Many of us grew up with shoes that were disposable. Throughout my childhood, uncountable pairs of Vans and Converse wound up heading to the landfill. Kids outgrow and wear down their shoes with a quickness, but we’re adults now, and one of the privileges of having feet that stay the same size is that we can finally walk well-heeled.
And if you’re a frequent reader of Heddels, you’re undoubtedly a fan of much nicer shoes. Namely, shoes that are Goodyear welted and can in theory, last forever. But as many of our loyal readers will already know, it’s only the upper that (theoretically) lasts forever, and the sole of your favorite shoe must be replaced at some point.
Resoling is a crucial step in the life of a welted shoe, and although it can be cool to beat up a pair of boots as much as possible, wearing your shoes too long on a diminished sole could irrevocably damage your high-end footwear. While there is set no rule about how frequently a pair of shoes must be resoled (amount of wear, kind of wear, and stride are all factors), a variety of signs, both subtle and not, can tell you that it’s that time again. In the interest of saving you money at the shoe store and at the podiatrist, here are five signs that your shoes really, really need that resole.
1. Hole in the Sole
If this has already happened to your shoes, then shame on you (not really, but if it happens again, then definitely shame on you). This is certainly a sign that your shoes need to be repaired, but it could also be a sign that you’ve already damaged them beyond repair. The outsole—the part of the shoe that is in contact with the ground—protects the far more delicate interior of the shoe, and if the exterior damage reaches the interior, you could be in trouble. But, this is easily the most obvious sign that your shoes need to be repaired and therefore the most easily avoided.
2. Uneven Sole Wearing
Everyone walks differently, and one of the joys of owning a pair of high-quality shoes or boots is watching how your footwear evolves according to your movements. Something to watch out for, however, is uneven wear. Although it might be a charming experiment to learn that you are walking on the outside of your feet, this kind of uneven wear could cause problems for the wearer. And, if left untreated, it could exacerbate your already “unique” style of walking and cause problems for your ankles and calves down the line. This again, is cause for a resole.
3. Soles Splitting
If the uppers of your shoes start to walk away from your midsole, it’s time for a resole. Even if you throw your boots on and notice a little bit of a split, you might want to do something about it before you leave your house for the day. Believe me: there’s nothing worse than learning your shoe has become unwearable halfway through your long day. This happened to me when I was sightseeing in Madrid, and in the rain no less. Learn from my mistake, and don’t let this kind of damage slide. Get a new sole and breathe easy.
4. Water Damage
This might not be as much of a problem for those with rubber soles, but leather soles, in particular, are very susceptible to water damage. (The whole damn shoe is susceptible to water damage if you leave it in a bucket like in the picture above, but that’s another issue entirely). While getting caught in the rain once or twice in your dressy leather-soled shoes isn’t a death sentence, repeated exposure to water will seriously affect the sole. But if you do get caught out those couple of times, just make sure your shoes are sufficiently dry before you wear them again, as wet leather is far more likely to sustain other kinds of damage.
5. Leather Starts to Thin
If the pavement suddenly feels a whole lot closer to your toes, you may want to give your shoes a resole. It’s hard to tell just by looking, but this is a change in your shoe that you should be able to feel. If you want to double check, press a finger against the sole of the shoe. If the sole feels spongey and has a lot of give, you need to get a resole pronto. The next step is a hole in your sole and that, as we mentioned, would be a serious bummer.
So They’re Broken, Now What?
So you’ve seen one of the five signs, and you’re ready and willing to get your shoes resoled. But where to begin? If you’re not totally sure you trust your town’s local cobbler, then many manufacturers are more than happy to help you out—for a price, of course.
Red Wing, Allen Edmonds, Alden, and Rancourt all have services for resoling their shoes, and by using those you can rest easy, because even though you’re briefly separated from your leather babies, you know they’re in good hands.
But you do have other options besides returning to the manufacturer. There are great independent cobblers out there, and plenty of them would be more than happy to restore your sole. Theirs is a dying art, and if you love good shoes—and the people who make and maintain them—maybe give them some business.
Some great examples are Willie’s Shoe Service, Greenwich Vintage, Dr. Sole, Brass Tokyo, and Role Club. All of these amazing artisans are highly qualified and more than talented enough to handle your most beloved of pairs. Look them up, shoot them an email, and may your shoes live long.