind of job. However, they will only be able to make the height of your boot shaft a little smaller by an inch or two.
Expect that the seams of your boots will look completely different and in some cases not half as pretty.
They Can’t: Widen A Narrow Boot Shaft
Boots that are too narrow for wider calves are a common issue, especially with women as their boot styles are naturally made more narrow.
Making a narrow boot shaft wider can only be achieved by stretching the leather and still you will only get an extra half an inch at most. So, always purchase boots that fit the first time.
They Can: Stretch Your Leather Shoes
Most leather shoes can be easily stretched by your cobbler to give you a little extra wiggle room. It can seem an easy job to do at home but you are risking splitting or cracking the leather, so it’s best to get a professional to do this.
The only type of leather that can’t be stretched is patent leather.
They Can’t: Make Your Shoes Smaller
If your shoes are too big, a cobbler is not going to be able to make them any smaller for you. Unless you are expecting them to fully disassemble your shoes and remake them.
So, it’s always best to get a pair of shoes that fit before you even part ways with your cash.
Are Repairable Shoes Good for the Environment?
Over 300 million pairs of shoes are thrown away in the US every single year. It’s shocking, right? And 95% of these shoes will end up going straight to landfills. This is the negative impact that fast fashion has.
This is also why repairable shoes are excellent for our environment.
Instead of throwing multiple pairs of shoes away every single year, having one to three pairs of good-quality repairable shoes will keep you covered for five years or more.
So, not only are you reducing your impact on landfills, CO2 emissions, and the toxic chemicals released throughout the shoe production system, but you’re also saving a lot of money in the long run.
Key Take Aways On Repairable Shoes
One element that is impossible to ignore when it comes to repairable shoes, is their cost.
Not only are you paying for footwear that is going to last for years, but you are also paying for high-quality materials and expert craftsmanship, and not everyone has the money to fork out like this.
However, the fast fashion industry has us paying more money for shoes that only last us six months to a year if we are lucky.
If you can squirrel away a small amount of money every month until you can finally purchase your first pair of repairable shoes you could finally step out of the dangerous cycle of disposable footwear.
Not only are repairable shoes better for the environment, but they are also better for the people involved in their construction and our global environment.
If you want to learn more about how to create a sustainable wardrobe, make sure to also check out our posts on sustainable clothing brands and the best sustainable fabrics for an eco-friendly wardrobe.