Can’t part with those ‘70s Frye boots from college or the shoes you walked down the aisle in? Whatever their condition, veteran shoe cobbler Ari Aronbayev, owner of Jacob’s Shoe Repair in New York, can likely bring them back to life.
“I tell people if their shoes are worth repairing,” said Aronbayev, who has found customers are often sentimental about their footwear and willing to spend money for repairs on old and badly worn shoes.
According to 52-year-old Aronbayev, a Russian emigrant who learned the craft from his father, who made custom shoes for some of Russia’s top brass, just about any part of a shoe can be repaired or replaced.
Starting from the bottom up, leather soles can be replaced with new leather or Vibram. “I use this Vibram because of the quality,” said Aronbayev of the name-brand component. There are also half soles, where a portion of the leather can be replaced with Vibram, a way to add traction while walking on wet city streets.
Worn-down heels are another easy fix by simply adding a new lift — a layer of rubber on the base of a men’s heel or the tip of a woman’s stiletto. To further preserve heels, Aronbayev suggests adding a rubber tap over the lift to prevent additional wear and tear. They’re easy to add and more affordable than a full heel replacement down the road.
Uppers can also get the royal treatment. In addition to shining a pair of leather shoes with polish, repair shops can often clean a range of upper materials, including silk, suede and nubuck. And if you decide you must have a pair of shoes in the Pantone color of the year, both leather and fabric uppers can be dyed.
And don’t forget the details. A new pair of laces can freshen up a shoe, while broken zippers and buckles can also be repaired or replaced.
Since repair prices vary from city to city, it’s best to check with a local shop before deciding whether it might make more sense to buy a new pair of shoes. However, if you don‘t have a shop in your area, consider the Shoe Hospital in Houston, a business started in 1906 that has grown into an online service. Simply select the desired repairs, then ship the shoes off to the facility. The repaired shoes are then shipped back to your doorstep. And if you have questions, an online consultation with a cobbler is available.
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