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Ultimate Guide to Boot Cobblers: Here’s What to Expect on Your Visit

“Yes these boots are expensive, but it’s worth it—they’re resoleable”.

This is a sentiment shared by nearly all heritage footwear enthusiasts. You spend hundreds of dollars on products with the promise that when you wear out the bottoms, you can get them repaired.

Save for the rare exception, we all need someone to do the work for us. This is where your cobbler is (hopefully) going to rescue you. 

But who do you choose? What are they known for? Can they deliver on the promise of a newly repaired or rebuilt pair of shoes?

Below is a guide to help you through all the decisions that present themselves when getting your boots repaired. By the time you’re done, you’ll be ready to deliver on the promise you made your spouse when you tried to justify all those Goodyear welted boots. 

What to Expect When Going to a Cobbler

William shot this video at Wyatt & Dad Cobbler to showcase them restoring his Thursday Captains after 5 years of wear

There are a million reasons to visit your cobbler. 

Maybe your once-lugged boots are smooth as a baby’s bottom. Maybe your leather soled dress shoes are holier than the pope. Maybe you bought Alden’s and you had to nail the heelstack down and glue the half sole back on yourself 5 times. Or maybe you saw someone do a custom job online and you just can’t live without them.

Whatever your reason, it’s not a decision you should make without due diligence. A great recraft can breathe new life into your boots, but a disappointing job can turn your once loved pair into a relic of old times, collecting dust in the closet. 

It’s still important however to remember that shoe repair is a difficult and physically taxing job. 

It takes time and tremendous skill to take your dirty, sweaty boots and breathe new life into them. That isn’t to say you should excuse bad work, but understand that good work will cost accordingly. 

What Can and Can’t be Resoled?

When it comes to re-soles it’s a less a question of what and more a question of should. Conceivably you can get just about anything resoled but the cost may not be worth it. 

Your $200 Blundstones can be resoled but the cost may be equal or more than a new pair. So, unless the footwear holds tremendous sentimental value it might be better to replace rather than repair.

Your typical cobbler will have no problem resoling footwear that’s Goodyear welted. Blake Stitched boots require specialized equipment, so check with your cobbler that they can accommodate. 

Stitchdown constructed boots can be very tricky to work with, so expect to pay a premium when sending those in. 

If you are looking at a pair of Stitchdown boots that you are hoping to get resoled many times, Pablo from Dimar Shoe Repair recommends only having one stitch that goes through the outsole, as “Stitchdown construction presents some challenges to cobblers, especially a double stitchdown that’s right through the outsoles.” 

While re-soles are the big ticket items, there are many things your cobbler can, and can’t do:

1. Cobblers Can Stretch Your Boots

While not always recommended, within reason many cobblers can stretch shoes. A combination of oils to loosen the leather and hydraulic machines can add a few millimeters here or there. 

2. Cobblers Can Cut Down Shaft height

Did you buy a pair of 12 in logger boots but don’t need the protection, your cobbler can cut down the shaft and finish the new edges to give your boots a polished look. 

3. Cobblers Can Make Dyed Leather Darker

how to clean clarks desert boots 19

Many leathers are very porous and accept dyes well. If you have a light color pair of boots you can always make them darker, though guaranteeing a particular outcome would be tough. 

4. Cobblers Can Add Toe and Heel Taps

Recommended for leather soled shoes, Toe and heel taps are metal plates that are screwed into the leather to protect in high wear areas, prolonging the life of the outsoles. 

5. Cobblers Can’t Make Boots Smaller

You can add pads, or insoles, but unlike a garment, you cannot “take in” or hem a pair of boots.

6. Cobblers Can’t Make Dyed Boots Lighter

I wouldn’t recommend bleaching leather. 

7. Cobblers Can’t Fix Holes in Leather

Leather that has been torn, cut, or cracked. Leather is after all, skin. But skin without life cannot put itself back together, and neither can your cobbler. 

What’s the Difference: Resole vs Conversion vs Rebuild

Resole

A resole is when the outsole of a boot is removed and replaced with a similar sole. Maybe it’s a Wedge sole that can simply be cut off and a new one glued on, or something more complex like a half sole with leather heel stack.

In a resole you will often see the cork filling replaced, but cobblers will try to preserve as much of the original boot as possible. This not only saves you money but will help retain the look and feel of what you had previously. 

Conversion/Recraft

A conversion is a resole that uses a different outsole style as what was previously on the boot. Replacing a Wedge sole with a lugged sole and heel for example. Or maybe taking a leather soled shoe and replacing it with rubber. 

Rebuild

A rebuild sees many of the original components removed and replaced. Sometimes with as close to original parts as possible, but sometimes changed to something different entirely.

Typically you’d rebuild a boot if it’s extremely worn out or some components are damaged. Since your cobbler is ostensibly making you an entire new product, the cost will reflect the labor and materials used.

Many of the Pacific Northwest work brands offer this service to their customers as part of their value proposition. Beginning at roughly half the cost of a new boot, they will often leave only the vamp leather and replace everything else. Leaving you with many more years of use. 

7 Important Questions to Ask Your Cobbler Before They Start Repairs

Don’t worry about bugging your cobbler or asking too many questions. It’s important to leave no stone unturned when it comes to someone repairing a product you will be wearing for years to come. Below are some examples of questions to help get the ball rolling. 

1. Are you currently accepting orders? 

This may seem like a no brainer but it’s less rare than you’d think, especially with mail in brands. There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a cobbler’s work only to find out they’re backed up 6 months and not accepting new business. 

2. What’s your turnaround time?

Equally as devastating could be the turnaround time. Most of us have multiple pairs of boots but I think it’s safe to assume that if you love these enough to fix them, you probably want to wear them again soon. While most cobblers are between 2-6 weeks, keep an eye our for those that have no estimated turnaround time.

If you did have your heart set on a particular cobbler, try to send them in on your off season ie. Fix your winter boots in the summer. Sure you may be competing against other like minded folks, but a couple extra weeks won’t hurt as much.

3. Do you have experience with this brand? Construction? Leather? Boot type?

Any cobbler worth their salt can resole a pair of Red Wings with their eyes closed, but once you get into more complex construction types it requires different expertise, and sometimes even different equipment.

Blake Stitched boots require a unique stitching machine to stitch through the insoles, and Stitchdown can be tricky to work with. Many high-end boots, including Viberg and Alden, have a very high Stitch Per Inch (SPI) number, which is difficult to replicate. Specialty leathers such as Kudu, Kangaroo, or even Shell Cordovan might require a unique touch, as they have unique properties, or in the case of Shell Cordovan can be prone to tearing. 

4. What’s included in your services?

Be weary of a price that seems too good to be true. If a particular cobbler is 25%-%50 lower than their competitors there is usually a reason why.

Some cobblers will re-use a welt, which is not necessarily a bad thing if the boot is in fine condition. This will help save money for sure, but we’ve seen some that will not even remove old stitching before adding their own. While not structurally necessary, it will not look nearly as clean and tidy as removing previous stitching. 

Ask about what they use for filler material as well. While the majority of goodyear welted boots use cork, some will have leather instead. Liquid cork and cork sheets will perform identically, but I would recommend having the cork replaced to ensure an even feel underfoot. Avoid foam as it breaks down quicker than cork. 

Make sure you are specific with your requests. Don’t assume that something will be done. If there is a particular process or step you would like to see done make sure it is included in writing in the quote.

If you want a channel on your outsole stitch, dyed or natural edge, tapered heel, unique thread color etc. It is your responsibility to communicate to your cobbler exactly what you want done. If you are unsure, lean on their expertise and they can recommend the best course of action for your desired aesthetic, and budget. 

5. Who will be completing the work?

Just because you see X person on YouTube working on boots doesn’t necessarily mean that’s who will be working on your boots. 

Be sure to ask who will oversee your repair. Apprentices need practice, and are often supervised by experts, but I’d want to know that if I’m paying expert level service, an expert was involved. 

Don’t ever assume that something will be done. If there is a particular process or step you would like to see done make sure it is included in writing in the quote.

If you want a channel on your outsole stitch, dyed or natural edge, tapered heel, unique thread color etc. It is your responsibility to communicate to your cobbler exactly what you want done. If you are unsure, lean on their expertise and they can recommend the best course of action for your desired aesthetic, and budget. 

6. What do you recommend?

Some of you will no doubt have an exact image in their mind of what it is they want, and that’s great. For the rest of us though, it helps to have expert advice along the way. There’s a reason not all of us make our own boots and clothes.

Your cobbler will be your best resource for design tips, material choices and recommending the best options for your budget. They are the experts, after all, and can not only advise based on their experience, but also their limitations.

If you are asking for something that your cobbler has never done, you might not necessarily want to be their guinea pig.

7. What’s the cost?

Dreaming big is great but most of us have a budget of some kind or another. It’s always a good idea to get a quote before repairs begin. If you have realistic expectations going in you shouldn’t be surprised, but surprises can still happen.

Material shortages recently can affect pricing of certain products, so if the cost is much higher than expected work with your cobbler to see if they can help reduce the cost. Maybe you wanted a new welt but it’s not necessary, or you might have to substitute one outsole for another.

Your cobbler will do what they can but remember, you are paying them directly for their time and materials, and that every discount offered will affect their livelihood. 

How to Find a Great Cobbler

Instagram is a blessing and a curse when it comes to shoe repair. 

It’s great to see what kind of work they have done in the past but be careful with before and after pictures. Often, it’s the in-between process that will determine the quality of the work. Looking great on the outside doesn’t guarantee a quality repair.

If you’re going for a mail in service, make sure you utilize all the resources available. R/Goodyearwelt on Reddit can be a great resource for finding reviews on specific cobblers and the type of work they do. 

Many of the contributors are the nerdiest of boot nerds (no disrespect intended) and have experience sending their boots nearly everywhere.

The Shoe Service Institute of America (SSIA) can help you find a local cobbler, with brief descriptions of each of their member shops along with contact information, links to their social media and a record of any awards the shop has received. 

The SSIA has more than 100 years of experience “educating consumers about the physical, economic and environmental benefits of purchasing and maintaining quality footwear” and are a great resource if you want to learn more about becoming a cobbler yourself.

If you’re looking to stay local with your repairs, pull up Google and type in Shoe Repair. While the star rating is helpful, I would recommend reading the reviews proper. Many shoe repair businesses will do more small repairs (high-heel pads, handbag repairs) than they would full rebuilds. Find the reviews that are relevant to the types of repairs you need done and go from there. 

Are YouTube Cobblers Worth It?

Speaking with Pablo at Dimar Shoe Repair, he notes that “Social media (Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Google) are by far the most powerful tools to reach customers”. YouTube simply provides a cobbler with the time to show more of the steps involved in shoe repair.

On that note, be mindful of what is not being shown in videos. If you have watched a couple videos and each of them are missing certain steps, ask yourself why? Does it make for boring viewing? Is it hard to film a particular step? Or do they not want to show you what goes into it.

Sure, having your boots repaired by a boot “celebrity” does also come with its own cool factor, especially if you’re lucky enough to have them filmed. But my preference is to try local first and if necessary, look elsewhere. If your cobbler doesn’t have the products you want or provide the service you need, potentially they can recommend someone who does.

All that said if there simply isn’t anyone local to help you, there are still options!

5 Best Mail-In Cobblers in the USA

You did your research, you scoured Instagram and YouTube and you found your sole-mate (can you believe I made it this far without saying that?) But lo and behold, they’re on the other side of the country. What to do? Many cobblers offer mail-in service. It’s the perfect solution for your busy schedule—you mail ‘em, they fix ‘em and mail ‘em back—easy!

1. Wyatt and Dad

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With 4 locations in North Carolina, Wyatt and Dad are not only a staple for the locals but also an excellent choice for mail-ins. Their website is the best in the game, with countless options to build and price exactly what you need, want, and afford. 

You fill out your order and once they receive your products, they will do a one-on-one consultation to confirm exactly what you want.

Their Youtube channel features reviews, rebuilds and how-to videos—all delivered with warmth and a fair share of dad humor. They carry rubber products from Vibram, Danite and Dr. Sole. They offer a house-leather sole, as well as products from Joh. Rendenbach (JR) and Gerberei Martin. If you can dream it up, they can likely do it, but they will also offer the right advice and ensure they don’t promise you a result they can’t deliver.

Rates for leather and rubber soles start at $135 and $140 respectively, with half soles at $185. Their signature half sole, “The Iron Logger”, features a Vibram or Dr. Sole half sole and a leather stacked logger heel, all with customisable stitch color and edge finishing colors will run you $310-370 depending on your leather selection.

2. Bedo’s Leatherworks

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Bedo’s was founded in 1977 by Bedros Doudaklian now decades later his youngest son Steve has built upon the legacy his father left him. Now located in Falls Church, Virginia, Steve expanded from shoe repair to include leather garment repair, custom leather goods and leather luggage repair. In 2019 Bedo’s was awarded the World Cup award from the Shoe Service Institute of America.

His YouTube channel boasts over 300 videos including interviews, ASMR, repairs and reviews. Steve handles all types of shoes and boots, but his Instagram is chock full of gorgeous leather soled dress shoes.

The Bedo’s website has a mail-in google form to complete with some basic information about what you would like done. From there they will contact you to ensure everyone is on the same page about what needs to be done. Pricing is not available online, but Steve’s work is top-notch.

3. Dimar Shoe Repair

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Pablo Hadartis, a second-generation cobbler, does his work out of Guelph, Ontario Canada. He offers a full range of repair options and has worked on everything from Alden to Lubiton to Viberg.

Dimar carries a full range of Vibram outsoles, JR leather soles and some Dr. Soles as well. Pablo’s Instagram is a great resource to see a variety of the work done, including some rebuilds of Blundstones and Birkenstocks, about 5 per week of the former.

Pablo also runs a YouTube channel, where you can see full rebuilds, including my personal favorite, Red Wing 875 Moc toes rebuilt with a custom wedge sole. Featuring a leather midsole, custom EVA cloud rubber wedge and Vibram 1275 Sierra outsoles.

Dimar’s website has a mail-in for that you can complete for a basic quote, with a more in-depth consultation to follow.

4. Original Manufacturer (Red Wing, Nicks, Wesco, Whites et. al) Repair Services

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Many bootmakers offer resole and rebuild options as part of their services. While the initial cost may be slightly higher than your neighborhood shoe repair, there are a lot of advantages.

Similar to taking your car to the dealership, these cobblers and repairers work on the same products day in and day out and are intimately familiar with their construction methods, proper repair techniques, and likely even know all the quirks or the product that your typical cobbler might not know.

I recommend these for Stitchdown boots specifically as they can be harder to repair if you are not familiar with them. If the leather has reached its useful life because of wear or multiple resoles, the manufacturers will be able to replace upper leathers with the original leathers for less than the cost of a new boot.

Other than a higher price tag, the manufacturer repair shops might not be able to offer the same customization options that a cobbler can. If you are looking for a sole that they don’t offer on their stock boots you will likely be out of luck. 

5. Potter and Sons

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YouTube stars and brothers Trenton and Heath are a solid option, but their success and popularity have resulted in an abundance of requests. At the time of writing, they are not taking any new business, so check back on their website for updates if you are dead set on sending in your footwear to them.

Time to Recraft

Regardless of whether you stay local or choose the mail-in option, it’s important to do your research ahead of time to ensure your cobbler of choice is right for you.

Always remember when dealing with your cobbler that they are artisans. Cobblers are a dying breed, and your support can ensure that this will remain a viable career for generations to come. 


FAQs

What is a cobbler?

A cobbler is a skilled artisan who repairs and rebuilds footwear.

How do I find a cobbler near me?

Google reviews are a great place to start, but make sure to read reviews that mention the services you are looking for. Many shoe repair shops will repair other goods, including handbags and leather jackets.

Learn More About Boot Care